Nebraska 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.
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)