Nebraska Knife Laws

NebraskaNebraska knife laws can be found in vaguely worded statutes and interpretative case law, which can be confusing and unclear. This article will help clarify some of the statutes and translate the law into more concrete terms so that anyone can understand what is legal and what is not legal in Nebraska.

What is Legal to Own

  • Balisong knives are legal to own
  • Bowie knives are legal to own
  • Dirks, daggers, and stilettos are legal to own
  • Ballistic knives are legal to own
  • Disguised knives like cane knives, lipstick knives, and belt knives are legal to own
  • Switchblades and automatic knives are legal to own

What is Illegal to Own

  • It is illegal for a person who has been convicted of a felony to own a knife
  • It is illegal for a person who is a fugitive to own a knife
  • It is illegal for a person subject to a domestic violence protective order to own a knife while knowingly violating such order

What the Law States

§ 28-1202. Carrying concealed weapon; penalty; affirmative defense.

(1) (a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, any person who carries a weapon or weapons concealed on or about his or her person, such as a handgun, a knife, brass or iron knuckles, or any other deadly weapon, commits the offense of carrying a concealed weapon…

A knife is defined in R.R.S. Neb. § 28-1201, as any dirk, knife, dagger, or stiletto with a blade over three and one-half inches long, or any other dangerous instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds.

Definition of a Deadly Weapon

While the statutes of Nebraska do not define “deadly weapon”, the Court, in State v. Kanger, defined it as any of the weapons listed in R.R.S. Neb. § 28-1202, which includes handguns, knives, and brass or iron knuckles, as well as any instrument that, in the manner it is used, or intended to be used, is capable of producing death or serious bodily injury.

Limits on Carry

  • It is illegal to conceal carry a dirk with a blade over 3 ½ inches long
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a dagger with a blade over 3 ½ inches long
  • It is illegal to conceal carry a stiletto with a blade over 3 ½ inches long
  • It is illegal to conceal carry any knife with a blade over 3 ½ inches long
  • It is legal to open carry any type of knife in Nebraska

One must be careful when conceal carrying any type of knife in Nebraska, even if the blade is less than 3 ½ inches long. This is because in 2000, the Nebraska Supreme Court found, in State v. Bottolfson, that a knife with a blade less than 3 ½ inches long could still be a “dangerous instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds” and therefore illegal to conceal carry. Whether any particular knife should be considered such a dangerous instrument is a question left to the jury at trial, which means that you could be arrested and tried for conceal carrying any knife with a blade less than 3 ½ inches long.

Definitions of Various Types of Knifes

Nebraska statutes do not define any type of knife, however, the Supreme Court of Nebraska, in State v. Williams, defined a dirk as a “long straight-bladed dagger formerly carried especially by Scottish Highlanders,” or “a short sword formerly worn by British junior naval officers”. The Williams Court also defined a bowie knife as a large hunting knife adapted especially for knife-fighting, and having a guarded handle and a strong single-edge blade typically 10 to 15 inches long. Switchblades and stilettos are mentioned in several cases, but the Court does not offer any definition of either type of knife.

Definition of Concealed

The statute says that a weapon may not be carried concealed on or about ones person; however, in 1960, in Kennedy v. State, the Supreme Court of Nebraska found that a weapon is concealed on or about the person when it is hidden from ordinary observation inside a vehicle. In 1969, in the case of State v. Goodwin, Nathaniel Goodwin Jr. was convicted of carrying a concealed weapon after police found a handgun locked in the glove box of his vehicle. The Court found that the words “concealed on or about the person” meant concealed in such close proximity to the driver of a vehicle as to be within immediate physical reach.

Defenses to Concealed Carry Laws

Nebraska law specifically recognizes the affirmative defense that a defendant was engaged in a lawful business, calling, or employment the circumstances of which justify a prudent person in carrying the weapon or weapons for the defense of his or her person, property, or family. In State v. Goodwin, Mr. Goodwin attempted to use this defense, however it failed when he admitted that he was not working at the time he was arrested with a hand gun in the glove box. The Court here found that in order to fall within this exception to the conceal carry law, one must be able to prove that he or she was engaged in that business or calling at the time when he or she was carrying the concealed weapon.

Conclusion on Nebraska Knife Laws

Nebraska law is very relaxed on what types of knives are legal to own, as it does not make it illegal to own any type of knife unless you are a convicted felon, a fugitive from justice, or subject to a domestic violence protective order.

While you may not conceal carry any knife, on your person or in your vehicle, with a blade more than 3 ½ inches long or any other dangerous instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds, it is legal to open carry any type of knife in Nebraska.

When conceal carrying any knife, even one with a blade less than 3 ½ inches long, one must be careful, as it may be found to be a dangerous instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds, and therefore illegal to conceal carry.

Sources

R.R.S. Neb. § 28-1201  (2012)
R.R.S. Neb. § 28-1202  (2012)
State v. Williams, 218 Neb. 57, 352 N.W.2d 576 (1984)
State v. Kanger, 215 Neb. 128, 337 N.W.2d 422 (1983)
State v. Goodwin, 184 Neb. 537, 169 N.W.2d 270 (1969)
Kennedy v. State, 171 Neb. 160, 105 N.W.2d 710 (1960)
State v. Bottolfson, 610 N.W.2d 378 (2000)

Peter Stec
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Comments

  1. Are there any laws on a minor selling knives?
    I’m a blacksmith and I want to know if I can legally sell knives to people.

  2. Howdy, it looks like a pistol, concealed carry license also covers knives, in the states I have looked at. Would this be a correct statement?

    1. It depends on the state. That is not the case in Nebraska. The Nebraska issued concealed carry is specifically for hand guns and hand guns only. It does not cover knives.

  3. Is an automatic dual action out the front knife under 3.5 inches legal for conceal or open carry in Lincoln?

    1. In Omaha, you can open carry a knife except for places that specifically ban weapons. Any place can ban weapons at will. They are supposed to place a sign indicating as much at entrances. If they don’t have signs posted, they can tell you weapons aren’t allowed and ask that you take your weapon of premises. If you don’t comply, they can call the cops, and you can be arrested.

  4. There seems to be differing opinions on where the measurement is take for a 3 1/2 inch blade. Where is the proper place to measure, some LEO’s are saying from the pivot.

  5. Ok. I live in gering Nebraska. I carry a 12 inch by 1/4 inch thick bowie over all bout 16 inches. My question is a machete is considered a knife in all aspects but is on the larger scale. Is it legal. Just asking. To open carry

  6. I have àn important question/comment for the authors.
    Please define concealed more clearly. When is a knife concealed? For example;Is it concealed if 1/2″ of the handle and the pocket clip of a knife is visible at my pants pocket?
    Any other clarification on the definition of concealed would be very welcome.

  7. i have a ballisong that is exactly 3.5 inches of blade can i still legally carry it in my pocket its pretty dull from cutting boxes if that makes any difference

  8. Lol I have blades the length of 3 bills if you think one is big @kenzie hetfield

  9. Hey I’m 17 and got a 13 inch Bowie knife with the sheath and everything. I’m wondering if I could carry it on my person and I live in a small town population about 3000

  10. The conclusion states, “it is legal to open carry any type of knife in Nebraska.”

    John E Scott, Sr may need glasses.

  11. I’ve personally been convicted of two separate concealed weapon charges. Both were knives of 5-7 inches. Afterwards I checked out the statutes. Legal: any BLADE LEGNTH (not to be misinterpreted with overall knife lengh) 3.5 inches or under can be concealed.
    Illegal: any BLADE LEGNTH over 3.5 inches can NOT be concealed
    Any knife under 7 inch blade length may be carried , if exposed openly. According to Nebraska state law.

  12. “what is legal to own in Nebraska” am I allowed to carry those knives listed also?

  13. For a 7th grade girl or anyone else to carry a knife for protection is foolish, unless you gave extensive training in fighting with a knife. Also, most states now have a zero tolerance law regarding having any kind of knife at school. That means you will be expelled if you use it. The best thing for you to do is let your parents and principal know about these boys and get a liscense plate number and description of the car. If you have a cell phone call 911 and tell them that there is a car following you and you are scared. Stay on the phone with them as you walk. They will send a police officer to assist you.

  14. so i have a practice butterfly knife is it legal to carry it in the pouch it came with on my belt it has a 4″ blade but not sharp

  15. What if you have a concealed carry permit. Does that allow you to conceal carry bigger knives?

  16. So I have a SOG seal strike with sheath that I would love to carry. But I leave my shirts in tucked so the bottom 4″ or so would show from under my shirt at all times so would this be considered concealed or not?

  17. I am looking into getting a cane. It says above that a cane knife is legal but what does that say in terms of size. How long can a knife canes blade be before becoming illegal

  18. Lincoln you can’t open carry anything in the mall, and omaha has certain gun carry laws nowere else in nebraska has… but every where else in nebraska you can legally open carry anywhere as long as it’s not posted.

  19. I carry a bowie knife every where, stores, carnivals, the mall… its not illegal in nebraska as long as it’s not concea led you’re fine.

  20. holy crap. I’ve had a bayonet in my glove box for a year, since my last annual training for the Army. Had no idea this was illegal.

  21. So, I take it It would be illegal to cary a 10′ WW2 bayonet?

  22. I have swords in my trunk. Does this mean that if I’m pulled over and searched could that be considered conceal carry even though they aren’t in immediate reach? And wouldn’t it change anything since I’m not able to keep them inside the household?

    1. pretty sure you’re ok in the trunk as it’s not immediately accessible from the passenger compartment. The above about it being readily within reach of the driver is off, I got a concealed weapons charge for having collectible knives stored in the wrong cabinet of my semi, where I had to leave the seat to open cabinet.

  23. I have a bowie knife that is a bit on the larger scale, I would post a pic but its longer than a dollar bill. Would it be legal for me to open carry?

    1. It is legal to open carry any type of knife in Nebraska.

      As stated above, it is LEGAL to open carry any knife in Nebraska. On more than one occasion, I have seen VERY large Bowie knives sheathed on the hips of truck drivers and bikers. That said, many establishments, such as convenience stores, have posted signs stating that NO weapons are allowed within their walls. This goes for any type of school, as well. Be vigil and obey all posted signs, but if you’re enjoying the outdoors, you’re free to carry your blade on your hip.

    2. It actually says it is LEGAL to open carry ANY knife:

      “It is legal to open carry any type of knife in Nebraska”

    3. No read closer. It says it’s legal to open carry any knife.

    4. It says “legal” to open carry any knife… read it right above.

    5. you are okay. It is totally legal to Open cary any knife as long as it is sheathed and in plain view. Your shirt can’t not come over the handle and nothing can obstruct the view of what you are carying.

      “It Is LEGAL to open cary any type of Knife in Nebraska”… “unless other wise posted”,
      (IE: schools, government buildings, state buildings, often time you find that in day cares it is posted to not cary a weapon).

      LIMITS ON CARRY
      It is illegal to conceal carry a dirk with a blade over 3 ½ inches long
      It is illegal to conceal carry a dagger with a blade over 3 ½ inches long
      It is illegal to conceal carry a stiletto with a blade over 3 ½ inches long
      It is illegal to conceal carry any knife with a blade over 3 ½ inches long
      It is legal to open carry any type of knife in Nebraska

  24. So my question is I have a Case Case bowie knife, Its got a sheath and everything, if im correct im able to walk around with it on my belt and sheathed correct?

    1. at a campsite yes, it would be expected. on a city or town street no! prepare to be stopped by local law enforcement & your bowie could be confiscated.

  25. Would a “folder” with 3.5″ blade be considered “concealed carry” in a belt sheath?

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