West Virginia knife laws are full of legal ease that makes them difficult to understand. This article takes the law and puts it into plain English so that anyone can understand what is legal and what is not when it comes to owning and carrying knives in the state of West Virginia.
What is Legal to Own
- It is legal to own a dirk, dagger, or other stabbing knife
- It is legal to own a stiletto
- It is legal to own a switchblade
- It is legal to own a Balisong, or butterfly knife
- It is legal to own a Bowie knife
- It is legal to own a ballistic knife
What is Illegal to Own
West Virginia law does not prohibit the ownership of any type of knife.
Restrictions on Carry
On June 3, 2016, the Virginia code governing deadly weapons and the carry of deadly weapons was amended to allow concealed carry of “deadly weapons” under certain conditions (which most law-abiding citizens would fulfill). Unless you are prohibited from carrying a firearm, are under 21 years of age or are a non-US citizen, you can carry nearly anything.
What the Law States
West Virginia Code §61-7-7.
(c) Any person may carry a concealed deadly weapon without a license therefor who is:
(1) At least twenty-one years of age;
(2) A United States citizen or legal resident thereof;
(3) Not prohibited from possessing a firearm under the provisions of this section; and
(4) Not prohibited from possessing a firearm under the provisions of 18 U. S. C. §922(g) or (n).
Definitions of Various Types of Knives
West Virginia statute defines gravity knife as any knife with a blade that can be released from the handle by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force (spinning the knife), and, when released is locked in place with a button or other locking or catching devise.
Switchblade knife is defined as any knife that has a spring-operated blade, which opens automatically by pushing a button, catch, or other mechanisms on the handle.
Knife is defined as any devise, intended to be used or readily adaptable to be used as a weapon, and that has a sharp-edge or sharp-pointed blade, attached to a handle which is capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing or tearing wounds. The statue further says that the term “knife” includes any dagger, dirk, poniard, or stiletto, with a blade over 3 ½ inches long, any switchblade or gravity knife, and any other instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing or tearing wounds.
West Virginia Code §61-7-2. states that a deadly weapon includes stilettos, daggers, dirks, or poniards with a blade over 3.5 inches, and also includes gravity knives and more loosely “any other instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing or tearing wounds”.
Definition of Deadly Weapon
West Virginia statutes define deadly weapon as an instrument that is designed to be used to produce serious bodily injury or death or that is readily adaptable to use in such a manner.
The statue refers to some specific knifes that are considered deadly weapons. Those knives include, but are not limited to:
- Gravity knives
- Any dirk dagger, poniard, or stiletto with a blade over 3 ½ inches long
- Any knife that falls within the statutory definition of knife
- Any knife of like kind or character to those specifically mentioned
In the case of State v. Choat, the Supreme Court of West Virginia held that whether a weapon not listed is a deadly weapon, is a question for the jury, unless the trial Court can determine that the jury could not find the weapon to be a deadly weapon, as a matter of law.
Definition of Concealed
West Virginia statute defines concealed as hidden from ordinary observation so as to prevent disclosure or recognition. The statute further states that a deadly weapon is concealed when it is carried on or about the person in such a manner that another person, in the ordinary course of events, would not realize that the deadly weapon was being carried.
Definition of “About the Person”
The conceal carry law says that one may not carry “about the person” any dangerous weapon. However, it does not define “about the person”. The Supreme Court of West Virginia, in State v. Totten, defined about the person, holding that in order for a dangerous weapon to be “about the person” it had to be either on the person, or in such close proximity that it could be reached without much change in the person’s position. The Court also said that the weapon had to be readily accessible when the person reached for it.
Exceptions to Conceal Carry Laws
West Virginia law provides some exceptions to the law prohibiting the conceal carry of deadly weapons. Exceptions include those who are carrying on their own premises or from a place of purchase, at their place of business, or to or from their place of business, and certain government employees, such as law enforcement officers, Judges, and correctional officers.
License to Carry a Concealed Deadly Weapon
West Virginia offers licenses for those who wish to carry a concealed deadly weapon, and meet the requirements for obtaining such a license. In order to qualify for a license, one must meet the following requirements:
- be a citizen of the United States
- have been a resident of West Virginia for at least one year next prior to the date of application
- be an adult of good moral character and temperate habits
- not have been convicted of any felony or handgun offense
- have been employed for five years
- be qualified to handle handguns
- have “good reason and cause” to carry such weapon
- post a $ 5000 surety bond.
Conclusion on West Virginia Knife Law
It is legal to own any type of knife in West Virginia.
It is legal to conceal carry a dirk dagger, poniard, or stiletto with a blade over 3 ½ inches long, a switchblade, gravity knife, butterfly knife, or any instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds, as long as you are not prohibited from carrying a firearm, are a U.S. citizen, are over 21 years old.
It is legal to open carry any type of knife.
- W. Va. Code § 61-7-2 (2013)
- W. Va. Code § 61-7-3 (2013)
- W. Va. Code § 61-7-7 (2016)
- State v. Totten, 289 S.E.2d 491 (1982)
- State v. Choat, 363 S.E.2d 493 (1987)