A 16-year-old gang member in the Washington, D.C., area, was brutally attacked by machete-wielding rivals. The Washington Post said he lost four fingers trying to shield his head from the blows. The attack last May prompted rival gang members to buy their own machetes. The long, curving knives — bought and sold at many military surplus and hardware stores for clearing brush — have joined baseball bats as weapons of choice for Northern Virginia gangs. One gang member said of the weapons: “They’re so big and sexy. They can leave you scarred for life — the wounds are never going to heal. With a machete, you can corner someone and it’s not going to make any noise.”
In the past two years in Fairfax County, Va., machetes were mentioned in 40 police reports — ranging from random suspicious persons to gang-related incidents. Virginia legislators passed a law last year that included them in a list of weapons — including guns, bowie knives and switchblades — that cannot be concealed. Machetes can be purchased in such stores as Home Depot and Lowe’s. At one store, an $8.98 machete, with an 18-inch blade, is the 27th best-selling tool out of 82 gardening tools.