Quick Legal Facts
Washington law provides that it is a crime to "furtively carry . . . with intent to conceal any dagger, dirk, pistol, or other dangerous weapon."
Knives and other dangerous weapons prohibited on school grounds.
Washington State laws regarding knives bans switchblades and gravity knives. In 2012, the law was revised to allow the manufacture, sale, transportation, transfer, distribution, or possession of switchblades and gravity knives under contract with a law enforcement, fire or rescue agency, the military, or with another knife manufacturer or commercial distributor, or solely for trial, test or evaluation.
“Spring blade” (switchblades/automatic) knives are prohibited in Washington. Such knives may not be carried, possessed, sold, or for that matter disposed of. RCW 9.41.250(1)(a). The Washington statute does incorporate the bias toward closure language, as suggested by AKTI, which is also part of the Federal Switchblade Act. So prohibition of “spring blade” knives should not apply to all knives that can be opened with one hand or assisted openers.
The definition of “spring blade knife” in Washington since 2012 is: “Spring blade knife” means any knife, including a prototype, model, or other sample, with a blade that is automatically released by a spring mechanism or other mechanical device, or any knife having a blade which opens, or falls, or is ejected into position by the force of gravity, or by an outward, downward, or centrifugal thrust or movement. A knife that contains a spring, detent, or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade and that requires physical exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist, or arm to overcome the bias toward closure to assist in opening the knife is not a spring blade knife.”
However, RCW 9.41.250 does not apply to:
(b) The manufacture, sale, transportation, transfer, distribution, or possession of spring blade knives pursuant to contract with a general authority law enforcement agency, fire or rescue agency, Washington state patrol, or military service, or pursuant to a contract with another manufacturer or a commercial distributor of knives for use, sale, or other disposition by the manufacturer or commercial distributor;
(c) The manufacture, transportation, transfer, distribution, or possession of spring blade knives, with or without compensation and with or without a contract, solely for trial, test, or other provisional use for evaluation and assessment purposes, by a general authority law enforcement agency, fire or rescue agency, Washington state patrol, military service, or a manufacturer or commercial distributor of knives.
RCW 9.41.250 Sec. 2.
Sale or disposition of switchblade knives is prohibited, as indicated above.
Washington law provides that it is a crime to “furtively carry . . . with intent to conceal any dagger, dirk, pistol, or other dangerous weapon.” RCW 9.41.250(1)(b). This statute appears to establish as discrete elements of the offense:
(1) furtive carry;
(2) of a dagger, dirk or other dangerous weapon;
(3) with intent to conceal.
In theory, all three elements must be present to establish a violation. This statute appears to offer some additional protection for the individual who simply has a knife in his or her pocket. There is theoretically no violation unless the individual is also furtively carrying. The case of a juvenile with a fixed blade three-inch paring knife in her pocket illustrates the difficulty in applying this statute. A 16-year-old girl was involved in some altercation on a Seattle street at 1:00 a.m. Witnesses testified that she was making threats and using profane language. A responding police officer testified that she appeared to be reaching for something in her coat pocket. The paring knife was in an inside coat pocket. A juvenile court found her guilty of the concealed weapon statute on the grounds that the paring knife was a concealed dangerous weapon. The juvenile appealed to the Washington Court of Appeals, an intermediate appellate level court, where she argued that the concealed carry statute was vague. In particular, she urged that “dangerous weapon” was vague, as applied to a three-inch paring knife and that the concept of furtive carry was also vague. The Court of Appeals had no difficulty finding that the three-inch paring knife was a dangerous weapon, but ruled in her favor, finding that there was no evidence of furtive carry with intent to conceal. The prosecution then appealed to the Washington Supreme Court. The juvenile defendant abandoned on appeal to the Supreme Court her contention that “other dangerous weapon” was vague. She also did not challenge on the appeal the finding that the three-inch paring knife was a dangerous weapon. Accordingly, the Washington Supreme Court did not review or rule on those findings. The Washington Supreme Court did state that the “furtive” carry element merely requires:
Evidence that the defendant’s conduct in light of all the circumstances proves beyond a reasonable doubt that a dangerous weapon was furtively or secretly carried with the intent to conceal it. State v. Miles, 903 Pacific 2d 979, 984 (1995).
One of the Supreme Court Justices filed a dissenting opinion in which one other concurred. Essentially, the dissent urged that it was reasonable to assume that the legislature intended to make it a crime to carry knives in a sneaky manner, where one would not ordinarily carry a knife, such as “up one’s sleeve.” This interpretation by the dissent seems to make sense, but is unfortunately, not the law. It is less than clear exactly what constitutes furtive carry in Washington.
Washington law does not expressly prohibit the open carry of a dagger, dirk or other knife. Washington does have a statute which addresses carrying of weapons under circumstances that might intimidate or create a safety concern.
(1) It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting or stabbing instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons. RCW 9.41.270(1)
This statute would suggest the need for some discretion, and perhaps sensitivity, to surrounding circumstances.
Knives and other dangerous weapons prohibited on school grounds. RCW 9.41.280.
The Constitution of the State of Washington recognizes and preserves the right of individuals to keep and bear arms for purposes of self-defense and provides that said rights shall not be “impaired.”
§ 24. Right to Bear Arms The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in the defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize or employ an armed body of men. West’s RCWA Const. Art. 1 § 24