Quick Legal Facts
Concealment is not a factor.
Pennsylvania law prohibits the possession of any knife on school grounds.
Pennsylvania is favorable jurisdiction for knife owners. Pennsylvania’s definition of “offensive weapons” prohibits automatic knives only:
“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, any stun gun, stun baton, taser or other electronic or electric weapon or other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.
18 Pa. C.S. § 908(c). (Emphasis added.) Because the words “blade of which is exposed in an automatic way” modify and qualify the nouns dagger, knife, razor and cutting instrument, the statute is reasonably construed to refer only to automatic knives. Furthermore, there is no issue in Pennsylvania with gravity knives. Commonwealth v. Ashford, 397 A.2d 420 (Pa. Super. 1979) (a knife which is opened or exposed by a “flick of the wrist” does not come within the prohibition on automatic knives).
The Pennsylvania Superior Court issued a troubling non-precedential decision in 2016. The Court concluded that a knife where the blade is “exposed automatically once the user puts his or her finger into the control that is part of the knife’s blade” is a prohibited offensive weapon. Commonwealth v. Chehovits, (Pa. Super., No. 140 WDA 2016, filed September 15, 2016). The description of the knife in Chehovits is vague, but the court could have been describing an assisted opening knife.
In Pennsylvania, possession, manufacture, or sale of automatic knives is a misdemeanor of the first degree. However, there are exceptions, such as keeping the weapon solely as a curio, using the weapon in a dramatic performance, brief possession of the weapon as a consequence of having found it or taken it from an aggressor, or under circumstances show the absence of an intent or likelihood that the weapon would be used unlawfully. 18 Pa. C.S. § 908(a), (b).
The Pennsylvania Superior Court has held that a “penknife” with a three-inch blade was a “deadly weapon” for purposes of the statute. Accordingly, for purposes of sales or transfers to minors, the category of “deadly weapons” can be more restrictive than the category of prohibited offensive weapons. Commonwealth v. Duxbury, 67 4 A.2d 1116 1996).
Concealment is not an issue in Pennsylvania. There are no prohibitions regarding the possession of carrying knives, whether concealed or unconcealed, with the exception of offensive weapon/automatic knives, as discussed above.
There is no statewide knife preemption in Pennsylvania. Knife owners need to check for possible more restrictive knife laws in cities or counties. Philadelphia, in particular, has a restriction on “cutting weapons in public places.”
Pennsylvania law prohibits the possession of knives on school grounds, in school buildings, or in any conveyance providing transportation to or from a school. 18 Pa. C.S. § 912. Knife owners are cautioned that Section 912 prohibits possession of “any knife, cutting instrument, cutting tool” on school property or on school transportation.
On September 28, 1776, the first Pennsylvania Constitution was ratified. Aspects of Article 1, as well as the Preamble from that Constitution, remain in effect.
That the general, great and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and unalterably established, WE DECLARE THAT-
§ 1. Inherent rights of mankind A
ll men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and indefeasible rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, of acquiring, possessing and protecting property and reputation, and of pursuing their own happiness.
This Constitution further provides that the right of citizens to bear arms is something that shall not be questioned.
§ 21. Right to bear arms
The right of the citizens to bear arms in defence of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.
As a matter of historical context, this Pennsylvania Constitution was ratified slightly less than three (3) months before the Continental Army, under the command of George Washington, would cross the Delaware River from Pennsylvania into New Jersey and overpower the forces of King George III at Trenton. It was also some fifteen (15) years before the first Ten Amendments, or Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution, were ratified in 1791.