News Benchmade Anti-Gun? We Ask Them to Explain Patrick Roberts February 23, 2019 After the news that Benchmade helped the Oregon City Police Department cut some firearms down to fit into smaller boxes to be destroyed, there was understandable outrage from the Second Amendment community. It seemed that everywhere you looked on social media, there were posts that said something like “Benchmade Anti-Gun” or “Bitchmade” memes with little real information. We covered the incident as thoroughly as possible at the time of publication, but even then there were some inaccuracies in the original post due to some missing information. When the information was curated for our original coverage, unfortunately, Benchmade didn’t respond at that time. Since then they have done some investigating into the incident and responded to our request for comment with an invitation to interview Benchmade’s director of marketing, Matt Elliott, about not only the cutting of firearms to size but also the widely shared coverage of the company’s political donations. RECOIL: Before we get into the interview, is there anything that you would like to say to the RECOIL readership and the Second Amendment community about a Benchmade employee cutting up firearms with Benchmade equipment? MATT ELLIOTT: Yeah sure, I think the story, and the consistent story here is that while this particular event is as it’s come to light for all of us is we’ve realized it’s something that people take high amounts of offense to, especially from the symbolism of it. In fact, especially with that post going out with no real context behind it, I can understand the strong reaction from the market on it. The fact of the matter is that we’ve supported law enforcement, people’s right to carry, be it knives or guns, and the Second Amendment. We also have supported military from the beginning of the company until now, none of that’s going to change moving forward. We’re still going to work with law enforcement; we’re still going to support our local police department, the Oregon City PD. I also want people that know that moving forward we will not be engaging in helping the police with those activities [cutting firearms], especially now understanding the way that people feel about it. R: There have been two main topics that have been the focus of comments on RECOIL’s original coverage of the incident. The conversation has become centered around political contributions, which we can get into in a bit, but more so the commitment of Benchmade to the Second Amendment and the Second Amendment community, which we imagine makes up a large part of your customer base. Can you share Benchmade’s stance on Second Amendment issues clearly for our readers? ME: Benchmade from the beginning has been fully in support of Second Amendment rights. That’s not just a Benchmade thing as a brand; it’s a cultural thing as an organization. I can’t speak to every single person in the business but I myself, I’m a big supporter. I happen to be a life member of the NRA. I’m not alone in that at Benchmade, and moreover, I also think it’s important to make the point that it’s about carry for us and people’s right to carry state to state. And that isn’t just about guns for us. At the end of the day, we’re a knife company. I think it’s important for us to be authentically who we are, and we’re a knife manufacturer. Now we are also the knife manufacturer that has really spearheaded and led the charge for as long as I’ve been working here, which is more than a decade. Long before that with the manufacturer of automatic knives and helping to break down doors around antiquated or outdated legislation that has been very restrictive. When I started at Benchmade, I believe there were really only three states that allowed for carry of automatic [knives], and to date, that number has grown to 30 plus. I can’t speak to the exact numbers because I’m not an expert on the laws in every state. I’ve watched that number grow and grow primarily over the course of the last five to six years right. R: After the video statement from your CEO, Les de Asis was uploaded to YouTube yesterday, it appears that someone turned the comments off shortly after it was published and some negative comments were left. Commenting remained off for approximately 15 hours before the comments were turned back on. Why was this decision made and was the person that made the decision authorized to do so? ME: The video was originally intended to be shared via Facebook and Instagram only, with YouTube serving for an unlisted hosting for internal resources to view it. After realizing the IG length allowed became an issue, the link was shared on that platform. The comment toggling was simply an omission in the hustle to get the full video up and out, with the team heading home after a long day once it was posted. It was not done as a response to anything. Once Benchmade became aware that the comments were turned off, they were immediately turned back on. There never was an intention to reduce the ability for the community to share their thoughts, but was just an oversight in the efforts to figure out how to cross post the content. R: How does Benchmade show their Second Amendment support? ME: You can see through our participation and memberships in national organizations that advocate for gun rights, to the tune of millions. These are pro-Second Amendment organizations that support our industry, host the biggest gun and knife and hunting equipment show in the world, and actively advocate for the rights that we believe in. We have had co-branded products that have directly funded their efforts to fight for Second Amendment rights, we attend shows that support this cause, we sponsor athletes that promote and engage in advocacy. This is an organization full of American workers who support the liberties granted to us and it is ingrained into who we are. R: Can you expand on how Benchmade supports organizations like the NRA? ME: We have been members of organizations, the NRA included, for decades and are very proud of that fact. We will continue to support their efforts to support gun owners rights and the Second Amendment. We participate in programs that give discounts to members of these organization along with our long-running history of financial support, along with the other actions we have taken through our direct relationships with them and the community. R: Can you explain the political contributions listed on OpenSecrets.org that have been circulating social media? ME: Oregon is a hotbed of knife makers, but also is a heavily Democrat-leaning state making most of the politicians with an interest in introducing legislation that is pro-knife often Democratic. When the donations were made to pro-knife politicians, it was about knife rights. Gun owners are protected when traveling through states by the Firearm Owners Protection act; knife owners don’t enjoy that kind of protection. The Interstate Transport Act was a very important piece of legislation that Benchmade has been working to get passed for over five years, alongside the American Knife and Tool Institute. This bill had co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. The effort requires bi-partisan support and we need to ensure we are reaching across the aisle and bringing both parties to the table. I don’t think most people are aware of how serious the penalties can be for certain types of knives in certain states, though less now than in the past, and it is the knife companies that have to carry the torch, as these issues generally have very low visibility. R: Was this the first time that the Oregon City Police Department has asked Benchmade for this type of assistance? ME: No, they have asked Benchmade two or three times a year over the last few years to assist them in cutting the firearms to be destroyed according to their policy to the correct size for the special destruction box. Since Benchmade has assisted law enforcement since day one, we agreed to render assistance in the past. R: What will be the answer to the Oregon City Police Department if they ask Benchmade to assist in cutting firearms into smaller pieces that fit inside of an incineration box? ME: Benchmade now has a policy to politely decline to assist Law Enforcement in the cutting up of firearms regardless of reason. If the local law enforcement request assistance with other matters, we will be happy to accommodate them as long as doesn’t involve cutting firearms. R: Was it known that the police department was taking photos of the firearms being cut up by a Benchmade employee? ME: The police department was given permission to take the photos even though the Benchmade policy is that there is no photographs allowed in the facility. We have launched an investigation internally to ensure that this type of incident never happens again. R: Can you comment on whether or not the Benchmade employees that were photographed cutting up the firearms are facing disciplinary actions? ME: I am not able to say anything in regards to the status of those. What I can share is that Benchmade is currently investigating the incident and will take the proper actions to prevent a similar incident from occurring when that investigation comes to a conclusion. R: How long was the post live on the Oregon City Police Facebook page before Benchmade was aware of it? ME: We were made aware of the post within minutes of it going up on the police department’s Facebook page. When the post was made, I was flying back to Atlanta and personally wasn’t aware of it until the plane landed and my phone was turned back on. The post was not approved by us and we did not know it was going to be made. R: What was Benchmade’s reaction after learning about the post? ME: It surprised us, to say the least. The post was not sanctioned by Benchmade in any way. It was not approved by the company and wasn’t a planned post. We didn’t expect that they would post a photo of the activity, but they did and we have to own it. And owning it means changing our behaviors in this area. R: Does Benchmade have any thoughts about the internal OCPD policy that mandated that firearms which were unable to be returned to their owner for whatever reason, be it legal or otherwise? ME: Since OCPD’s post went viral we have conducted an investigation into the entire event. We are hoping this can be an opportunity to have a more open discussion about the intricacies of such an important subject. We have learned a lot and as I said earlier, we will not be allowing this practice to happen in our facilities again. R: Is there anything that we didn’t cover in the original article or this interview that you feel is important to address? ME: I just want to take a moment to reiterate that Benchmade has heard the feedback from our community and will be changing its stance on the cutting of firearms. We always will support individual rights, whether that is gun ownership, keeping and carrying knives as well as supporting the law enforcement community. We have to lead the charge on breaking down restrictive, antiquated and significant laws with regards to knives. We hope that this situation can bring awareness to the ITA. I hope that this provides some visibility to the issues surrounding knife rights as they are just as important to us as firearm rights. We appreciate the opportunity to directly address our community as we know this has been a confusing few days that have upset quite a few people. We know this is the most critical issue for many of the readers and public in general that support Second Amendment rights. This was never our intention and we hope this can bring clarity to areas of question about our beliefs and what we stand for. 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