To Keep and Bear Knives

I first became aquainted with the knife rights movement at the annual meeting last year in St. Louis, and took one of their buttons.  I don’t see any reason why knives shouldn’t be considered personal arms, protected by the second amendment, and Pennsylvania’s right to bear arms provision.  Joe Huffman has a pretty good post up about this here.

Pennsylvania’s knife laws are, for the most part, fairly lax, but our state law prohibits switchblades:

Pa. C.S.A. 18.908. Prohibited offensive weapons.

(a) Offense defined.–A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if, except as authorized by law, he makes, repairs, sells, or otherwise deals in, uses, or possesses any offensive weapon.

(b) Exception.– It is a defense under this section for the defendant to prove by a preponderance of evidence that he possessed of dealt with the weapon solely as a curio or in a dramatic performance, or that he possessed it briefly in consequence of having found it or taken it from an aggressor, or under circumstances similarly negativing any intent or likelihood that the would be used unlawfully.

(c) Definition.–As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:

“Firearm.” — Any weapon which is designed to or may readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.
“Offensive weapons.” — Any bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, firearm specially made or specially adapted for concealment or silent discharge, any blackjack, sandbag, metal knuckles, dagger, knife, razor or cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise, or other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.

There’s an exception for law enforcement, and for people who have complied with the requirements of the National Firearms Act for the firearms provisions.  State law allows for carriage of a knife as big as you want, as long as it’s not a switchblade.  The only problem is, there’s no preemption for knives, so local ordinances can apply.

It’s a silly law.  A knife is no more dangerous because it is actuated by a button or spring mechanism than if I can open it with one hand, but case law in Pennsylvania has ruled that a knife that can be flicked open by wrist action after releasing a lock is not covered by this law.

10 thoughts on “To Keep and Bear Knives”

  1. Here in Delaware gravity & spring-assisted knives are also prohibited. Not that any of our knife laws have ever kept a criminal from carrying a switchblade or concealing a knife larger than 3 inches.

  2. I think that in Ohio, been a while since I looked at the laws, that they’re legal, but you have to get them in Ohio…or something to that extent.

    Also, on a brief skim of the castle doctrine bill up here it sounds like they’ll be a no-no even with a CCL, been busy so I haven’t had time to read the latest and do all the cross referencing.

  3. In Ohio they are legal, however you can not buy them unless you are a public safety worker. Also they can not be sold except to public safety workers (i.e. cops, EMS, FF, etc.)

  4. As stated in the post, Pennsylvania has no preemption law for knives (only for firearms). As such, municipalities can enact their own more restrictive knife carry regulations. Philadelphia in particular has a fairly draconian set of knife carry ordinances, at least relative to the rest of the state (but not as draconian as, say, Washington, D.C., or Chicago, IL).

    Here’s a summary (from Knife Laws of the Fifty States, p.142):

    Philadelphia – Carry of switchblades prohibited. See, PHILADELPHIA, PA., CODE § 10-810 (2006). Use or possession on public streets or on public property of any “cutting weapon”, defined as “[a]ny knife or other cutting instrument which can be used as a weapon that has a cutting edge similar to that of a knife” prohibited, with exception for “tool or instrument commonly or ordinarily used in a trade, profession or calling” while “actually being used in the active exercise of that trade, profession or calling.” See, id. at § 10-820. Violation penalty is
    minimum fine of $300 and minimum ninety day imprisonment. Id. Possession of weapons, the definition of which includes knives and cutting instruments, prohibited on or within 100 feet of any school, or in any conveyance providing transportation to or form school. See, id. at § 10-833.

    I don’t know how aggressive the current enforcement posture is in Philly, but as is evident from the above, the City’s municipal code provides lots of legal ammunition to harrass otherwise law-abiding citizens who merely happen to be carrying knives.

  5. “What’s Delaware’s law in regards to carrying a knife if you have a CDWL?”

    Well the license is officially a CCDW license so my understanding is that it includes the carrying of “deadly weapons” and not just firearms. According to the below statute it appears that a Delaware CCDW allows for the concealment of all “deadly weapons”

    Crimes and Criminal Procedure – Chapter 11 Section
    222. General definitions… (6) “Deadly weapon”
    includes… a knife of any sort (other than an ordinary
    pocketknife carried in a closed position), switchblade
    knife… razor… or any other dangerous instrument. For
    the purpose of this definition, an ordinary pocketknife
    shall be a folding knife having a blade not more than 3
    inches in length.
    – Chapter 11 Section 1442. A person is guilty of carrying a
    concealed deadly weapon when the person carries concealed
    a deadly weapon upon or about the person without a license
    to do so… a class G felony…

  6. under the concealed weapons law of pa. if you are licensed to carry a concealed weapon does that include switchblades?

  7. under the concealed weapons law of Pa., if are licensed to carry a concealed weapon does that include switchblades?

  8. No. Switchblades are illegal in Pennsylvania. A License to Carry Firearms is just a license to carry a gun. You can carry a knife in Pennsylvania, but it can’t be a spring or gravity knife.

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