Quick Legal Facts
Concealment is a factor. The law prohibits the concealed carry of certain knives as described.
Knives are prohibited on all schools.
At a Glance:
The basic restrictions pertaining to the carry of knives in Oregon are set forth at O.R.S §166.240, captioned Carrying of concealed weapons. It prohibits the concealed carry of “any knife having a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring, or by centrifugal force” and any dirk, dagger, or ice pick. The restriction has been interpreted as applying to assisted opening knives and butterfly knives.
A location-based limitation, 166.370, prohibits the possession of any knife in public buildings and court facilities except for an ordinary pocketknife having a blade less than four inches in length. See more on this topic below.
166.240. Carrying of concealed weapons
166.270. Possession of weapons by felons
166.370. Possession of firearm or dangerous weapon in a public building or court facility; exceptions
There are no knives that may not be lawfully owned or possessed in Oregon.
Concealed carry of any automatic knife, assisted opening knife, butterfly knife, dirk, dagger, or ice pick is prohibited.
Restrictions on Sale or Transfer:
Restrictions on Carry in Specific Locations/Circumstances:
Yes. Possession of dangerous weapons is prohibited in public buildings which include schools K through university, court/judicial facilities, government buildings, and other specified locations. (See discussion below).
While there is no knife-specific preemption statute, Oregon law restricts local ordinances which are “incompatible with the legislative policy, either because both cannot operate concurrently or because the legislature meant its law to be exclusive.”
City of La Grande v. Public Employes Retirement Bd. 576 P.2d 1204 (1978).
A Portland ordinance was invalidated by the Oregon Supreme Court in the case of City of Portland v. Lodi 782 P.2d 415 (1989).
Carrying of Concealed Weapons
O.R.S. § 166.240 provides:
1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, any person who carries concealed upon the person any knife having a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force, any dirk, dagger, ice pick, slungshot, metal knuckles, or any similar instrument by the use of which injury could be inflicted upon the person or property of any other person, commits a Class B misdemeanor.
In 1957 Oregon joined the stampede of states prohibiting automatic knives and enacted a ban on “switchblade” knives. That statute, § 166.510, provided that any person committed an offense:
who manufactures, causes to be manufactured, sells, keeps for sale, offers, gives, loans, carries, or possesses an instrument or weapon having a blade which projects or swings into position by force of a spring or other device and commonly known as a switch-blade knife.
The Supreme Court of Oregon found this enactment to be inconsistent with the Oregon State Constitution in the case of State v Delgado, 692 P2d. 610 as announced on December 28, 1984.
The Oregon legislature appropriately repealed the commerce and possession prohibitions (§ 166.510 quoted above) the following year but also amended the concealed carry statute to include a prohibition for the concealed carry of “any knife having a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force and commonly known as a switchblade knife.”
In the case of State v Markwell, 383 P3d. 285 (2016) the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed convictions for a knife with a blade that “projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force” where the knife in question would be referred to as an “assisted opener”:
Zelinka [arresting officer] testified that, based on his experience, both personally and professionally, a knife that has nubs opens either by the force of a spring or by centrifugal force. While testifying, Zelinka demonstrated how the knife could be opened using the bottom nub. He also explained that, when he used his finger to put pressure on the nub, the knife blade moved into the open position ‘with very little effort.’ According to Zelinka, the knife ‘flung open.’ To open the knife using the bottom nub, a person pulls the nub backward. When the nub is pulled backward, the blade moves into position rapidly, at a speed that exceeds the speed at which the nub is being moved. The nub is not like a button that is pushed to release a spring lock and, thereby, enable a spring to expand and push out a blade.
The defendant in the Markwell case, a convicted felon, was charged and convicted under 166.240, the general concealed weapon statute, and 166.370, Possession of weapons by felons.
Both statutes contain the same “blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force” wording.
The Oregon Court of Appeals has a protocol, referred to as AWOP, whereby it can affirm a trial court ruling without issuing an opinion. A substantial percentage of all cases addressed by that court are resolved under that protocol. An AWOP disposition has no precedential effect. The convictions of defendant Markwell could have been affirmed without establishing a precedent. The Oregon Court of Appeals showed no reticence to a precedential extension of the scope of the prohibition inconsistent with a nationwide trend and the 2009 amendment to the Federal Switchblade Act.
“. . . or by centrifugal force”- Butterfly Knives
Several appeal court-level decisions in Oregon have involved prosecutions for possession of a butterfly knife under § 166.240 Carrying of concealed weapons or § 166.270 Possession of weapons by felons. Both sections restrict any knife or instrument “having a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force” as mentioned above. Both sections were amended in 1999 to remove the words “commonly known as a switchblade knife. An effect of the amendment is that scope of the restriction has expanded.
None of those decisions have examined the elements of the definition which apply to a blade that swings into position by centrifugal force. The definition is quite vague and imprecise. Many folding knives including manual slip joint designs have blades that can be pivoted or moved by centrifugal force. Butterfly knives cannot be opened by a simple centrifugal force movement as several manipulations are required. Notwithstanding, it seems to be uncontroversial that butterfly knives are restricted in Oregon.
“. . . or any similar instrument” – Knives
Section 166.240 Carrying of concealed weapons contains a “catch-all” provision “or any similar instrument by the use of which injury could be inflicted.” The specifically listed knives are dirks, daggers, ice picks, and knives with blades that swing into position by spring action or by centrifugal force. As to other unlisted types of knives, this has been construed requiring “sufficient evidence for a reasonable factfinder to find that the knife was “designed and intended” primarily as a weapon.” State v Nelson 330 P3d 644 (1984). A “samurai” sword has been held to be a “similar instrument.” State v Ruff, 211 P3d 277 (2009).
There is no statutory or legislatively established guidance for determining what is concealed. The test used in Oregon was announced in the case of Oregon v Turner, 193 P3d. 697 (2008):
a person violates 166.240 by carrying on his person a weapon that is either not readily identifiable as a weapon or by attempting to obscure the fact that he is carrying a weapon on his person.
Arguably, if a folding knife with a pocket clip is clipped to the hem of a pocket, leaving part of it “identifiable,” there may be no attempt to obscure the knife as might be the case if the same knife is deposited in a pocket. There is no case law support in Oregon for this argument or on this issue. Accordingly, we cannot recommend or suggest pocket clip carry as compliant with 166.240.
Oregon case law does suggest that a knife carried in a sheath at the waist is not concealed:
Like a gun in a holster, a knife carried openly in a sheath on the belt is not ‘concealed.’ Cf. State v. Walton, 18 Or. App. 603, 526 P.2d 458, rev. den. (1974) (affirming on other grounds defendant’s conviction for carrying a knife in a scabbard at the waist, but concealed beneath his coat). Once the officer discovered that defendant carried his knife openly in a sheath at his waist, he no longer had reasonable suspicion, let alone a probable cause, to suspect the defendant of wrongdoing. Oregon v Johnson, 772 P.2d 426 (1989)
Oregon laws regarding knives and restricted locations are somewhat complicated. Definitions that are specific to this topic are provided in 166.360. The following sub-parts are relevant:
(2) “Court facility” means a courthouse or that portion of any other building occupied by a circuit court, the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court or the Oregon Tax Court or occupied by personnel related to the operations of those courts, or in which activities related to the operations of those courts take place.
(9) “Public building” means a hospital, a capitol building, a public or private school, as defined in ORS 339.315, a college or university, a city hall or the residence of any state official elected by the state at large, and the grounds adjacent to each such building. The term also includes that portion of any other building occupied by an agency of the state or a municipal corporation, as defined in ORS 297.405, other than a court facility.
(10) “Weapon” means:
(a) A firearm;
(b) Any dirk, dagger, ice pick, slingshot, metal knuckles or any similar instrument or a knife, other than an ordinary pocketknife with a blade less than four inches in length, the use of which could inflict injury upon a person or property;
(g) A dangerous or deadly weapon as those terms are defined in ORS 161.015.
Accordingly, for purposes of the restricted locations, the possession of any knife “other than an ordinary pocketknife with a blade less than four inches in length,” is a violation.
There are essentially two categories of restricted locations – public buildings and court facilities. 166.370. Possession of firearm or dangerous weapon in a public building or court facility; exceptions, provides, as is pertinent hereto as follows:
(1) Any person who intentionally possesses a loaded or unloaded firearm or any other instrument used as a dangerous weapon, while in or on a public building, shall upon conviction be guilty of a Class C felony.
(2)(a) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of this subsection, a person who intentionally possesses:
(A) A firearm in a court facility is guilty, upon conviction, of a Class C felony. A person who intentionally possesses a firearm in a court facility shall surrender the firearm to a law enforcement officer.
(B) A weapon, other than a firearm, in a court facility may be required to surrender the weapon to a law enforcement officer or to immediately remove it from the court facility. A person who fails to comply with this subparagraph is guilty, upon conviction, of a Class C felony.
This section includes an “intent” element which is defined in 161.085. Definitions as follows:
(7) ‘Intentionally’ or ‘with intent’ when used with respect to a result or to conduct described by a statute defining an offense, means that a person acts with a conscious objective to cause the result or to engage in the conduct so described.
Presumably, one who unintentionally or inadvertently enters a public building while in possession of a dangerous weapon would not be in violation of this section.
It should also be noted that while one who intentionally enters a court facility will be charged with a violation, one entering with a knife or non-firearm weapon may be required to surrender the weapon or remove it from the facility. A violation will be charged if one fails to so comply.
Another interesting aspect of 166.370 per sub-part (3) (g) is that the provisions of section (1) pertaining to dangerous weapons in public buildings does not apply to someone with a concealed handgun license. This provision does not apply to court facilities and provides that possession of a valid license is an affirmative defense.
Violations of 370.166. Possession of firearm or dangerous weapon in public building or court facility, is a Class C felony, and as such, carries a maximum penalty of up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $ 125,000.
Violations of 166.240. Carrying of concealed weapons, are a Class B misdemeanor with a penalty of up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.
Law Enforcement and Military
By its terms, 166.240. Carrying of concealed weapons does not apply to peace officers. There are various exceptions for law enforcement, judicial and other state officials under 370.166, as well as exceptions for U.S. Military acting in the course and scope of their duties.
Updated June 3, 2021, by Daniel C. Lawson