Know Your Knife Laws #10: Virginia

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Virginia was among the most prosperous and influential of the American colonies, and it ratified the new United States Constitution on June 25th, 1788. The importance of Virginia to American independence cannot possibly be overstated. Without the political and military abilities of notable Virginians too numerous to list, it’s almost certain that we would today be wondering how soon King Charles and Queen Camilla might come to visit their American subjects after their eventual coronation. For sparing us this fate, Virginia, I humbly thank. But now on to its knife laws (after a short disclaimer) . . .

And before I start, let me again recite that I’m not licensed to practice law in Virginia, and that none of this is intended as nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. If you need to know what’s legal and what’s not in Virginia, you should consult a Virginia attorney.

Knives and their carry are regulated by Virginia Code sections 18.2-311 and 18.2-308.

Restricted Weapons

Section 18.2-311 prohibits the sale or transfer of the typical (and laughable) list of restricted knives and hand weapons: blackjacks, brass knuckles, shuriken, switchblades and ballistic knives. Straight-up ‘possession’ is not itself illegal, but the statute specifies that even simple possession of such weapons is prima facie evidence of an intent to sell or transfer them.

A clever Virginia collector of automatic knives and ballistic knives might overcome this prima facie evidence of ‘intent to sell’ by keeping his collection in a nice display case, by maintaining a log of when and how each item was obtained, and by engraving their name upon it in the manner of a book collecter who embosses ex libris Christopher Dumm inside the title pages of their books. Not that I do that myself, but these measures would tend to show that you’re a ‘collector’ instead of an edged arms merchant.

Concealed Carry

Virginia Code section 18.2-308 prohibits the concealed carry of “any dirk, bowie knife, switchblade knife, ballistic knife, machete, razor, slingshot, spring stick, metal knucks, or blackjack.”

There’s a great deal of confusion about whether all fixed-bladed knives are considered to be dirks or bowies for the purposes of this statute. A Virginia appeals court upheld the conviction of a man for carrying a concealed 6″ fixed-blade knife, and for that reason a prudent person might avoid concealing a fixed-blade knife in Virginia.

There’s a slight ambiguity about whether assisted-openers could be classified as switchblades (there’s that term again) but all evidence indicates that you can buy a Kershaw Onion just about anywhere in Virginia. If they were truly ‘switchblades’ their sale would be strictly illegal (and it’s not) so I think we can safely conclude that they’re okay for carry as well. Just pay attention to local blade length limits…

Preemption

Virginia has no knife law preemption, so every one of the counties and towns shown on the map are free to enact their own knife restrictions. My short survey indicates that pocketknives with blades up to 3″ are allowed basically everywhere. You can even carry a 3″ pocketknife in a school! This is one knife law that actually makes sense.

Conclusions

Virginia knife law does manage to avoid the most foolish extremes of hoplophobia, but it’s not exactly a great state for knives.

‘Switchblade’ and shuriken bans are silly, but you may be able to collect them if you’re very careful. Folders and assisted openers are fine just about everywhere, as long as they’re not too big, but fixed-blade knives are probably not okay for concealed carry.

 

 

comments

  1. the last Marine out says:

    And these laws stop how much crime , like 0 %, and the bad guys worry about laws too,, Ha, Ha.

    1. will says:

      Are you saying that there should not be any laws on knives?

      1. Anthony says:

        That is EXACTLY what they mean.

  2. Chris Dumm says:

    Mostly these laws give prosecutors a tiny bit of additional leverage when they’re prosecuting a real skell. And they give street cops a steady supply of confiscated knives to take home and play with.

  3. Mark N. says:

    But you can carry that dirk as long as its not concealed, or concealed if you have a CCW. Interesting.

    1. C says:

      Switchblades are also a go with CCW. Or were last i checked.

      1. MBags says:

        technically, VA issues concealed handgun permits not CCWs, and the law is fairly straight-forward on the fact that it does not permit carrying of a concealed weapon, other than a handgun. I would definitely check before you carry anything other than a handgun. I’m not a lawyer, but that was what I was told when I was issued my CHP (see LIS> § 18.2-308)

      2. Thomas Flournoy says:

        Wrong. We have a concealed HANDGUN permit. That doesn’t cover other weapons.

    2. Charles Clouser says:

      Incorrect. Virginia only has a concealed handgun permit, not a concealed weapons permit. You can only carry a handgun concealed legally with permit and no other weapons.

  4. C says:

    “blackjacks, brass knuckles, shuriken, switchblades and ballistic knives.”
    If they aren’t careful, they’ll put the swap meet industry out of business.

  5. P says:

    Can I EDC a folding knife with blade length of 3.7 inches?

  6. I will drop a line to Chris, but I am pretty sure his answer will be “Check with a local attorney”, especially since there is not a preemption law in VA.

  7. J says:

    Is there anything that talkes about knifes that have a blade coming from each end of the handle?

  8. Brian says:

    I aquired a 8600 Bedlam full auto, is that consider assighted open..? I have my concealed weapons permit, the blade is 4″ long.. So I’m I good to legally carry..?

    1. Brian, as noted above, VA issues Concealed Handgun Permits – not weapons permits.

  9. Jake says:

    What’s the blade legnth requirement

    1. Robert M. Anderson says:

      For folding knives, there is NO blade length requirement, other than the ones made up by dumb cops who want an excuse to harass or arrest you. If there were one, you could carry a 6″ blade folding knife. (Oh, no ‘double edge’ allowed).

  10. Cody says:

    I live in VA it has some dumb knife laws but I or a 10 year old can carry a matchete or a sword on there side as long as it’s visible
    Does that make since ?

    1. No. It does not. But that isn’t the point, peasant.

  11. Brian says:

    Ok, so I’m 13, and live in Newport News, VA. I’m thinking of getting a generic pocket knife, (from my parents of course, and its an Ontario 8848 RAT Folding Knife, if that even matters.) for EDC, (Every-Day-Carry) for preparation reasons. Now I’m not bringing it to any school or any dumb place to bring it. Anyways, long story short, can I carry a pocket knife at the age of 13 years old in the state of Virginia? Because I’ve been researching these laws for a while, and all the laws are vague to whether I can carry one at this age.

  12. Rox says:

    I’ve been carrying a knife since I was 15 when my older brother gave it to me. I’m now 26 and just moved to Virginia so I want to know the law. I’ve even had it in school and never got caught.

  13. Daniel says:

    What are the laws for open carry and concealed carry for the karambit?

    1. Chris says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only person here searching if I can have a Curved knife blade.

    2. Robert M. Anderson says:

      One can carry a fixed blade knife – just think hunting, for example – IN THE OPEN (LIKE OPEN CARRY OF GUNS); the only restrictions are that it cannot be ‘double edged’ (dagger, dirk, etc) or a ‘bowie knife’, though that’s virtually impossible to define, i.e., I might avoid some huge honking 14″ blade. But I’ve carried knives in the open with blades up to 6 or 7″ with nothing said. The real problem is that cops DON’T know the law(s); that’s not their job. So being cautious is not a bad idea. For concealed fixed blade, the 3″ blade rule is, to the best of research, allowed. But in that case, I’d just as soon have a high quality folding lock blade knife.

  14. David S says:

    Ccw does not apply to knives. In virginia it is called a Concealed handgun permit and only applies to handguns. Technically by the letter of the law unless it is one of those types listed in the law you can conceal it to your hearts content

  15. Maryland Cavalier says:

    Most unfortunately, we are living in a damnable republic; the future King Charles & Queen Camilla are absolutely preferable to ANY so-called “head of state” we’ve had since the traitorous ‘revolution’.

  16. Marty Rogers says:

    As a lifelong resident (66 years) in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I have open carried knives, swords, handguns, and expandable batons, for most of my adult life, without any incident. I also carry a concealed folding knife everywhere I go, including church services. Intent, behavior, politeness, and respectful speech to an officer, will determine his response in most situations. I have been pulled for a speeding ticket, and also engaged in friendly conversations with officers, at the local and state trooper levels.
    I am a martial arts & self defense teacher. Many of my friends and associates work in law enforcement. They are regular people, with wives, kids, and lawns to mow on weekends. Treat them with respect, and understand their need to stay safe and aware of potential dangers, and everyone will have a better experience.

  17. Daryl Hodson says:

    Does state law supercede local? Such as: county, city, or town laws/ordinances?

    After all, Federal Law supercedes State Law.

    1. Robert M. Anderson says:

      Daryl – Federal law does NOT supercede state law EXCEPT for the ~35 POWERS originally granted them in the Constitution. That said, the Second Amendment concerns ‘arms’, which does not mean just firearms, but, as our Founders carried swords, knives, axes/hatchets, and such, the recent Heller and Chicago decisions should also apply to any ‘militia’ weapon which includes the items mentioned. But, if you carry a Katana around, I guarantee your arrest. If you were wealthy enough to bring a suit all the way to SCOTUS, especially after Trump appoints one or more STRICT CONSTRUCTIONISTS, you might win. But, as we have seen since the Heller and Chicago decisions, the liberal left ignores the laws of the land and STILL pass gun control, so even if you won, it’s not clear how long it would last. In VA, by the way, there is a pre-emption statute, so localities cannot pass laws more restrictive than laws of the Commonwealth. Also, I am no youngster, and I have had a folding knife on me since I received one at 7 (60 years ago). I carry one or more folding knives everywhere and all the time; (haven’t flown in decades) and except for Boot camp. I agree with the people above who noted that if you treat cops respectfully, graciously, etc, they will usually treat you well. I have cops in my family, and they say “dress and demeanor”; if someone dresses and acts like a butthead, they’ll get treated accordingly; if you are normally dressed and act well, it’s going to go better. I’ve been stopped for speeding; immediately put my hands on wheel, told officer I was legally carrying, asked him politely how he wanted me to move and act. When we were done, he just gave me a warning (and I was REALLY speeding) and actually thanked me for making his job easier and safer. Courtesy pays.

  18. Henry Bell says:

    I was pulled over not long ago for something blocking my license plate. The officer asked me if I had any weapons on me and I replied that I have my pocket knife in my pocket for i had just gotten off of work. He said nothing but then his partner said that I wasn’t allowed to be carrying this type of assisted opening knife which he called a “switch blade”
    I was arrested for felony concealed weapon. Im currently fighting it in court. What a bummer. I have friends that are cops and I recently visited my friend that I went to school with at the police station where he works and we walked back to his office to talk and on the way he asked me if I had any weapons on me and i told him I had a pocket knife. He said that he probably should have asked that before then but after that he said he wasn’t worried about it he had known me since elementary school and I was ok. We kind of made a joke about it and that was it.
    But now I would have never expected this to happen in another County. It was a young cop just trying to get whatever he could. So i guess that really it’s up to the officer’s. They have the power to ruin your day…

  19. Tim Soyars says:

    The excepted legal definition of a switchblade is defined in U.S. Code Title 15, Chapter 29. § 1241. The term “switchblade knife” means any knife having a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife. There is also an exception for when on your own property or place of business and for law enforcement officers. Also, I have never seen a police officer bother a firefighter or EMS provider for caring a n auto blade.

  20. hey says:

    The police are horrible. Saying they’re going to treat you well if you act right means don’t be black, dress how they want you to, speak with their accent, let them grope you, waste time answering personal questions they shouldn’t be asking, etc. They routinely harass me, shove me around, pain me physically with pins, twist my joints, literally paining me into answering questions, aka torture. They have robbed me and worse.

    1. Hey is a thug says:

      Probably because you are a thug that has no respect for the law or anyone else for that matter. I’d venture to say you are mouthy, disrespectful and most likely into some form of criminal activity. You are destined to one day end up in prison….good luck to you

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Know Your Knife Laws #10: Virginia

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