Washington Knife Laws

Introduction

Do you live in Washington, D.C.? If yes, you have a bit less to worry about regarding knife laws. You will be glad to know that in Washington, D.C., you can legally own every knife, such as a dagger, other than a switchblade. However, note that if the knife lacks any utility and you could use it as a weapon against another individual, it is better to leave it at your home. This is because it is illegal to conceal carry a knife that may be used to harm or injure another person. 

Also, it is worth noting that carrying is a dicey proposition in the state because of the existing Washington knife laws. Did you know that concealed carry is illegal for many types of knives, such as daggers and dirks? Although open carry is allowed in Washington for any legal knife, such as Bowie knives, it becomes a crime if an individual becomes “alarmed” seeing the knife.

Washington Knife Laws- An Overview

You will be pleased to know that because of the passing of House Bill 2347, the types of knives illegal to own in Washington have shrunken considerably. The bill was passed in 2012. It is worth noting that this bill, among several other things, amended and updated Revised Code Washington section § 9.41.250 and removed several types of switchblade knives from the illegal list.   

However, note that the law prohibits you from owning dangerous weapons, like switchblades and automatic knives. Note that the only exception to this rule is people working in the US military, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and emergency medical services. 

You can legally own dirks, stabbing knives, daggers, stilettos, Bowie knives, disguised knives, and throwing stars. Note that you cannot own a switchblade or any other spring blade knife in the state.

Knife Length Limit

Did you know that Washington statutes don’t mention any specific or certain dimensions (such as blade length) which may render a knife of any kind unlawful? However, you should know that many of the counties and municipalities within the state do not permit knives over a specific length.

What is a Dangerous Knife?

Note that Washington has not strictly defined a deadly or dangerous knife. However, bear in mind that in 2002, an opinion from the court mentioned that generally, the relevant courts had defined the dangerous knife or weapon to be an instrument that can inflict harm on a person.

Knives that are Legal to Own and Possess

You should know that Washington has some confusing knife laws. While these laws may seem lenient, under certain circumstances, they can be quite strict. You can own and possess these knives in Washington:

  • Dirks, daggers, or other stabbing knives
  • Bowie knives
  • Stilettos
  •  Throwing stars
  • Disguised knives, such as a belt buckle or lipstick

Restrictions on Conceal Carry

You cannot own switchblades or other spring blade knives in Washington.

Here are some knives that you cannot conceal carry:

  • You cannot conceal carry a dirk
  • You cannot conceal carry any dangerous weapons
  • You cannot conceal carry a dagger

Did you know that it is also illegal to display or carry a dagger, knife, sword, or other stabbing or cutting instrument in a way or under circumstances that may cause alarm or show the intent to intimidate another person?

Prohibited Places

You will be pleased to know that Washington laws make an allowance for carrying a gun on school property if you’re permitted and picking up or dropping off a student. However, this isn’t the case for knives. 

You cannot carry a knife in schools, public or private. Also, note that no exemptions are made for the type or length of the knife. However, it is worth noting that you certainly have the option of keeping your knife locked inside the car when you are on school property. Similarly, you cannot carry a knife in courthouses, churches, and courtrooms.

Statewide Preemption

It is worth noting that Washington doesn’t have any statewide law restricting the legal right of subordinate authorities to regulate the possession of knives. This means that municipalities, cities, and other bodies in the state can enact their own laws, and these laws can be more restrictive than those enacted by the state.

Other Knife Laws and Considerations in Washington

According to RCW § 9.41.270, it is a gross misdemeanor to exhibit, carry, or display a knife, dagger, sword, or other stabbing or cutting instrument or implement that appears to inflict an injury or harm through stabbing or cutting in a way that causes intimidation or alarm for the overall safety and well-being of other people. 

For example, in State vs. Byrd (2005), where Byrd meant to intimidate, established that intent isn’t required for alarm for the safety and well-being of other people to be valid. While the courts do not apply this law generally to most open carry cases in Washington in which the carrier doesn’t actually threaten or intimidate someone, it is open-ended enough that you could face criminal charges if another individual became frightened or scared seeing an openly carried knife and then called the police. 

Although the state shows no or little interest in enforcing this drastic or extreme interpretation, as a knife owner, you should note that it is legally possible, at least in theory.

Bottom Line

You should know that Washington knife laws are very complicated when it comes to concealed or displayed knives. Also, note that the laws consider a knife, such as a switchblade, to be a dangerous weapon. This is the same as a deadly weapon. As you can see, Washington is wishy-washy and confusing when it comes to carrying various types of knives. 

This is why you should be very cautious about taking any chances, especially when carrying a knife openly. You have to pay attention to the precise wording of the law and be cautious if you would like to avoid trouble in the state. Note that it is illegal to own switchblades or other spring blade knives in Washington. You should be aware of all the laws for possession and carrying of a knife in Washington. And make sure that you are aware of the limits.

Sources

(http://www.akti.org/wp-content/uploads/WA-Engrossed-Substitute-House-Bill-2347.pdf)
(http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9.41.250)
(https://casetext.com/case/state-v-bonebright-1)
(http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9.41.270)
(http://www.handgunlaw.us/documents/USKnife2.pdf)

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