Long pointed kitchen knives should be banned

Long pointed kitchen knives should be banned to reduce violent crime and deaths from stabbing, say accident and emergency doctors in this week's BMJ.

Violent crime is on the increase in the UK, say the authors, whose experience of working in emergency departments suggests that kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.

Many assaults are committed impulsively and prompted by alcohol and other drugs, and a kitchen knife makes an all too available weapon in such circumstances.

Yet there is no reason for long pointed knives to be publicly available at all, having little practical value in the kitchen, argue the authors - who consulted ten top chefs from around the UK. None of the chefs felt such knives were essential, since the point of a short blade was just as useful when a sharp end was needed.

A short pointed knife may cause a substantial superficial wound if used in an assault, but is unlikely to penetrate to inner organs. Whereas a pointed long blade pierces the body like "cutting into a ripe melon", say the authors.

The use of knives is particularly worrying amongst adolescents, say the authors, reporting that 24% of 16 year olds have been shown to carry weapons, primarily knives.

Links between easy access to domestic knives and violent assault are long established, say the authors, highlighting 17th century French laws which decreed that the tips of table and street knives be ground smooth. A century later in this country forks and blunt-ended table knives were introduced in an effort to reduce injuries during arguments in public eating houses.

The present-day UK Government should also legislate to combat injuries from knives, argue the authors. Banning the sale of long pointed knives would be a key step in the fight against violent crime.

Contacts: Dr Emma Hern, Specialist Registrar in Emergency Medicine, West Middlesex University Hospital, London, UK Tel: +44 (0)1895 422061 Mob: +44 (0)791 323 2387 Email: [email protected] or Dr Mike Beckett, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, West Middlesex University Hospital, London, UK Mob: +44 (0)781 369 4701

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