Understanding Your Knife Rights in Washington

Knives are versatile tools with a wide range of uses, from everyday tasks like preparing food to self-defense situations. In Washington state, knife laws can be complex and nuanced, leaving many residents unsure about their rights to carry and own different types of knives. This comprehensive guide aims to clarify Washington’s knife laws, highlighting what’s legal and illegal, where restrictions apply, and resources for further information.

Understanding Blade Length and Functionality

Washington law doesn’t explicitly restrict blade length. However, the functionality of the knife can raise legal questions. If a knife’s design suggests its primary purpose is violence, it might be considered a “dangerous weapon” and subject to stricter regulations.

Places Where Knives Are Prohibited

Knife carry restrictions apply in specific locations throughout Washington:

  • Schools: Carrying any knife is illegal on school grounds, including private military academies.
  • Government Buildings: Prohibited in law enforcement facilities, jails, courthouses, and any area restricted to those under 21 (bars, cannabis stores).
  • Public Transportation: Proposals to ban knives entirely on public transportation systems are ongoing. Check with local authorities for current regulations.

Important Considerations

  • Local Ordinances: Washington state knife laws provide a baseline, but some cities and municipalities may have stricter knife ordinances. Always check local laws before carrying a knife in a specific area.
  • Open Carry vs. Concealed Carry: Washington allows open carry of most legal knives, but concealed carry restrictions exist for specific blade types (dirks, daggers).
  • Intent and Manner of Carry: Carrying a knife in a threatening or aggressive manner can be considered disorderly conduct or brandishing a weapon, even if the knife itself is legal.
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Self-Defense and Knife Use

Washington law allows self-defense with any reasonable means necessary, including knives. However, using excessive force or initiating violence is illegal. If you plan to carry a knife for self-defense, consider taking self-defense training to understand legal implications and proper use.

Resources for Further Information

  • Washington State Legislature: Find the official Revised Code of Washington (RCW) knife laws: https://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/
  • American Knife and Tool Institute (AKTI): Provides detailed information on Washington knife laws and advocacy efforts: [AKTI] Washington Knife Laws
  • Knife Rights: National organization advocating for knife owner rights, with resources specific to Washington: [Knife Rights] Washington Knife Laws

Responsible Knife Ownership

Knife ownership comes with the responsibility of using it safely and legally. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Always keep knives out of reach of children.
  • Store knives securely when not in use.
  • Only use knives for their intended purposes.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and local laws when carrying a knife.
  • If unsure about the legality of a knife or its use, consult a lawyer specializing in knife laws.


Understanding Washington’s knife laws empowers you to exercise your rights responsibly. By familiarizing yourself with legal restrictions, permitted blade types, and responsible ownership practices, you can ensure safe and lawful knife use in Washington state. Remember, this guide provides a general overview, and consulting legal resources for specific situations is highly recommended.

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