Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed legislation that would decriminalize certain gravity knives for the second year running on Monday night, to the chagrin of police reform advocates and the knife lobby, who both say the rules on the books are arcane and punitive.

Critics in New York City say the current law, signed in 1958, falls unfairly on chefs and other tradespeople, who use folding knives for work and can purchase them easily in hardware stores. The NYPD relies on a wrist-flick test, according to advocates, meaning New Yorkers can be charged for possessing folding knives that require force to open.

The legislation vetoed Monday, which passed both houses of the State legislature in June, would have outlawed "only those knives with blades that release from their handle solely by the force of gravity," according to the official veto document. The Assembly approved the bill in a landslide 136-1; the Senate 61-1.

The Legal Aid Society recently reviewed cases where a client was arrested for gravity knife possession between July and December 2015, and found that 84 percent of those prosecuted were black or Hispanic.

In the same six month period, misdemeanor cases far outweighed felony gravity knife cases in all five boroughs. In the Bronx, for example, there were 297 misdemeanor arrests and only four felony arrests. But Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance appears to bump up misdemeanor gravity knife arrests to felonies much more frequently than the other NYC DAs. Over those six months, there were 65 felony gravity knife cases in Manhattan (and 254 misdemeanors), compared to four felony arrests in the Bronx, five felony cases in Brooklyn, five in Queens, and zero in Staten Island.

Vance has long been opposed to gravity knife reform, arguing, along with the NYPD, that the knives are particularly dangerous. "The ban has enhanced public safety, and ending it now amid highly publicized slashing incidents in our city’s streets and subways is not advisable,” he wrote last summer.

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A folding knife. (Jim Jurica/iStock)

Mayor de Blasio told reporters Tuesday that "I think [Cuomo] did the right thing" in vetoing the bill.

"I fully subscribe to the viewpoint of the NYPD that these knives should not be out in public circulation," he said. "It's a danger."

Yet gravity knives made up less than two percent of the 2,000 weapons recovered during violent felony arrests in the second half of 2015, according to the Legal Aid Society. Belts, canes and crutches are more likely to be employed as weapons, their case history suggests.

Governor Cuomo laid out his reasoning in his official veto Monday, citing the State's "law enforcement community" being "uniform in its opposition" to the bill because, according to state police, knife-related crimes increased in 2016 even as overall crime dipped. Cuomo also vetoed legislation in 2016 because he deemed the definition of "gravity knife" confusing. This year, according to the veto, "while the bill did succeed in removing any ambiguity in the definition of 'gravity knife'.... it did so in a way that would essentially legalize all folding knives."

This, Cuomo wrote, goes "far beyond the innocent laborers carrying these knives for legitimate purposes." He laid out an attempt at a three way compromise that would have reduced the penalty for carrying a gravity knife from a misdemeanor or felony to a violation and exempt anyone who carries a gravity knife for work (the NYPD agreed to retrain its officers to identify those exempt, according to the Governor's Office).

"Unfortunately, an agreement with both houses of the Legislature could not be reached," according to Cuomo.

"‎We worked on reaching an agreement until the last possible moment," added Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi via email.

"Today's veto of gravity knife reform is a dark mark on our legislative process," challenged Assembly sponsor Dan Quart, a Democrat. "For the second year in a row this legislation was overwhelmingly supported by a broad and diverse coalition. And, for the second year in a row, it was vetoed by one single signature."

"The governor should not pretend as if he cannot solve this problem," added Todd Rathner, Director of Legislative Affairs for Knife Rights, an advocacy group for knife owners and sellers. "In the end Governor Cuomo chose to side with Cy Vance over the citizens of the state of New York."

"For decades, black and brown New Yorkers have been arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated for possessing a basic work knife sold at retail stores across the state," said Legal Aid Society Criminal Practice Attorney-In-Charge Tina Luongo. "Albany had a second chance to right this injustice tonight but failed to enact needed reform."