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.
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.
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…
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.
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.