13 votes

How do you feel about safer kitchen knives?

Kitchen knives are frequently used to stab people. This results in serious injury or often death. Most stabbing murders are perpetrated with kitchen knives, reflecting the huge numbers of knives available (most homes have one), and where most murders happen (in the home). (I'm talking about UK here).

Kitchen knives have a cutting edge and usually a sharp piercing point. There's nothing that can be done to make the cutting edge safer. But we can look at the pointy tip.

Pointy tips are useful, but we tend to find that only professional chefs or experienced home cooks use them. Most people cooking at home don't use or need such a pointy tip.

There are some companies releasing knives without the pointy tip, and I'm interested to know what you think.

https://twitter.com/JohnHMCrichton/status/1209095901102387200?s=20

27 comments

  1. [14]
    asoftbird
    Link
    Shouldn't we focus on the problem that is domestic violence, and not kitchen knives? You might just want to ban forks as well, those have sharp stabby tips too. Get rid of skillets too, for one...

    Shouldn't we focus on the problem that is domestic violence, and not kitchen knives? You might just want to ban forks as well, those have sharp stabby tips too. Get rid of skillets too, for one poor sod might bash his wife's head in with it.

    This feels like the wrong solution for the problem, basically.

    30 votes
    1. [7]
      Sahasrahla
      Link Parent
      The explanation I've heard for this is that it helps with situations that suddenly and emotionally escalate, where an abusive partner will just grab whatever's handy and try to hurt the other...

      The explanation I've heard for this is that it helps with situations that suddenly and emotionally escalate, where an abusive partner will just grab whatever's handy and try to hurt the other person. If they grab a pointed kitchen knife capable of stabbing someone then that's what they'll do, and the injury will be a lot more serious and potentially fatal compared to if they had used their fists, a heavy object, the slashing edge of a knife, etc. Preventing the abuse in the first place is best but you don't have to do one or the other.

      A good comparison I think is how guns increase the risk of suicide. Naive logic might tell us that a suicidal person will seek out whatever means possible, and if they didn't have a gun they'd use something else, but "studies show that most attempters act on impulse, in moments of panic or despair. Once the acute feelings ease, 90 percent do not go on to die by suicide...but few can survive a gun blast."

      Preventing suicide attempts (or acts of domestic violence) in the first place would be ideal but removing the means by which people can easily commit lethal violence on impulse makes a real difference, and it doesn't have to come at the cost of addressing root causes.

      16 votes
      1. [3]
        NaraVara
        Link Parent
        There is really no end to the number of tools that can be improvised into a weapon when you're in a state. You can throw kettles of boiling water, clobber people with rolling pins, or shatter...

        where an abusive partner will just grab whatever's handy and try to hurt the other person.

        There is really no end to the number of tools that can be improvised into a weapon when you're in a state. You can throw kettles of boiling water, clobber people with rolling pins, or shatter ceramics or glass into knives. I'm really not sure if the juice is worth the squeeze on this one.

        13 votes
        1. [2]
          Sahasrahla
          Link Parent
          It's about removing the most harmful weapons so that whatever improvised weapon a person finds will be less harmful and less likely to be lethal. Yes, a person determined to do violence will find...

          It's about removing the most harmful weapons so that whatever improvised weapon a person finds will be less harmful and less likely to be lethal. Yes, a person determined to do violence will find a way, but this is more about impulsive heat-of-the-moment violence. Being hit with a rolling pin is less likely to be lethal than being stabbed with a kitchen knife; setting a kettle to boil with the intent to scald someone or looking for ways to MacGyver a puncturing weapon are not impulsive acts, at least not on the same level as a split-second decision.

          Of course, none of this is really an answer to whether this would work or not. Would dull-pointed knives actually reduce injuries/fatalities in abusive or other situations, or would people still be injured or killed just as much by other means? I think in this thread we've all stated our "here's why it would or wouldn't work" speculation but only a trial of such a program would let us know if it works. Though, doing such a trial would be more difficult if public opinion is strongly against such a program (e.g.) before we even know its effects.

          7 votes
          1. NaraVara
            Link Parent
            Most of the stuff I mentioned doesn't need a "determined" person. It's literally just things you would have lying around a kitchen that you could pick up impulsively. Welcome to policy analysis....

            Yes, a person determined to do violence will find a way, but this is more about impulsive heat-of-the-moment violence.

            Most of the stuff I mentioned doesn't need a "determined" person. It's literally just things you would have lying around a kitchen that you could pick up impulsively.

            I think in this thread we've all stated our "here's why it would or wouldn't work" speculation

            Welcome to policy analysis.

            but only a trial of such a program would let us know if it works.

            Not really. You can make educated guesses about how things will pan out without needing to go to the level of rigor of a clinical trial which is, generally, poorly suited to actually evaluating public policy. Data can help disconfirm certain assumptions or hypothesis, but it's not always a great tool for telling you what you should do, only what you shouldn't.

            10 votes
      2. [3]
        Gaywallet
        Link Parent
        It's almost as in if providing people with easy ways to kill others is not a good idea and that raising the difficulty of killing someone just a tiny bit makes it much less likely to happen.

        It's almost as in if providing people with easy ways to kill others is not a good idea and that raising the difficulty of killing someone just a tiny bit makes it much less likely to happen.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          Sahasrahla
          Link Parent
          See also: gun control.

          See also: gun control.

          2 votes
          1. patience_limited
            Link Parent
            I don't think gun control is a good analogy in this situation. Guns have far greater capacity to cause lethal harm, and a much narrower scope of legitimate use, than knives. I'm definitely not a...

            I don't think gun control is a good analogy in this situation. Guns have far greater capacity to cause lethal harm, and a much narrower scope of legitimate use, than knives.

            I'm definitely not a libertarian, but I do believe that limitations on liberty ought to be proportionate to their benefits and costs.

            The scope of regulation needed to control pointed knives, and the potential harm done through enforcement, could be far greater in effect than the reduction in deaths from pointed knife use in impulsive violence.

            4 votes
    2. Loire
      Link Parent
      From personal experience, domestic abuse with frying pans tend to reverse the gender roles.

      Get rid of skillets too, for one poor sod might bash his wife's head in with it.

      From personal experience, domestic abuse with frying pans tend to reverse the gender roles.

      4 votes
    3. [4]
      nsz
      Link Parent
      And yet the argument for removing guns is a nobrainer. To some they are just as an essential/totally normal part of life as a kitchen knife. So why should guns be removed? It's people that are bad...

      And yet the argument for removing guns is a nobrainer.

      To some they are just as an essential/totally normal part of life as a kitchen knife. So why should guns be removed? It's people that are bad not the gun! /s

      I'm just saying the knee jerk; blame the circumstances or 'health and safety gone mad' is not a very strong one. It's intierly based on your specific worldview. How accustomed you are to the thing, how safe you perceive it to be.

      Op posed some stats which all point to disproportionate killing done with a kitchen knife. Idk what removing knifes would do to the situation, if substitutes would be used, if they're as deadly etc. Point being there should be more research into it before dismissing the idea.

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        NaraVara
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        In theory I wouldn't necessarily disagree on what I think of as "utility" firearms. These tend to be things like basic long rifles or shotguns. But most gun control advocacy centers around banning...

        To some they are just as an essential/totally normal part of life as a kitchen knife. So why should guns be removed? It's people that are bad not the gun! /s

        In theory I wouldn't necessarily disagree on what I think of as "utility" firearms. These tend to be things like basic long rifles or shotguns. But most gun control advocacy centers around banning a lot of functionalities that either literally have no productive civilian use or cause enough of a public safety concern that they don't outweigh their actual home-defense use (e.g. most concealable handguns).

        So it's really not about being accustomed, it's about whether the downside of a ban or the downsides of enforcing the rules outweigh the safety benefits gained.

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          nsz
          Link Parent
          What is the downside for banning sharp kitchen knives? Keep in mind that a ban can mean loads of different things; banning all knives, or just banning knifes sold in the kitchen section from...

          What is the downside for banning sharp kitchen knives? Keep in mind that a ban can mean loads of different things; banning all knives, or just banning knifes sold in the kitchen section from having a point if they are longer than X mm.

          Imo the second is far more likely to happen, what exactly is the down side here? Is this resistance to change worth the 200 some lives a year?

          I kinda regret bringing guns to the mix as it'll just muddy things because everyone has such strong opinions already.

          But my point was; the controls we put in place reflect the perseved risk. Otherwise why bother. Perseved risk is related to what you know about the thing, so pretty much everyone will have their own risk assessment for that thing, gun, pointy knife, etc.

          Australia is a perfect example, they had a mass shooting, and it was enough for everyone to readjust their perception of the risk a gun poses, key here is blaming the gun, not just the evil person behind the gun. Effect is they adjusted the law to align with what they feel accurately reflects the risk a gun poses.

          The stats here seem to support pointy kitchen knifes being a little too risky, certainly more so than people's initial assumption. Why not listen to data and investigate. It's also such an easy fix, industry has already starting to do it.

          1 vote
          1. NaraVara
            Link Parent
            Eliminating the thousands of household uses people have for sharp or pointy kitchen knives. Needing to impose penalties and fines on people for the crime of buying or owning a basic tool that has...

            What is the downside for banning sharp kitchen knives?

            Eliminating the thousands of household uses people have for sharp or pointy kitchen knives.

            Needing to impose penalties and fines on people for the crime of buying or owning a basic tool that has been in use by hominids before they had even evolved into humans.

            But my point was; the controls we put in place reflect the perseved risk.

            Perceived risk isn't actual risk. This folly is exactly why we throw colossal amounts of resources at things like demanding 6 foot tall fencing around private swimming pools, which has very little actual public safety benefit, rather than reducing car dependence, which actually does.

            These tragic misallocations of resources are just overreactions to whatever happens to gin up sensationalized headlines on the evening news. I don't think they meaningfully solve any real safety problems while still also making life marginally more inconvenient or expensive for everyone else. To say nothing of the regulatory compliance costs they end up engendering as anyone who wants to do anything has to check against a giant laundry list of seemingly arbitrary and counterintuitive rules about how everything should be made.

            The stats here seem to support pointy kitchen knifes being a little too risky, certainly more so than people's initial assumption.

            How do you figure? According to the Guardian link put up there were roughly 18,000 deaths by accidental or external causes of morbidity, of which ALL FORMS OF ASSAULT on comprised 318. Even if we grant that kitchen knife based injuries are a clear majority of those assaults (which isn't even a safe assumption), that's just not a big number in context. By way of comparison, accidental alcohol overdose is responsible for 179 cases. I'm really not seeing the compelling case here.

            5 votes
  2. patience_limited
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm going to go on at length about this, with the benefit of some sad experience in arguing with U.S. 2nd Amendment absolutists. You'll note a few similarities to their arguments below, but with...

    I'm going to go on at length about this, with the benefit of some sad experience in arguing with U.S. 2nd Amendment absolutists. You'll note a few similarities to their arguments below, but with the qualification that knives have far broader utility, and far less intrinsic capacity to cause violent harm.

    Every time something like this comes out, I have to ask what problem is actually being addressed, whether the solution mitigates the problem, and whether the benefits are worth the costs (both economic and liberty).

    Kitchen knives aren't "frequently" used to stab people. Billions of people use them daily without running amok. In a population of 66 million people, the U.K. has fewer than 300 stabbing fatalities per year, a number that's currently only slightly elevated from historical averages, partly by increased reporting and a few highly publicised terrorist events. Unlicensed driving killed about twice as many. Perhaps the problem being solved is an extreme fear of knife attacks, such that disproportionate resources will be devoted to assuaging that fear.

    Every death is a tragedy, and let's say that eliminating knife points would make knife attacks far less lethal. However, the statistics referenced above indicate that the U.K. had about 5,000 NHS-recorded knife attacks, e.g. with injury requiring hospital care, or fatality. You have to be lucky, skilled, and/or exceptionally violent to be assured of killing someone with even the pointiest of knives. So the benefits of eliminating common use of knife points would seem relatively small. Maybe focus on overall sources of violent crime instead?

    Let's look at the economic costs.

    While other commenters above have indicated they wouldn't be seriously inconvenienced with pointless (?!) knives, there are kitchen tasks made less efficient without them. Based on experience, I'll throw out a ballpark 10% overall loss of efficiency in kitchen knife use, as well as needs for special tools (corers, carving implements, etc.) to make up the lack. It's difficult to fine-trim and clean vegetables and meats (removing fibrous silverskin, pepper membranes, etc.) without a pointed tip. You'd also create extra kitchen waste and increase food costs somewhat. Multiply that by millions of households and public kitchens. What happens to all of the old knives, which would otherwise remain serviceable for generations? Specialty blunting services?

    As @arp242 suggests, there may be liberty costs involved, but the presence of laws doesn't mean they'll be observed or enforced in a way that actually reduces violence. UK law already prohibits public carry of non-locking knives longer than 3 inches, and fixed blade knives except for work or a few other very restricted purposes. If the police catch you with a knife, it's up to a court's judgment whether your purpose in carrying it was legitimate.

    That law didn't prevent the latest ghastly public stabbings (and slashings). I'll leave the liberty costs of ubiquitous metal detector lines and more body searches (the UK already practices "stop and frisk") as an exercise for the reader.

    So what might happen if pointed knife ownership is similarly regulated? If there's a suspicion that knives (whether contraband with points or not) will be used improperly, like reported domestic violence, suicidality, public arrest, or violent threats, UK police already have the right to search for weapons on the premises of a person being arrested. Finding a pointed knife would add to the likelihood and severity of punishment, but the police still have to search routinely. They also have to get search warrants if an imminent arrest isn't taking place.

    China already pioneered house-to-house knife searches in Xinjiang after the Kunming Railway Station attacks, and has a long history of iron control on any weapons peasants and proles might own. It's instructive that there are martial arts disciplines dating back to antiquity which make scary weapons out of farm implements and kitchen tools. It's trivial to grind a point on a blunted knife - I've done it myself when a treasured filet knife got dropped on a tile floor. So control of edged and pointed weapons is a massive, authoritarian undertaking, unlikely to succeed even in the ways that firearms control has in the U.K.

    11 votes
  3. [2]
    arp242
    Link
    I did some research, and it seems that this is the context: In addition, some people have argued that such knives should be banned altogether The question is, how much will the absence of a pointy...

    I did some research, and it seems that this is the context:

    With knife-related crime incidents at a record high and a reported 285 fatalities in the last 12 months alone, the UK Government has taken the decision to reclassify kitchen knives as an offensive weapon with the new Offensive Weapons Act 2019, leading some retailers to remove single knives from sale in retail stores.

    In addition, some people have argued that such knives should be banned altogether

    The question is, how much will the absence of a pointy tip help in concretely pushing down those numbers? I can still cut you with that knife, and how many of those homicides will be committed using other means? The details of those 285 cases are therefore important: it might help for some instances ("wife stabs husband in a rage"), but not some other cases ("wife kills husband in his sleep for life insurance" or "gang member stabbed member of rivalling gang").

    That same bill also limits corrosive products in an effort to curb acid attacks. While the goal is of course commendable, I'm skeptical that this bill with help achieve that goa.. Acid attacks are already illegal and "banning it harder" is not going to help with the actual root causes,which are cultural and social.

    It's also worth pointing out that 285 fatalities a year sounds like a lot, but things like traffic deaths, falls, accidental poisonings and suffocation kill a lot more people (source, although it's a bit old and can't fine newer stats at the moment). It kind of puts things in perspective a bit.

    At the end of the day, many legitimate objects can be used for nefarious purposes (knives, cars, hammers, crowbars, masks, etc.) The question shouldn't be "does this make things safer?", but rather "is the limitation of freedom worth the extra safety?" Strict gun control, for example, seems like a good trade-off in this area. Strict regulation of pointy knives? I'm not so sure about that.

    PS. I'm personally rather font of Santoku-style knives by the way, which are probably much less effective at stabbing than the more common point-tip kind of knives and have most benefits of these knives (although I have not tested this).

    15 votes
    1. patience_limited
      Link Parent
      I have a good santoku, but trained with standard European chef's knives and find myself missing a proper point if I try to use the santoku for everything. Admittedly, a pointed knife is less...

      I have a good santoku, but trained with standard European chef's knives and find myself missing a proper point if I try to use the santoku for everything. Admittedly, a pointed knife is less needed with vegetarian cookery, but I still like to have a single tool in hand that can mark, score, separate, core, skin, etc. as well as slicing.

      3 votes
  4. Bamans
    Link
    At 285 deaths per year, I feel like the effort is better spent elsewhere on more root cause issues (domestic abuse or maybe online extremism)?

    At 285 deaths per year, I feel like the effort is better spent elsewhere on more root cause issues (domestic abuse or maybe online extremism)?

    10 votes
  5. Kuromantis
    Link
    Here in Brazil all the knives are 'safe' and cutting food in any restaurant sucks. "But at least there's a reason for it", apparently. All in all, an annoying detail, probably not a solution.

    Here in Brazil all the knives are 'safe' and cutting food in any restaurant sucks. "But at least there's a reason for it", apparently. All in all, an annoying detail, probably not a solution.

    7 votes
  6. space_cowboy
    Link
    I think it's stupid. No, we should not make kitchen knives less useful because a tiny minority of sociopaths might kill someone with it.

    I think it's stupid. No, we should not make kitchen knives less useful because a tiny minority of sociopaths might kill someone with it.

    4 votes
  7. HoolaBoola
    Link
    I don't think most of those murders could have been prevented by having a safe knife. The murderer would just use a different weapon. It's like having a bug problem and only killing the bugs, not...

    I don't think most of those murders could have been prevented by having a safe knife. The murderer would just use a different weapon. It's like having a bug problem and only killing the bugs, not destroying their nest.

    3 votes
  8. andre
    Link
    I feel bad leaving the following low-quality comment, but there's really nothing that summarizes my feelings about this article as well as "Jesus fucking Christ."

    I feel bad leaving the following low-quality comment, but there's really nothing that summarizes my feelings about this article as well as "Jesus fucking Christ."

    3 votes
  9. [2]
    Staross
    Link
    I don't particularly care for the pointy tip, so sure, why not.

    I don't particularly care for the pointy tip, so sure, why not.

    2 votes
    1. balooga
      Link Parent
      If I may be blunt — see what I did there? — "not particularly caring for something, so why not" is a horrible reason to legislatively enact a ban on something that plenty of other people do have...

      If I may be blunt — see what I did there? — "not particularly caring for something, so why not" is a horrible reason to legislatively enact a ban on something that plenty of other people do have informed opinions about.

      Although, on re-reading the original question, it's not directly asking about a ban... that's just how most of us have interpreted. The actual question is just "what do you think about these knives?"

      7 votes
  10. Grzmot
    Link
    Ultimately kitchen knives are just one tool used in a household that can also be used to injure, maim or kill a person. Even if the tip is removed, they still have a sharp edge which can easily be...

    Ultimately kitchen knives are just one tool used in a household that can also be used to injure, maim or kill a person. Even if the tip is removed, they still have a sharp edge which can easily be used to hurt people. So I don't think making "unsafe kitchen knives" (i.e pointy ones) illegal would achieve much to actually curb stabbings.

    So cool idea, but kind of useless in my opinion.

    1 vote
  11. skybrian
    Link
    If they were available and priced a little cheaper than other kitchen knives, maybe some people would buy them? Seems like a big push to use them would meet resistance.

    If they were available and priced a little cheaper than other kitchen knives, maybe some people would buy them? Seems like a big push to use them would meet resistance.

    1 vote
  12. Octofox
    Link
    I think the thing to consider is how useful the tool is and how big the problem is. Knife tips are very useful and I use them all the time. For this to actually work you basically have to enforce...

    I think the thing to consider is how useful the tool is and how big the problem is. Knife tips are very useful and I use them all the time. For this to actually work you basically have to enforce that they are the only knifes available for purchase which limits you from buying any high quality knifes since they will come from other countries without these rules.

    The loss isn't worth the gain.

    1 vote