EDITOR’S NOTE:Oklahoma knife laws are short and to the point, but it can be difficult to determine exactly what is legal and what is not, as the legislature appears to have left much of the interpretation of the law up to the Courts, failing to provide needed definitions and details. The Court, too seems to avoid defining anything, so that people can figure out what is a crime and what is not. This article explains both the statutes and the case law so that anyone can understand what is legal and what is not when it comes to owning and carrying knives in Oklahoma.
What is Legal to Own
- It is legal to own a dirk, dagger, or other stabbing knives
- It is legal to own a bowie knife
- It is legal to own a switchblade or gravity knife
- It is legal to own a sword cane
- It is legal to own a Balisong, or butterfly knife as well as Balisong trainers
- It is legal to own a stiletto
What is Illegal to Own
- It is not illegal to own any kind of knife in Oklahoma.
Restrictions on Carry
- It is illegal to conceal or open carry any “offensive weapon”. It is notable that “offensive weapons” can include items such as machetes or tomahawks though they are not specified. Discretion is called for in such instances since the law is a bit vague on the full definition of “offensive weapons”.
As the no carry law states that it is illegal to carry a weapon, “upon or about” the person, Oklahoma’s no carry law extends to items carried in a vehicle, not just on a person.
What the Law States
§21-1272. Unlawful carry
A. It shall be unlawful for any person to carry upon or about his or her person, or in a purse or other container belonging to the person, any pistol, revolver, shotgun or rifle whether loaded or unloaded or any blackjack, loaded cane, billy, hand chain, metal knuckles, or any other offensive weapon, whether such weapon be concealed or unconcealed, except this section shall not prohibit:
1. The proper use of guns and knives for hunting, fishing, educational or recreational purposes;
2. The carrying or use of weapons in a manner otherwise permitted by statute or authorized by the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act;
3. The carrying, possession and use of any weapon by a peace officer or other person authorized by law to carry a weapon in the performance of official duties and in compliance with the rules of the employing agency;
4. The carrying or use of weapons in a courthouse by a district judge, associate district judge or special district judge within this state, who is in possession of a valid handgun license issued pursuant to the provisions of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act and whose name appears on a list maintained by the Administrative Director of the Courts; or
5. The carrying and use of firearms and other weapons provided in this subsection when used for the purpose of living history reenactment. For purposes of this paragraph, “living history reenactment” means depiction of historical characters, scenes, historical life or events for entertainment, education, or historical documentation through the wearing or use of period, historical, antique or vintage clothing, accessories, firearms, weapons, and other implements of the historical period.
Definition of Offensive Weapon
In Beeler v. State, the Court said that some weapons are so dangerous and deadly, that the Court may declare them to be offensive weapons as a matter of law. It also stated, that when making this determination, trial Judges should consider whether the weapon was designed for combat and capable of producing death.
Intent to Carry a Weapon
Although the legislature did not make “knowingly” a part of the law which makes it illegal to carry a weapon, the Court, in Williams v. State, found that criminal intent is an element of all crimes, and therefore, one cannot be convicted of a carrying a weapon when he or she is unaware that they are carrying one. For example, as in the case of a weapon concealed in a vehicle, which is driven by someone other than the owner who placed the weapon there. In the case of Dear v. State, Mr. Dear was pulled over driving a vehicle that did not belong to him. The arresting officer found two pairs of spiked metal knuckles in the car, which Mr. Dear said did not belong to him. He was convicted of unlawfully carrying a weapon and appealed his conviction. The Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma found that the legislature did not intend to punish those who had no guilty intent or knowledge, and reversed Mr. Dear’s conviction.
Exceptions to No Carry Law
The no carry law does not apply to those who are properly carrying and using a knife while hunting, fishing, or participating in a recreational or educational activity. It also does not apply to those carrying a knife for a live history reenactment event.
Penalties for Unlawful Carry of a Weapon
A first conviction for the unlawful carry of a weapon is a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of between one hundred dollars ($100) and two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and up to 30 days in jail. A second or subsequent conviction under the unlawful carry law carries a penalty of a fine between two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and five hundred dollars ($500) and between 30 days and 3 months in jail.
Definitions of Various Types of Knives
Oklahoma does not offer any definitions of any types of knives, in either its statutory code nor its case law.
Conclusion on Oklahoma Law
It is legal to own any type of knife in Oklahoma.
Because the term “dangerous weapon” is vague, it may be good practice to only carry large knives (axes, tomahawks, etc.) in Oklahoma when participating in a sporting or reenactment event where the carrying of a knife is not illegal.
- 21 Okl. St. § 1272 (2018)
- 21 Okl. St. § 1276 (2018)
- Beeler v. State, 334 P.2d 799 (Okl.Cr. 1959)
- Williams v. State, 565 P.2d 46 (Okla.Crim.App. 1977)
- Dear v. State, 773 P.2d 760 (Okla. Crim. App. 1989)
*updated July 3, 2018