Knife Laws in Nebraska

A state firmly in the middle of the pack when it comes to the balance between knife rights and knife restrictions, Nebraska allows nearly unlimited ownership rights and the right to open carry. Concealed carry, on the other hand, is nearly forbidden. Though the law’s initial wording states that only knives with blades greater than 3.5” in length cannot be carried hidden, further sections reveal that only ordinary folding pocket knives are truly “safe” to concealed carry legally. Several categories of lawbreakers are also forbidden to own or carry knives, while concealed carry may be permissible if direct use as part of a trade or occupation can be proven.

Straightforward and concise, Nebraska knife law leaves knife owners in little doubt as to what is legal and is what is illegal. Despite this, a lack of legal preemption enables local governments within the state to pass more demanding ordinances, and some have done so, including bans on so much as owning certain kinds of knife.

Legality of Knife Possession

The Cornhusker State does not allow convicted felons, fugitive from justice, or someone violating a domestic violence protection order to own a knife. Beyond this, are no restrictions on legal knife ownership in Nebraska. Switchblades, gravity knives, ballistic knives, swords, daggers, Bowie knives, KA-BAR knives, other large folding or fixed-blade knives, disguised blades like lipstick dirks, trench knives, throwing stars, and so forth are just as legal to own, buy, sell, and manufacture as the humble pocket knife.

Open carry is allowed everywhere except schools and other typical locations – prisons, courthouses, posted government buildings, private property where the owner does not want armed people present, and nuclear power facilities. Beyond this, open carry rights are fully supported in Nebraska.

Knife Length Limit

Those legally entitled to own a knife can also open carry it, with no blade length limit imposed. Areas that ban knives, such as schools, do so simply on the basis of a blade existing at all, rather than concerning themselves with a specific length. Concealed carry has a hard length limit of 3.5” for the blade under state law. Additional data in the same law, however, makes it clear that only pocket knives with 3.5” blades or less are legal for concealed carry.

Concealed Carry of Knives

Statute § 28-1202 leaves no doubt that most knives are unlawful to carry concealed in Nebraska, punished as a Class I misdemeanor on the first occurrence and as a Class IV felony on second and subsequent occasions. The law states that it is illegal to carry any knife concealed, while statute § 28-1201 defines knives as any bladed implement with a blade longer than 3.5”, OR which is adapted to “cutting, stabbing, or tearing.” The law expressly states that only pocket knives with folding blades 3.5” long or shorter may be carried concealed, with the usual exemptions for police officers.

The law makes one exception for people carrying a knife concealed at their place of business or employment AND who have a reasonable expectation of needing to defend themselves. This is an affirmative defense rather than a right, however; the carrier is likely to be arrested and charged, but the charges dropped if they can prove both conditions applied at the time of their arrest.

Placement of a knife in a motor vehicle in such a way that it cannot be readily seen from outside the vehicle by an approaching person, and clearly identified as a knife, constitutes concealment. The knife is carried if it is readily available to any person in the car. Being locked in the glove compartment is still considered to be easy to reach, and therefore is illegal concealed carry unless the knife is a regular pocket knife with a 3.5” blade or less.

Locking the knife in a box placed well out of reach, or in the trunk, are the only options that will prevent its presence from being construed legally as criminal concealed carry. The 1969 case of State v. Goodwin, 169 N.W.2d 270, 184 Neb. 537, established the precedent that locking a weapon in the glove compartment is still an illegal violation of concealed carry.

Other Knife Law Considerations in Nebraska

Unusually, one municipality in Nebraska, South Sioux City, uses the lack of a preemption law to slightly expand knife rights. Pocket knives with blades less than 4” can be carried concealed there. However, most add additional restrictions. Most stringently, a switchblade cannot be owned or carried, openly or concealed, within the bounds of Omaha, Nebraska.

Resources and Further Reading