First of all, I must say that many of my statements are predicated on several things. First of all, generic mundane law of the USA, and of the state of Arizona, with general weapons etiquette from years spent handling firearms, edged weapons and other playtoys both in the SCA and out of it.
Thus, some of my statements may -not apply- to your particular area of Mundania.
Secondly, I am not a lawyer. Do not take this article as legal advice. It is merely -opinion-.
There are two statements that can be generally applied. I urge you to follow them.
With that out of the way, let us begin......
First of all, all too often people tend to regard swords and knives and such as some kind of exotic personal jewelry. They are NOT. They are WEAPONS.
As weapons, they come under the regulation of mundane law -and-
Society customs. Remember that. -A lot.-
Society Customs, and some observations on the Real Middle Ages:
Contrary to popular belief, medieval Lords and Ladies didn't run around wearing swords and knives all the time. Most of the time, they -might- carry a small utility knife, but even that is problematical. The Lords certainly didn't wear their war-swords constantly.
Those who -would- wear them would be Norse, Mongols, military men on-service, and the like .... in other words, active soldiers or "barbarians."
The cultured people of the period would only wear them if they felt they might need to use them, or as a ceremonial thing. Thus, a Coronation might be a perfectly good occasion to bring out the steel, but a 12th Night Revel might not .... unless you were part of some ceremony where it was needed, or you were a "barbarian" persona. When you read about knights being "armed" or "armed cap-a-pie" it does -not- mean carrying a sword. It means "in armour." The sword might be there as part of the armour, but the -armour- is the important part here.
However .... we do like our sharp pointy-sticky things, and this is
-Creative- Anachronism, after all, so we tend to carry steel much of the
time. Like any social grouping, we have evolved some customs about it:
Just as the attitude of "every firearm is loaded" is a good one, so the attitude of "every blade is sharp" is simply common sense. If you assume it is sharp (or loaded), then accidents can be kept to a minimum.
It has become the custom to shout "CLEAR!" when you draw live steel in an SCA context. This is a Good Thing, as it warns spectators that something sharp and pointy is floating about, and to Pay Attention. Don't expect them to avoid the blade, however. YOU are responsible for that blade, not them.
Draw -slowly-. If you jerk the blade out with a nice Conanesque
flourish, you just might take the head off the three-year old child that you
didn't see behind you. This tends to create a mess, and causes a lot of
excitement that you could well do without.
When to Draw:
- 1) In honour of the Crown or Khan
- 2) In defense of life
- 3) To show off the blade
THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO OTHER REASONS TO WAVE LIVE STEEL ABOUT AT AN SCA EVENT.
If you draw on someone, they might take you seriously, get stupid themselves, and make you the Horrible Example of "Ain't that just like a (insert group name here) to bring a knife to a gun-fight!" This is a Bad Thing.
nb: kitchen knives are another thing entirely, of course.
Don't put your fingers on the blade. Your skin carries acids that will eat your fingerprints into the metal. This makes blade owners Very Cross.
Do not carry ANY blade unsheathed. Sheaths help to keep accidents to a minimum. They are a Good Thing. This includes spears, halberds and axes as well as daggers and swords. Know where the end of your sheath is. Don't poke people with it. Rapier and saber wearers (because these tend to be carried horizontally, rather than the vertical or semi-vertical suspension of the broadsword) would be well-advised to follow period style and unhook the blade and sheath and carry it under their arm, when they must deal with crowds.
"Peace Ties" are a Good Idea, as they help keep jerks and drunks from
grabbing your blade, keep it from falling out of the sheath, and slow down an
impulsive draw long enough for more sensible people to thump the malefactor's
Mundania and Weapons:
DO NOT carry any concealed blades unless you have the appropriate concealed weapons license within your mundane jurisdiction, or are otherwise within the parameters of your local laws. We must live under mundane law even at a Society event, and you might forget about the blades when you leave the event to go home. Then, when the local police pull you over for speeding, and notice the weapons (and they -will-) you, and all with you, will rapidly find yourselves in a Situation of Great Peril.
There are also some jurisdictions that ban -any- weapons in their areas (city or county parks and such like). This is irksome, but ..... obey the local laws. You and your friends will be the better off for it.
When you are off-site, it is considered polite to take off your
weaponry before entering the local grocery or restaurant. Making the General
Public nervous is not one of the aims of the SCA, and some jurisdictions
might -require- disarming in public places. Do it. It's the Nice Thing To Do.
In transporting your weaponry to and from events, you face mundane considerations. Once again, KNOW YOUR LOCAL LAWS! For the most part, if the weaponry is locked in a case in the trunk of your car, you should be OK, but ... local laws differ on this. KNOW THE LOCAL LAWS!
If you are traveling between states of the USA, or between countries, be aware of the laws of the various jurisdictions you will be traveling thru. What is perfectly legal in Arizona is a felony in California.
Needless to say, but it MUST be said: DON'T wear your weapons in your car. Your local police get VERY nervous about traffic stops anyway, and finding armed, strange looking people in the car will tend to make them very upset at you. Having a nervous police officer screw the barrel of a .357 into your ear is not a Fun Experience.
Some people might tell you that since the weapons are not intended for
real use (meaning: killing people), and are "just for show," that it's fine
to wear them and any charges that local law enforcement might bring against
you will be dropped. Don't you believe it. KNOW YOUR LOCAL LAWS!
Sharp or Not?:
Whether one's blades are sharpened or not seems to be a matter of some controversy. In some jurisdictions, if the blade is not sharpened, it is allegedly not considered a weapon. Don't you believe it! Is a firearm not a weapon just because it is unloaded?
Frankly, if you carry an unsharpened blade, you are wearing jewelry
and should consider not wearing it at all, because it is useless for its
intended purpose. This is my personal opinion, take it for what it's worth.
There are period firearms that occasionally show up at SCA events.
These are "black powder" and as such may or may not fall under your local
mundane "firearms" regulations. CHECK YOUR LOCAL LAWS!
- 1) carry them loaded at any time.
- 2) point them at ANYONE for ANY reason.
- 3) wave them about.
Doing #2 and #3 above, at least in this corner of the World, will get you a form of attention that you will not enjoy.
Do not leave ANY weapon unattended. YOU are responsible for that weapon. If someone takes it and uses it in an illegal act, YOU are ethically and morally responsible (and in some jurisdictions LEGALLY responsible) for that illegal use. Equally, if a child hurts themselves or others with it, YOU are responsible.
Dealing with Law-Enforcement:
BE NICE! That cop has a tough job, and most of the people he or
she meets are some of the scummiest people you can imagine. The officer will
assume, on meeting you for the first time, that you
- 1) hate cops
- 2) are armed and dangerous
- 3) and, if you are in garb, are Very Strange.
You may not like this attitude, but it tends to save cops' lives. This is a Good Thing.
Remember also that if you are in a car with out-of-state license plates, it is (in the minds of many in law-enforcement) one strike against you already.
When you are approached by an officer at or around an event, gently remove your weapons belt and lay it on the ground or give it to a friend BEFORE you approach the officer. If you are armed when you approach him, he might get a bit hinky. (It's usually a good idea to have a designated person for dealing with law enforcement. Your group's constable, or your Seneshal would probably be the most logical. If so, let them handle it while you stay out of the way.)
If you are pulled over in your car, and the officer asks if you have any weapons in your vehicle .... well, once again, KNOW YOUR LOCAL LAWS. In some areas, you might answer, "Yep, got several dirks, and three broadswords on the back seat," and the nice officer would then say, "Cool! Can I see them! I -like- swords and knives!" or he might say "You are under arrest..."
This is an example of why good local public relations about the
Society is more vital than might be first apparent. If the officer knows about
the SCA, he just might say, "OK, no problem," or even (as has happened)
introduce himself by his Society name! If he has never heard of us, or has
only heard of us as a bunch of kooks, then his reaction might be very
Children and Weapons:
I raised several kids with weapons of all types in the house. These
ranged from edged medieval weapons to the latest in mundane firepower. We
-never- had a problem, because we set, and enforced, several rules:
- 1) If it is not yours, you may not play with it. This applies to ANYTHING.
- 2) If you can't unload it, or don't know how to unload it, you may not touch it.
- 3) Weapons are personal things. You don't touch other people's personal things without permission.
- 4) You can play with them UNDER ADULT SUPERVISION when you show us you can be responsible .... and the first thing our kids learned was the -real- effect of weapons. Go buy a couple of watermelons. Explain to the kids that the watermelon is a lot like their heads. Then hit it with an axe or a sword. The lesson is graphic, and lasting. They learned the difference between pretend and real. This works for firearms, too.
- 5) Let them know that if they demonstrate, consistently over a period of time, that they can behave responsibly and thoughtfully, that they will get one of their own.
When your kids are toddlers, or very young, you should child-proof your home in reference to your weaponry, or anything fragile for that matter. They are too young to know better. Keep the weapons out of their reach. We child-proof our homes in regards to electricity, and should do so in regards to weapons just as carefully.
After they mature to the point where they can associate consequenses with actions, you can TRY OUT the above rules. They may not work for your kids. All I can say is that these worked with mine, bearing in mind that we never had to lock any cupboards either. My boys were able to have their own .22 rifles by age 13 with no worries from either me or my Sweet Lady Wife.
Weapons etiquette is usually a matter of simple common sense and polite behaviour. If you consider, BEFORE you act, whether your actions will upset anyone, or offend someone, or hurt someone, or (worse) make them nervous enough to draw a weapon -on you,- then you should be all right.
But if you behave foolishly, you may be asked to put the weapon away, or to leave and not come back. Or those Big Hairy Guys over there just might say "to heck with it" and thump you as an object lesson. Edged weapons are serious matters, and should not be regarded lightly.
Remember that when you are dealing with Mundania, YOU ARE THE SCA. What those people see is what they will remember about -all- of us. Give them a good impression of responsible, thinking Gentles.
One last recommendation: if you really feel you might need a weapon for self-defense while you are in garb, learn cane-fighting (single-stick) and carry a cane. It's legal, it's non-threatening, and in an expert's hands can take out darn near anything you are likely to run into.