Washington State Court of Appeals: “Kitchen Knives are not Arms”


Don’t bear kitchen knives, but fisherman’s knives are fine in public. Washington knife laws only make sense if you are stoned.

At least not as they relate to 2nd Amendment law in Washington State. While we are celebrating knife freedom in Tennessee, knife rights have taken a step backwards in the Evergreen State. The article by Dr. Eugene Volokh, (a real professor of Constitutional Law unlike a certain resident of the other Washington), points out a rather broad loophole in the ruling.

From the Volokh Conspiracy (Washington Post):

“Note that the relevant Washington Supreme Court precedent leaves open the possibility that certain knives that are “traditional or modern arms of self-defense” are indeed protected under the Washington Constitution, though ordinary kitchen knives, it concludes, are not. Note also that the Washington ordinance exempts some carrying of knives:

A. A licensed hunter or licensed fisherman actively engaged in hunting and fishing activity including education and travel related thereto; or

B. Any person immediately engaged in an activity related to a lawful occupation which commonly requires the use of such knife, provided such knife is carried unconcealed; provided further that a dangerous knife carried openly in a sheath suspended from the waist of the person is not concealed within the meaning of this subsection;

C. Any person carrying such knife in a secure wrapper or in a tool box while traveling from the place of purchase, from or to a place of repair, or from or to such person’s home or place of business, or in moving from one (1) place of abode or business to another, or while in such person’s place of abode or fixed place of business.”

I took the lede photo for this post on one of my several trips to Seattle. I love the “Public Market”,  where it is perfectly legal for people to walk around with knives for breaking down a 400lb. tuna due to fishing and workplace exemptions, but could be arrested in an equally public place for a chef’s knife. I don’t know the circumstances of the case and why the aggrieved party had the knife of what they were doing with it, but the point I would like to make is larger than this specific case.

Someone with criminal intent or who is mentally unhinged is not going to be stopped by the nuances of Washington State knife law from wielding whatever pointy object (or a car, or a Zippo), concealed or not, that they chose if they are intent on creating mayhem. However, all of the carve outs, exemptions, and workplace restrictions are a great way to force the law abiding to need to “justify” themselves and their innocence to the authorities. I think I like the Tennessee model instead. Might be time for folks in Washington to begin to lobby their legislators and try to straighten out their mess.


  1. billdeserthills says:

    Why not save time and outlaw sticks & stones too?

  2. Asamurai says:

    “However, all of the carve outs, exemptions, and workplace restrictions are a great way to force the law abiding to need to “justify” themselves and their innocence to the authorities.”

    I think you have come right to the heart of the issue here. All over the nation these kinds of “justified exemptions” are popping up which I feel are symptomatic of a much larger problem. Has everyone forgot that this nation, unique in the whole world, was founded on the ideal that people are innocent until Proven guilty in court. Every time someone proposes some ‘no guns or knives except people who can prove they need one’ they are eroding the very founding principles of this nation. One of the things that makes America the greatest nation in the world is that whenever you want something you don’t have to fill out ‘justification form 37B’ and file it with the Government for anything. You can just go buy it. The government was never intend to have the power to tell people what they could and could not have.
    This is not true in the rest of the world. In Japan, for example. You cannot just buy a car. You first have to file paperwork with the government proving you have built (or bought) and approved parking place for it to live in after you bought it. And then the government gets to send an inspector by and make sure. And if the right people don’t like you, or you didn’t bribe the right guy, you don’t pass inspection, because your parking place isn’t up to code, and you cannot buy your car. Don’t like it, need a car for work? Tough. Ride the train jackass.
    My point is not to argue Japanese law or even to belittle Japan. I love Japan and have been there many times. But, I am always happy to come home. Every time we create one of these ‘justification’ laws concerning the possession of anything, we are setting a standard, for our nation, that it is OK for the government to come in to peoples lives and tell them they can or cannot have things. This is very dangerous. It seems great now when we are talking about “weapons” because those are scary. But the government is also the ones in charge of deciding what are and are not weapons. When the definition of what is and isn’t a weapon changes, as it does over time, the government will have the power to extend its control more and more into citizens lives. What will be the end?
    Justify your guns and knives because they are scary.
    Now, justify your computers and your cars because the government gets attack by hackers far, far more often then people with guns, and cars kill an estimated 50,000 people a year. And your alcohol. And… And… And….
    The people who want to increase the government control over people’s lives always argue, it is for the good of society. But how much control do the citizens give away to the government before society beings to erode? Do we let the government lock all of us away in prisons preemptively so that we “know” that “dangerous people” won’t get “dangerous things” and endanger others ever again?
    The price of safety is the loss of freedom. But people seem to have forgotten which of the 2 is more valuable. Safety is always an illusion. Freedom is always scarce. In order to be valuable something only need be scarce, and nothing is scarcer in the world. And I am saddened everyday that I see people, apparently in desperate fear of fellow Americans, willing to pay ANY price for safety. Safety that at best is only an illusion. A sign on a door, a guard watching a mile long fence line, or a locked glass door.
    Freedom is the power every American has to act in the face of danger when the false safety of the modern world is shattered by a criminal willing to go to any length to cause mayhem. Every freedom we give away for another ‘justified carry law’ or another set of locked glass doors damages us all far greater then any criminal.

    1. billdeserthills says:

      Hear, Hear Asamurai, that is one well-thought out comment. I couldn’t agree more.

      1. GC says:

        Seconded. Very well said. I live in a country where the “is it needed?” approach is taken definitely for firearms and somewhat for knives – and it stinks. In 2012 I had a pair of knives that I ordered online detained by customs until I went in to explain what they were for. The officer was pleasant and after she green-lighted them she told me about the large number of knives and swords that they typically seize. The example she used for why a sword should be seized is what if a burglar breaks into a home and the homeowner attacks them with it. I kept my mouth shut but I wondered about how you’re supposed to reason with a person in authority who thinks like that. That kind of approach is too subjective and downright unfair.

        1. Sam L. says:

          The statement that “A man’s home is his castle” had been declared inoperative. A “man’s castle” is now there to be pillaged at will. This is insanity.

          But you know that. State-enforced insanity.

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Washington State Court of Appeals: “Kitchen Knives are not Arms”

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