Knife Laws in Washington D.C.

Every state of the U.S. has its own particular and unique weapon laws; as with so many different areas in America, there is no national standard. Washington, D.C., as its own special sovereign area, is no exception to this rule. For anyone planning to go on a trip to the nation’s capital who likes to pack a knife, it is important to understand what is legal, and what is trouble waiting to happen.

What Knives are Legal to Bring

One could be forgiven for thinking that the capital city of the U.S. would have stricter weapon laws than other parts of the country. This is the place where most of the national government operates. Ironically, it is legal to carry all sorts of dangerous knives in the city that the American President and many members of Congress call home or the office.

Knives Legal to Own in D.C.

Washington, D.C. actually allows most knives. Belt knives, lipstick knives, can knives, and many disguised knives are permitted. Balisong knives are allowed. Bowie knives and similar types of knives are completely legal. Throwing stars and throwing knives, among the more dangerous types in the hands of criminals, are also allowed. Even swords are allowed to be owned in the capital of the United States. What is not legal? Switchblades are the only knife specifically banned from possession in the District of Columbia.

Some Knives May Be Owned But May Not Be Carried

There are other laws that do not specifically ban knives but ban concealed and dangerous weapons. This covers some types of knives by default. The law states that “No person shall carry within the District of Columbia either openly or concealed on or about their person, a pistol, or any deadly or dangerous weapon capable of being so concealed.”

The fact of the matter is that there are knives that really are considered dangerous weapons, even by Washington, D.C. standards. The court case of Gorbey vs. U.S. back in 2012 saw the court of appeals declare the prosecution is not required to prove that swords are dangerous weapons since they have no practical use besides harming someone. As an extension of this court case argument, other knives that have no practical usefulness, such as daggers, are also dangerous weapons. The takeaway from this particular legal argument in the District of Columbia is that no one should carry concealed knives that have no utility besides inflicting bodily harm. It is alright to carry knives which can be classified as tools either open or concealed.

Self Defense Case for Knives in Washington, D.C.

In 2010 another court case, Mack vs. U.S., came to trial. Mack was found guilty for carrying a dangerous weapon. It did not matter that his intent was only to employ the weapon in self defense. The Washington, D.C. takeaway point from this case is that one should not carry around a concealed knife that is only useful as a weapon, regardless of whether or not the only intent is to utilize it for self protection.

The District of Columbia’s Specific Prohibitions on Switchblades – § 22-4514.

Another statute in effect for the District of Columbia pertains to certain dangerous weapons. This law mostly pertains to firearms, but it also mentions switchblades by name. “(a) No person shall within the District of Columbia possess any machine gun, sawed-off shotgun, or any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a blackjack, slungshot, sandclub, sandbag, switchblade knife, or metal knuckles, nor any instrument, attachment, or appliance for causing the firing of any firearm to be silent or intended to lessen or muffle the noise of the firing of any firearms; provided, however, that machine guns, or sawed-off shotguns, and blackjacks may be possessed by the members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps of the United States, the National Guard, or Organized Reserves when on duty, the Post Office Department or its employees when on duty, marshals, sheriffs, prison or jail wardens, or their deputies, policemen, or other duly-appointed law enforcement officers, including any designated civilian employee of the Metropolitan Police Department, or officers or employees of the United States duly authorized to carry such weapons, banking institutions, public carriers who are engaged in the business of transporting mail, money, securities, or other valuables, wholesale dealers and retail dealers licensed under § 22-4510.”

The law goes on to specifically outlaw not only daggers, dirks, and knives that have blades greater than three inches, but also razors and stilettos. “(b) No person shall within the District of Columbia possess, with intent to use unlawfully against another, an imitation pistol, or a dagger, dirk, razor, stiletto, or knife with a blade longer than 3 inches, or other dangerous weapon.”

The talking point on this law is that knives that are released with the pressing of a button are illegal in the District of Columbia. Similarly any knife that has brass knuckle handles, such as push knives and World War I trench knives, are also banned. Oddly enough, Balisong knives are still completely legal, since they do not employ a spring or gravity to open, but use inertia. Since Federal courts have not banned butterfly knives like these, they are not illegal in the capital either. Regarding the stiletto ban, girls should be careful about committing a crime while wearing stiletto heels in the capital. They would not only be guilty of the crime committed, but also of the possession of a dangerous weapon like a stiletto. Talk about two crimes for the price of one.

Penalties for Carrying Illegal Knives in Washington, D.C.

The penalty for violating this law regarding the few illegal knives or knives with blades in excess of three inches are pretty severe in the nation’s capital. Look at the last section of this statute on illegal weapons. “(c) Whoever violates this section shall be punished as provided in § 22-4515 unless the violation occurs after such person has been convicted in the District of Columbia of a violation of this section, or of a felony, either in the District of Columbia or in another jurisdiction, in which case such person shall be imprisoned for not more than 10 years.”

Ten years is a lot of time in the big house for carrying an illegal type of knife. Guys better think twice about carrying a potentially dangerous weapon whose only intent is to inflict bodily injury. Ladies, beware bringing those stilettos to the District of Columbia.

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