Do you know your law?
It is crucial to living a peaceful life that one is aware of the laws of the place where they reside. One must know the laws about weapons to ensure that they don’t end up committing a felony because “ignorant Juris non-excuse,” which is Latin for “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
Hence the question is raised: what are the laws regarding knives? Does one need a license to own certain kinds of knives? What does the law state regarding concealed knives? What are the knife designs or sizes that are prohibited? What are the exceptions to each law?
Knife laws in Virginia
Looking at knife laws in Virginia, one will notice that the laws are highly broad and permissive in some respects, while in others they can be quite restrictive. To start off, there is an apparent general ban on owning, buying or selling of throwing knives, switchblades and ballistic knives. As is expected with weapon laws, while the knife laws are broad, they are not unlimited.
When it comes to open carry rights, those are broad enough. Legal knives are eligible for open carrying nearly anywhere, except of course the usual off-limit areas such as schools. However, knife collectors might find solace knowing that even on school premises, one may carry pocket knives with short blades.
When it comes to concealed carry laws, there is a variety of knives that are prohibited from being concealed. This includes larger knives. Furthermore, these also include dirks, Bowie knives, ballistic knives, switchblade knives, razors, machetes, shuriken, throwing stars, and any other knives similar to these are forbidden for concealed carry.
You might want to read: Washington State Knife Laws
Exceptions are made regarding concealed carry laws when it comes to knives being transported from the location from which they are purchased to the owner’s house, or from the owner’s home to a place of repair. This is in effect as long as the knives are securely wrapped. Exceptions are also made for knives which are being used while legally hunting. Collectors should be aware that when it comes to carrying a knife in a private vehicle, there is a Pandora box’s worth of complicated case law that one should be mindful of to avoid any problems.
Looking at the history of the weapon in Virginia, one will come across evidence where concealed Bowie knives caused a lot of problems because of duels once fought in Virginia. In 2015 a preemption bill was proposed. However, this was legislatively defeated as a result of the adverse press. Local knife ordinances still hold court all across the Old Dominion State. Municipal and county laws are scattered across the Old Dominion State, working to enforce further regulations on knife possession and sales. In Culpepper County and Amherst County, VA, knives with blades longer than three inches are not allowed to be carried in public parks, not even for open carrying. Similar bans can be found when it comes to operating taxicabs in several counties and towns. To avoid any skirmishes with the law, it is best that local and visiting people are familiar with the knife laws when traveling across Virginia.
Legality of Knife Possession
Looking at the Virginia Code, Section 18.2-311 to be precise, one can find a concise but thorough summary of the list of knives that are illegal to own in Virginia. According to the statute, simple possession of these knives is seen as prima facie. This means that the possession of these knives is automatically taken as proof as an intention to sell (unless proven otherwise, of course), which by default makes owning them illegal. All this can be classified as a Class 4 Misdemeanor, which means that this crime is punishable by a fine but does not include jail time. As mentioned before, switchblades, ballistic knives and throwing knives (including throwing stars, or “oriental darts”) remain illegal to sell and own within state lines.
Besides these, all other knives remain legal to own, buy, sell and manufacture, and of course, give or receive as gifts. These knives can be carried openly or concealed in the owner’s house or private properly. To provide a more precise picture, these legal knives include Bowie knives, balisong knives, KA-BAR knives, machetes, stilettos, swords, daggers, dirks, hunting knives, sword canes, clasp knives, pocket knives, utility knives, disguised knives, and any other types of knives that are not explicitly stated as banned in the Virginia Code section § 18.2-311.
One must be aware. However, that sword canes and disguised knives such as lipstick knives or belt buckle knives can raise issues. While they may be owned, they cannot be carried in public. This is because they are constructed in a way where they are not readily recognizable as knives and are always concealed. The law states that all legal knives are okay for open carry, besides those that cannot be readily recognized as knives. If belt knives of any kind are very naturally and easily recognizable as knives, then they are deemed legal to be carried. In ambiguous cases, the court will look at the length of the blade, and the purpose of carrying the item to determine whether it is a weapon in the eyes of the law.
There is slight ambiguity regarding whether assisted-openers come under the category of switchblades. It is soothing to know that all evidence indicates that one can buy a Kershaw Onion nearly anywhere in the state of Virginia. This must mean that they are not truly switchblades because their sale would then be illegal. As it is not illegal, one can safely conclude that it is okay to not only sell them but carry them as well, granted they are within blade length limits.
The Virginia Code Section § 18.2-308.1 states that it is illegal to carry knives in a school or on school premises. The exception for this is an ordinary folding pocket knife with a short blade, with a blade shorter than three inches. Besides this technicality, blade length does not present itself as an issue of import in Virginia state laws. It is interesting to note that Virginia is one of the select few states where it is legal to carry a knife, albeit a small one, at school.