Washington Knife Law – The Complete Guide (In Plain English)

Last updated on October 21st, 2023 at 10:35 pm

This article was created to be a brief synopsis of the law according to my understanding and is not legal advice. Knifeade is not a legal service provider. Using this site does not create a client/lawyer relationship. Because knife laws can be interpreted differently by different people and entities it is recommended that you consult legal counsel for specific information and guidance.

Washington knife laws can be confusing for those who are not familiar with them. This guide will provide a summary of the laws in plain English, making it easier for you to understand. We will cover what kind of knives are legal, who can carry them, how old you have to be to buy and carry knives, and any other knife laws unique to the state.

So whether you are a resident of Washington or just visiting, make sure you know the current knife laws before you head out with your blade!

Our Top Rated “50-State-Legal” Knives

*These knives are listed based on their broad legality across states, but always consult your local laws before making a purchase.

Is There Statewide Preemption?

Washington provides a degree of statewide preemption in its knife laws. Under RCW 9.41.300(2), localities are restricted from enacting laws that are more restrictive than, inconsistent with, or exceeding the requirements of state law regarding knife control. However, this doesn’t stop local authorities from enacting specific knife laws, so it’s crucial to understand the regulations of the area you’re in.

For accurate information regarding knife laws in a specific city, it’s best to contact the city itself for guidance.

Who Can Buy And Carry A Knife In Washington?

In Washington, there is no explicit minimum age to purchase or carry a knife. However, keep in mind that if you’re under the age of 18, RCW 9.41.042 places restrictions on your ability to carry dangerous weapons without the supervision of a responsible adult.

Can A Minor Own A Knife In Washington?

There’s no specific Washington state law that prevents minors from owning knives. But as stated earlier, carrying restrictions apply to those under 18 without adult supervision. Some cities may also enforce ordinances prohibiting minors from carrying knives on school grounds or in other public areas.

Concealed Knife Carry Laws In Washington

Washington state law generally considers carrying a concealed knife illegal, especially if the blade is longer than three and a half inches without a valid reason such as hunting or fishing activities. Exceptions exist if the knife is carried for use in a lawful occupation, trade, or profession.

Open Knife Carry Laws In Washington

Washington doesn’t have a state law that specifically restricts the open carry of knives. However, local ordinances like in Seattle can regulate open carry, especially if it might cause “fear or alarm” in others.

What Kinds Of Knives Are Legal In Washington?

Washington’s knife laws focus more on the “intent” behind carrying a knife rather than the style itself. For example, bowie knives, dirks, daggers, stilettos, and other “dangerous weapons” are generally legal to open carry provided they are not wielded in a manner that might alarm others.

For specific knives, you’ll want to contact your police department or a local advisor to get a specific interpretation of the law.

Is There A Knife “Length” Limit In Washington?

Washington State doesn’t impose a statewide limit on knife length. However, certain localities, such as Seattle, do regulate knife length, prohibiting blades longer than three and a half inches.

What Kinds Of Knives Are Illegal In Washington?

It’s illegal in Washington to own or carry switchblades, spring blade knives, or other knives that open automatically by gravity or centrifugal force. Owning or carrying balisong or butterfly knives is also illegal.

Consequences For Violating Knife Laws In Washington?

Penalties for violating knife laws in Washington depend on the specific law broken. For example, carrying a concealed knife could lead to misdemeanor charges, resulting in up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of $1000.

Are There Any Knife Laws Unique To Washington?

One unique aspect of Washington’s knife laws is their non-applicability to Native Americans on tribal lands, owing to the treaties signed between the federal government and the tribes granting the tribes self-governance rights, including regulating knives on their lands.

Specific Questions About Washington Knife Law

Can a Felon Carry A Knife In Washington?

Washington law, under RCW 9.41.040, generally considers it illegal for a felon to carry a knife, regardless of whether the felony was violent or not.

Can You Carry A Knife In A Bar In Washington?

Carrying a knife in a bar is generally allowed, provided the blade is not concealed. However, possession of dangerous weapons is prohibited in premises licensed under RCW 66.24.010, which includes many bars. Additionally, establishments may enforce their policies prohibiting weapons.

Are Switchblades Legal In Washington?

Switchblades, including knives that open automatically by gravity or centrifugal force, are illegal to own or carry in Washington state.

Do You Need A Permit To Carry A Knife In Washington?

You don’t need a permit to carry a knife in Washington state. However, carrying a concealed knife without a valid reason is illegal.

Are Butterfly Knives Legal In Washington?

Butterfly knives, also known as balisongs, are illegal to own or carry in Washington state.

Can I Open Carry A Sword In Washington?

Yes, you can open carry a sword in Washington state as long as the blade is not concealed. However, local ordinances may apply, such as Seattle’s prohibition on blades longer than three and a half inches.

It’s also worth pointing out that you should have a valid reason for carrying it as many state laws rely on the “intent” or “purpose” of the item being carried.

Are Automatic Knives Legal In Washington?

Automatic knives, including OTF knives and switchblades, are illegal to own or carry in Washington state.

Washington State Knife Law References

Official Sources of Washington’s Knife Laws

Significant Court Cases

State v. Owens, 324 P.3d 757​This case discussed the exception of one’s conduct with a knife in their place of “abode,” clarifying that it does not extend to the yard surrounding the abode.
State vs. SmithThis case addressed the prohibition of the possession of dangerous weapons, including switchblades, automatics, and gravity knives, unless one is actively employed with a law enforcement agency, fire department, emergency medical service, or the military.

Timeline of Major Changes

  • February 1, 2012: An important knife bill became law in Washington State, with the State Senate passing the Knife Rights backed HB2347 on March 2, 2012, which then moved to the desk of Governor Chris Gregoire.
  • March 5, 2019: SB 5782, a knife bill to remove the term “spring blade knife” from Washington State Statute RCW 9.41.250, allowing law-abiding individuals to possess and sell these knives, passed the Senate.
  • January 12, 2022: Knife Rights’ bill to repeal Washington’s civilian ban on “spring blade” (automatic) knives, HB 1224, was reintroduced. This followed a change in law in 2012 allowing civilian possession and carry of assisted-opening knives.


In conclusion, it is important to know the knife laws of Washington state before carrying a knife. Failing to learn the laws can lead to serious penalties, including jail time. If you have any specific questions about Washington knife law, it is best to consult an attorney since I’m not one and am just a normal dude trying to muddle through some legalese.