Knife law in the northern Great Plains state of North Dakota is defined both by its actual statutes and by what they do not cover. For example, the laws are silent regarding the legality of knife ownership, thus making it legal by default to own any kind of knife regardless of its size, method of blade deployment, suitability for throwing, and so on. Even knives very frequently banned, such as ballistic knives, are legal to own in North Dakota.
Most North Dakota state knife legislation deals with concealed carry. This, in turn, focuses on the key element of a 5” blade length. No knife with a blade this long or longer can be carried concealed, though a long list of other knives are also banned, include switchblades and gravity knives of any length. Open carry of any knife is legal, however, except where local ordinances forbid it, since North Dakota lacks preemption.
Legality of Knife Possession
Knife possession is not regulated under North Dakota’s state laws, in the same manner that possession of other ordinary consumer goods is not regulated. Thus, all knives are tacitly accepted as legal by the justice system of the Roughrider State.
Swords, pocket knives, daggers, dirks, stilettos, Bowie knives, large fixed-blade or folding knives with single or double edges, gravity knives, ballistic knives, switchblade knives, automatic knives, disguised knives such as belt buckle blades or lipstick knives, push knives, hunting knives, balisong knives, throwing knives and stars, and all the other bladed implemetns made by human ingenuity are legal to own, manufacture, buy, sell, and trade within the boundaries of North Dakota.
Open carry has some locational restrictions that knife owners should remember. It is illegal to carry a dangerous weapon (including all knives except regular pocket knives with a blade under 4” long) in any retail location selling liquor, with the exception of the proprietor, their employees (with the proprietor’s permission), or police officers, as described in section § 62.1-02-04 of the North Dakota Century Code.
All kinds of carry are also banned at public gatherings, which are defined as including public buildings, schools, churches, athletic events, and sporting events, as listed in section § 62.1-02-05.
Knife Length Limit
A blade 5” or longer marks a knife as a dangerous weapon in North Dakota. This has no effect on ownership or open carry, but is extremely important as one of the main things determining whether or not a knife can be carried hidden.
Concealed Carry of Knives
North Dakota law does not permit carrying dangerous weapons concealed without a license, as described in section § 62.1-04-01 of the state statutes. Any knife, even an ordinary folding pocket knife with a bias towards closure, counts as a dangerous weapon if its blade length equals or exceeds 5”. Pocket knives shorter than this length can be carried hidden without needing a license.
The limitations do not end there, however. Section § 12.1-01-04 of the North Dakota Title 12.1 Criminal Code from 2013 defines dangerous weapons as including swords, daggers, switchblades, gravity knives, machetes, scimitars, and stilettos, but is not limited to them. Other laws add backswords and sabers to the list for the historically-minded. These knives are legally ineligible for concealed carry, meaning that only ordinary pocket knives with blades less than 5” long are lawful to conceal on or about your person.
A few exemptions apply to this general rule. A knife locked in the trunk of a car is not considered concealed, since it is not in the owner’s control (that is, within easy reach). People hunting, fishing, trapping, or working on farms can also carry knives hidden provided that the knife is for a legitimate purpose and the activity is actually occurring.
Other Knife Law Considerations in North Dakota
North Dakota has a firearms preemption rule, but no knife preemption rule, meaning municipalities and counties are free to make their own ordinances on the topic. A state resident can also apply for a Class 2 Firearm and Dangerous Weapon license.
21-year-old residents who can prove their residency with a driver’s license or other official photo ID can undergo a series of background checks to evaluate their mental health history and criminal background (if any), and take an open-book test to acquire their license if they pass the other qualifications, as described in section § 62.1-04-03. There is, naturally, also a fee to pay.
Resources and Further Reading