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PA Knife laws. Is this knife legal?

Discussion in 'Knife Laws' started by Chris9617, Jan 20, 2019.

  1. Chris9617


    Jan 20, 2019
    Exactly what kind of knives are illegal in PA? I've read at least 10 different websites on this topic and there are some things they agree on and others they do not. More importantly, how they describe the various laws and knives is quite vague. From what I understand assisted opening knives, butterfly knives, Bowie knives, and the obvious standard pocket knives are all legal and switchblades are illegal.

    However I have a few questions!
    1) If I could get an accurate definition of what exactly constitutes a switchblade vs assisted open it would be much appreciated!
    2) Are gravity knives and paratrooper knives legal to own, carry, and use publicly in PA?
    3) Are OTF blades blades legal to own, carry, and use publicly in PA?
    4) Are assisted opening knives legal to own, carry, and use publicly in PA?

    More or less what knives are legal and illegal to own, carry, and use publicly in Pennsylvania?

    I was looking at this knife in particular however I do not want to order it and begin use only to be thrown in jail!
  2. Knife_Collector_101


    Sep 21, 2018
    PA is very weird when it comes to knife and weapon laws. They're rarely ever enforced unless you get in trouble for something else and the type of knife they find in your possession comes into question.

    Automatic knives, or switchblades, open with a button, lever or switch on the handle. Doesn't matter if it opens from the side or out the front. These are the only types of knives specifically mentioned in the statutes as "prohibited offensive weapons."

    Assisted knives are a totally different knife. They open by applying pressure to the blade itself via a thumb stud or flipper. You start opening the blade slightly and then the torsion bar mechanism kicks in and opens the knife the rest of the way. That's the key difference between them and automatic knives. Assisted openers are widely available in most retail shops in PA.

    As for the assisted opening OTF knives by Schrade and Smith & Wesson, I've seen them for sale in knife shops here in PA, so it would seem that they aren't considered automatic knives. However, the ones that have the switches on them can kind of be a grey area between assisted and automatic, so if you're getting one of those, I'd recommend keeping them at home and not carrying them. Even though they are technically assisted, it's unlikely a cop who sees it will know that and they'll likely bust you for carrying an auto. You can win the case in court, but it will still be a major legal hassle and ordeal you don't want to go through.

    Getting all that out of the way, while autos are the only knives that are restricted in PA, they are still possible to legally possess under the "curio" exception in the statute. Based on cases I've read about and what lawyers have said, if it's something you own two or more of and you have them kept in your house in a display case with other unique collectible knives and edged weapons, you are okay under that circumstance. They just have to stay locked up in your house and you cannot carry them. Even the PA concealed carry license doesn't allow you to carry an auto knife. It only applies to guns.

    I hope all this info was helpful to you. It's not official legal advice as I'm not a lawyer. It is only my personal perspective based on what I've researched about the state and its laws regarding this stuff.
  3. Knife_Collector_101


    Sep 21, 2018
    Oh, and as far as gravity/paratrooper knives, I've never read anything about them being an issue in PA. I don't think they fall under the prohibited knife definition since it refers to the blade being "exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise". Since they are gravity powered and not spring powered, I think that puts them in the clear. Balisongs were of course determined to be folding knives and not offensive weapons a long time ago, so they are okay to own and open or conceal carry in PA. There are some nice balis for sale at a store in my neck of the woods, including ones from Bear & Son/Bear Ops and Benchmade.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2019
  4. zzyzzogeton


    Feb 17, 2013
    Also, you need to check local ordinances as well. As an example, it is illegal to carry ANY knife in the city of Philadelphia unless actively needed for a trade, profession, or calling. Philadelphia code section 10-820.
  5. Knife_Collector_101


    Sep 21, 2018
    Thanks for bringing that up, zzyzzogeton! Philadelphia's ordinance is pretty ridiculous! So definitely look up on the local laws and ordinances as well. Blade length isn't mentioned in the state statute, but some different localities may have some restrictions on length.
  6. Knife_Collector_101


    Sep 21, 2018
    I've also heard that double edged dagger blades are considered taboo, so I'd advise against carrying those as well.
  7. pyreaux

    pyreaux Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 9, 2015
    1. Taking legal advice from the internet is not the best idea.
    2. Just because a shop will sell it to you does not mean it's legal. Plenty of knives for sale in NYC that are illegal for example.
    3. Knife rights has an app that will point you to the statutes to read yourself. It's called legal blade.
  8. Knife_Collector_101


    Sep 21, 2018
    I of course wasn't giving legal advice. As I said, you need to go to a lawyer for that. I was just talking about what I know based on what I've read and researched. The Knife Rights app sounds like something that should come in handy. They're usually on top of all this stuff.
  9. zzyzzogeton


    Feb 17, 2013
    When in doubt, go to the state's Penal Code, General Statutes, or in PA, the Consolidated Statutes.

    The term "knife" appears 10 times in the entire PA Consolidated Statutes specifically, 2 times in each of the following sections of Title 18 --- Sections 907, 908, 912, 913, 5122

    Title 18 Section 908 provides the penalty for possessing an "offensive weapon", the legal definition of an "offensive weapon"' Underlining added for emphasis.... I left out paragraph (d) which lists the exemptions that basically say this does not apply to a LEO in the performance of his/her duties. To see the whole statute in question - https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdoc...Type=HTM&ttl=18&div=0&chpt=9&sctn=8&subsctn=0

    § 908. Prohibited offensive weapons.

    (a) Offense defined.--A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if, except as authorized by law, he makes, repairs, sells, or otherwise deals in, uses, or possesses any offensive weapon.

    (b) Exceptions.--

    (1) It is a defense under this section for the defendant to prove by a preponderance of evidence that he possessed or dealt with the weapon solely as a curio or in a dramatic performance, or that, with the exception of a bomb, grenade or incendiary device, he complied with the National Firearms Act (26 U.S.C. § 5801 et seq.), or that he possessed it briefly in consequence of having found it or taken it from an aggressor, or under circumstances similarly negativing any intent or likelihood that the weapon would be used unlawfully.

    (2) This section does not apply to police forensic firearms experts or police forensic firearms laboratories. Also exempt from this section are forensic firearms experts or forensic firearms laboratories operating in the ordinary course of business and engaged in lawful operation who notify in writing, on an annual basis, the chief or head of any police force or police department of a city, and, elsewhere, the sheriff of a county in which they are located, of the possession, type and use of offensive weapons.

    (3) This section shall not apply to any person who makes, repairs, sells or otherwise deals in, uses or possesses any firearm for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.

    (c) Definitions.--As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:

    "Firearm." Any weapon which is designed to or may readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive or the frame or receiver of any such weapon.

    "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.

    Note what I highlighted in red text.

    By the rules of grammar, the way the sentence is constructed, this would mean the language would only apply to a razor or cutting instrument. By that application/interpretation, the switchblade definition would only be applied to razors or cutting instruments. But this is not how the statute is interpreted.

    Now lets look at what I highlighted in blue, the word "otherwise". Otherwise what????? Otherwise any other knife opening mechanism? Otherwise any other knife or cutting instrument??

    When you read the statute, the way it is written COULD be interpreted by some as making it a 1st degree misdemeanor to possess ANY knife in the state of Pennsylvania, not just a switchblade (based on the red text modifier).

    And now we get to the last highlighted section in green. Does this modifier only apply to the electronic items appearing after the "otherwise" or does it apply to the whole list? Sandbags are declared "offensive weapons" but never defined. But you can use them for some common lawful practice like preventing flooding, right. So I can have a whole bunch of "sandbags", right? I can assume the writer of the statute was trying to mean what other folks call "saps", "coshes" "bat" "baton" "billy club", but it is never defined.

    This type of poor grammar that politicians always write is one of the causes of confusion when someone who is NOT the writer of the law tries to interpret what the intent of the writer really was, which leads to the reliance on court cases to "clear things up", which in itself can lead to contradictions.
    tom19176 likes this.
  10. Knife_Collector_101


    Sep 21, 2018
    The way that law is written can make such a clusterfuck of things. I think even many cops have trouble understanding it.

    Most weapons laws are written to be vague like that to give a certain amount of discretionary privilege to cops and prosecutors should the need arise.

    There are other knives besides automatics that could be deemed "offensive weapons" under that statute if somebody wanted to abuse it in such a way.

    The whole thing is in desperate need of some revisions. Even New Jersey's weapons laws have more clear definitions.
  11. Knife_Collector_101


    Sep 21, 2018
    I always thought the "sandbag" thing mentioned in the statute sounded funny. I often wondered if those hacky sack things that kids used to play with could be considered an offensive weapon under that term. LOL!

    Anyway, while the stuff on the knives is pretty clear cut, for the most part (Restricted=Autos, Legal=Balisongs, Assisted Openers, and all other knives), one item that's not listed but seems it could be a grey area due to the "other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose" wording is expandable batons. Are those the same as blackjacks? Are civilians allowed to carry them or are only LEOs allowed to? Good luck trying to get a definite answer on that. Just another example of how that kind of vagueness in these laws could bite you in the ass if you're in the wrong situation at the wrong time.
  12. zzyzzogeton


    Feb 17, 2013
    Can't speak for PA, but in Texas, expandable batons, e.g., the Asp that LEOs carry, have been deemed to be "clubs" via court rulings and therefore illegal for public carry by non-LEOs.

    Tomahawks and hatchets have been determined to be in the "club" category, as well. I can transport my hawks and hatchets in my vehicle for legitimate end destination use (throwing, camping, etc) but I can't walk around with one hanging off my belt.

    A carpenter's hammer could get you an additional charge of carrying an illegal club if you get stopped walking around with one for some other reason that caught the LEOs's eye if you were not actively on a job site. Carrying a golf club as you walk your dog could bring a charge since your local neighborhood is not the legitimate location for using a golf club.
  13. Babboonbobo


    May 20, 2017
    Sounds just as messed up and vague as Ohio
    Technically nothing in Ohio is illegal but everything could be, completely up to the officer and DA
    There is no sure fire 100% legal
  14. oldmark


    Jun 14, 2019
    I joined this forum just for this question...Pennsylvania has deliberately vague laws on knives, and the individual cop can pretty much do as he or she pleases. IF they don't like your attitude and find you with a knife the officer can at least take you in and they might jail you, and almost certainly fine you. Yeah, it ain't fair, but that's how they roll.
    This winter, I had a pocket knife, a Kershaw, that was found when I was wanded going into a concert at a local
    theatrer, something I had no idea would happen. On the way out, I wanted the knife back, and was told the police "confiscated" it, meaning some cop kept it.
    PA likes things this way, and they have little interest in changing things. AND ANY switchblade is illegal, even if
    it never leaves your home. Same thing applies - if they don't like you, they will charge you with anything they can find or think up...and that's the Republicans!
  15. Knife_Collector_101


    Sep 21, 2018
    Since this thread was revived, I thought I should bring up a bill that was recently introduced in the legislature (House Bill 1412). It's a bill that seeks to remove the concealed handgun permit requirement AND removes auto knives from the prohibited weapon list. It would be great if this would pass, but I doubt Governor Wolf would sign it unless they can override a veto. Maybe if they came up with a compromise by making an exception for auto knives to be carried by people with a concealed handgun permit, that would get more support? I don't know. Then again, nobody thought Cuomo would finally give in and legalize gravity knives in NY. So, never say never.
    Allan DeGroot likes this.
  16. James Usher

    James Usher

    May 3, 2019
    are their any illegal knives ? :O
  17. Mcap79

    Mcap79 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 6, 2019
    PA is ridiculous not allowing knives with a switch/button but it’s legal to open carry a gun without permit. I would hope that things would change and at least allow an auto knife if you have a concealed carry permit.
  18. Knife_Collector_101


    Sep 21, 2018
    Let's hope something changes soon. I know a lot of knife dealers in PA who would love to be able to start offering up Microtechs, Protechs, Piranha and Rob Dalton.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
  19. drail


    Feb 23, 2008
    Just another case of the Govt. sticking it's nose into something they know absolutely nothing about and eroding our rights even more. Soon we will not have any rights - just "permission".

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