Oregon knife laws are found mostly in the Court’s decisions, or case law, and not in the statutes, which can make it not only hard to understand, but difficult to find. This article puts the law together in an easy to read way that even those without legal training will be able to find and understand what is legal and what is not, when it comes to owning and carrying knives in Oregon.
What is Legal to Own
- It is legal to own a dirk, dagger, or other stabbing knife
- It is legal to own a Bowie knife
- It is legal to own a switchblade or other automatic knife
- It is legal to own a ballistic knife
- It is legal to own a gravity knife
- It is legal to own a Balisong, or butterfly knife and Balisong trainer
- It is legal to own a stiletto
What is Illegal to Own
Oregon law does not restrict the ownership of any type of knife for those who have not been convicted of a felony. As a matter of fact, in 1984 in State v. Delgado, the Supreme Court of Oregon found that former Oregon statute § 166.510(1) was unconstitutional because it prohibited the mere possession and mere carrying of a weapon. The Court believed that restricting the possession and open carrying of weapons for non-felons was a violation of a person’s right to bear arms under the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution.
What the Law Says
166.240 Carrying of concealed weapons.
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, any person who carries concealed upon the person any knife having a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force, any dirk, dagger, ice pick, slungshot, metal knuckles, or any similar instrument by the use of which injury could be inflicted upon the person or property of any other person, commits a Class B misdemeanor.
Possession and Carry of Weapons by a Felon
A person who has been convicted of a felony may not own a knife with a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force. He or she also may not open or conceal carry a dirk, dagger, or stiletto.
Restrictions on Carry
- It is illegal to conceal carry a dirk, dagger, or any stabbing knife
- It is illegal to conceal carry a Balisong, or butterfly knife
- It is illegal to conceal carry a gravity knife
- It is illegal to conceal carry any knife with a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force (swinging the knife around)
- It is legal to conceal carry a pocketknife
- It is legal to conceal carry a switchblade
- It is legal to open carry any type of knife
It may appear that a switchblade has a blade that “projects by force of a spring” and therefore is a knife which one cannot legally conceal carry. However, the Court in State v. Ramer found that because a switchblade is type of pocketknife, and it is not illegal to carry a concealed pocketknife, it could not be illegal to conceal carry a switchblade.
In 1987, The Appellate Court ruled, in State v. Boswell, that one must be carrying one of the weapons listed as illegal to conceal carry or a weapon similar to one of those listed which was designed or intended for use a weapon to be convicted of carrying a concealed weapon. It then reversed Mr. Boswell’s conviction for carrying a concealed weapon because the weapon he was found carrying was not similar to any of those listed by the statute as illegal to conceal carry.
Definitions of Various Types of Knives
Oregon statutes fail to define any type of knife. The case law in Oregon, however, has offered definitions of dirk and dagger, and guidelines to follow when determining if a knife is a pocketknife or not.
In 1978, in the case of State v. Pruett, the Supreme Court of Oregon found that a “Sportman’s” knife with a 3 ½-inch blade, which folded manually into the handle of the knife, but locked when fully open, was an “ordinary pocketknife”. One year after the Pruett decision, in State v. Strong, the court found that a knife with a 4 ¾ inch folding blade fit the definition of a pocketknife. However, in 1986, in State v. Witherbee, Mr. Witherbee was indicted and convicted for carrying concealed a six inch Survival Knife, and the Court upheld his conviction finding that the knife he was carrying was not an ordinary pocketknife.
Dirk and Dagger
In the case of State v. Ruff, the Oregon Court of Appeals declared that since the terms “dirk” and “dagger” were not defined by statute, the legislature intended that the ordinary meanings of the words apply. When a Court uses the ordinary meaning of a word, it generally looks to Webster’s Dictionary for that meaning.
Definition of Concealed Carry
Oregon statute does not define concealed carry. Case law in Oregon, however, has offered some guidance on what exactly concealed carry is.
In State v. Turner, the Supreme Court of Oregon declared that a weapon was concealed if it was not readily identifiable as a weapon or if the person carrying it attempted to obscure the fact that he or she was carrying a weapon. The Court also said that a weapon was concealed within the meaning of the statute even if it was recognizable if there is also evidence of an imperfect attempt to prevent it from being discovered or recognized.
In State v. Crumal, the Court found that the conceal carry statute referred to weapons that were on and moved along with the carrier’s body. It did not include weapons that were just in reasonable proximity to the person or in some place where the weapons would be deemed to be in the constructive possession of the person. Thus, the Court ruled that a defendant could not be convicted of carrying a concealed weapon, where the weapon was being carried under the floor mat on the passenger side of a vehicle.
Conclusion on Oregon Knife Law
Oregon may be one of the most lenient states when it comes to owning knives. Unless you have been convicted of a felony, you can own any knife you choose in Oregon. Those who have been convicted of a felony, may not own a knife with a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force.
It is illegal in Oregon to conceal carry, on your person, a dirk, dagger, or stabbing knife, a butterfly knife, gravity knife, or any knife with a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force.
- ORS § 166.240 (2011)
- ORS § 166.270 (2011)
- State v. Delgado, 692 P.2d 610 (1984)
- State v. Ramer, 671 P2d 723 (1983)
- State v. Boswell, 745 P.2d 436, (1987 Ore. App.)
- State v. Pruett, 586 P2d 800 (1978)
- State v. Strong, 598 P2d 1254 (1979 Ore. App.)
- State v. Witherbee, 717 P2d 661 (1986)
- State v. Ruff, 211 P.3d 277, (2009 Ore. App.)
- State v. Turner, 191 P3d 697 (2008)
- State v. Crumal, 633 P.2d 1313 (1981 Ore. App.)