Knife laws in Pennsylvania are very lenient. That’s because owning a knife is not prohibited within the state. And anyone can own a knife, no matter the type. But carrying and using is a matter of concern for knife enthusiasts in Pennsylvania.
A knife is a must-have tool in Pennsylvania, whether it’s for work, collection, cooking, hunting, or you are just a knife enthusiast. And since owning a knife is not illegal in that state, you own whichever knife you want, except that it is prohibited by the government. However, possessing and carrying knives can lead you to charges and punishment if you are not aware of the laws. Therefore, to save you from trouble, it’s best to educate yourself about Pennsylvania knife laws.
Pennsylvania recognizes all types of knives. Based on the definitions, Pennsylvania law recognizes knives:
- Pocket Knife: Types of knives that are folding and can be opened and closed with one hand. These types of knives can be carried in the pocket and used as utility knives.
- Fixed Blade Knives: These types of knives are non-folding and permanently attached to the handle that can be folded.
- Switchblade Knives: These are automatic knives that are folding, and the blade is concealed within the handle and can be opened with a spring mechanism with the help of a button, spring, or mechanism.
- Balisong (Butterfly) Knives: These are folding knives that have two handles that move around the blade. And the blade can be concealed within the handle. These types of knives face some restrictions in Pennsylvania.
- Throwing Knives: These types of knives are designed for throwing and have a mechanism that makes them have some regulations in Pennsylvania.
Distinctions between Legal and Illegal Knives in Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania state law had strict views on knife possession since 1956. And the 18pa.C.S.A. Section 908 clearly mentions that all “Offensive Weapons” are illegal to possess. And by offensive weapons, Pennsylvania state law means, any weapon that is capable of doing serious bodily injury or death. And section further extends knives, such as daggers, knives, razors, cutting instruments, and automatic and switchblade knives that are loaded by spring mechanisms was considered offensive knives by Section 908.
Knives other than those were legal to possess and carry. And those knives are:
- Pocket knife.
- Balisong or butterfly knife.
- Bowie knife.
- Concealed knife.
- Hunting knife.
However, from 3rd January 2023, the restrictions on automatic knives from possession, carry, and owing were removed. But there are still some regulations that restrict those knives from some specific sensitive locations. Other than that, it is now legal to carry and possess any knife in Pennsylvania. One regulation that remains intact is the intent of use. No matter the knife, one must always carry and use a knife for lawful purposes and only if they need a knife for their lawful tasks. Otherwise, carrying a knife will be considered illegal.
Regulations on Specific Knife Features
Section 908 of Pennsylvania state law regulates knives with some features and restricts them. For example, the section clearly mentioned that knives that are loaded or open automatically with a button, lever, switch, or spring mechanism are illegal to possess, sell, carry, or own. That means all types of automatic knives and switchblade knives are illegal to carry in Pennsylvania.
The law was removed in January 2023. And now it’s legal to own and possess those knives with spring mechanisms. But there are still some restrictions that regulate those knives. And there is no statewide preemption in Pennsylvania regarding knife laws. Thus, local government and cities can imply their own laws for regulating knives, just like Philadelphia.
Carrying Knives in Public
Pennsylvania State has a very lenient but confusing knife law. For instance, it is legal to possess and carry almost all sorts of knives, but if only the knife is used for lawful intent and the holder is an adult.
Conceal Carry of Knives in Pennsylvania
Section 907 states that it is legal to conceal and carry any knife in Pennsylvania. Before January 2023, it was prohibited to conceal and open-carry automatic knives and switchblades that have spring mechanisms. But afterward, it is not legal to conceal carry those knives as well.
Here comes the tricky part. Yes, you can conceal and carry any knife. But you only have the right to conceal carry knives for lawful intent and only if you need to carry the knife. Otherwise, carrying knives, especially ones with a spring mechanism, will put you in trouble.
For example, it is lawful to have a cooking knife in your kitchen, whether it’s your home or restaurant. But if you carry a cooking knife in a stadium during sport, it will lead you to trouble. Thus, you can only conceal and carry any knife for lawful intent and for your needs are legal.
Open Carry of Knives in Pennsylvania
Section 907 also states that open carry of knives is also allowed in Pennsylvania. But the knife has to be used and carried for lawful intent and only if someone needs a knife for their legal tasks. But people are prohibited from carrying knives from certain locations – it doesn’t matter whether open or concealed.
Restrictions on Knife Carrying in Certain Locations
Section 912 of the Pennsylvania state law regulates the possession of knives in certain locations. The law states that it is prohibited to carry and possess knives on locations such as school grounds, whether public or private, courthouses, government buildings, airports, and other sensitive locations.
At the same time, due to no statewide preemption’s, local governments, municipalities, and cities can prohibit knives from certain locations as well.
The minimum age to possess a knife in Pennsylvania is 18. It is mentioned in the Pennsylvania state law Section 6302 that selling knives to people who are under 18 is a crime. And people under that age can’t possess knives open or concealed. But still, this age limit has some exceptions.
Minors can possess certain types of knives in different situations when a knife is required. For example, pocket knives are allowed to carry as well as other simple knives if the knife is openly carried with proper authority and permission. Let’s just say you can possess a cooking knife at your home. On the other hand, it is also allowed to carry knives by minors if it’s used with lawful intent and with permission and guidance.
Pennsylvania used to have bans on certain types of knives before January 2023, as per Section 907. And those knives include:
- Cutting instruments.
- Automatic knives.
- Other knives with the spring mechanism.
As far as my research on the banned knives in Pennsylvania shows, these knives were banned because they were considered offensive weapons. The Pennsylvania state law Section 907 talks about offensive weapons; these are weapons or tools that are designed as weapons and can cause serious bodily injury or death. And the above-mentioned knives were classified as offensive weapons by Pennsylvania law. That’s the reason those knives were banned.
Carrying those prohibited knives is illegal and can lead you to serious charges. If you were to be found with those prohibited knives, you would find yourself in prison for 90 days or/and a $300 fine. But due to the reforms in Section 907, it is not legal to possess and carry those knives, but with some regulations.
Self-Defense and Justification
Pennsylvania laws allow knife use for self-defense. And it is legal to use a knife or other legal weapon for self-defense. But there are many factors and things that you need to keep in mind, which are:
- Castle Doctrine: Pennsylvania has Castle Doctrine, which means using force is allowed for self-defense. You can use necessary force with a knife or any other weapon, as well as deadly force for self-defense if necessary to neutralize the threat.
- Stand Your Ground: Pennsylvania self-defense law allows people to stand their ground for self-defense. That means individuals aren’t required to retreat from the danger. They can use as much force as is necessary and defend them.
- Proportional Response: People in Pennsylvania can give a proportional repose for self-defense. They can use knives or other weapons if necessary and defend themselves. But the response should be proportional; otherwise, you can get into trouble.
- Unlawful Use: Since Pennsylvania law allows force for self-defense and knife use – that doesn’t mean one can use the knife in the name of self-defense. People who use knives or other tools for self-defense have to prove in court that the use of force, knife, or other weapon was necessary. Otherwise, the individual will face serious charges.
Sale and Purchase
As per the Pennsylvania knife law Section 6302, it is illegal to sell knives to people who are under 18. And the section also regulates the sale and possession of knives in Pennsylvania. As per the law, it is illegal to sell knives to use for unlawful intent or to people who have unlawful intentions and will cause crimes. Besides, people with mental disabilities or those who have criminal charges also can’t possess or purchase, or sell knives. Other than that, people can sell and purchase knives.
It is allowed to purchase and ship knives online in Pennsylvania. The purchase is allowed since all knives are legal in this state. However, shipping may be a subject matter. That’s because Federal law and State law both regulates and control knife and other weapon shipping. Generally, it is allowed to ship knives, but some state law and local laws may differ.
Penalties and Consequences
As I mentioned earlier that almost all sorts of knives are legal in Pennsylvania. One with legal age and lawful intention can carry all types of knives in the state. But if someone violates the knife laws and is found with a prohibited knife or using it as a weapon and unlawful activities, it will be a misdemeanor of the first degree.
And the punishment for violating the knife law is severe. One who violates the knife laws in Pennsylvania will be fined $300 or/and 90 days of imprisonment. The fine and prison time can increase depending on the crime and situation.
Resources and Further Information
Knife laws and other laws in Pennsylvania can change with time. Thus, it would be better to stay updated with the laws. And these websites will help you:
- Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes: It’s the official website of the Pennsylvania general assembly, where you will find all laws of Pennsylvania, including knife laws.
- Pennsylvania State Police: Pennsylvania state police website also provides legal details and laws regarding knives and other weapons.
- Local Government: Local government of Pennsylvania also has its own websites that you can access and educate you about knife laws and other laws.
Pennsylvania State has some very lenient but confusing knife laws that, as a knife enthusiast or knife holder, you must know – since a knife is a utility tool for most people. The state allows possessing, owning, and carrying almost all types of knives. That is better than knife laws in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, New York, and other states.
But also keep in mind that knives are only legal in Pennsylvania if it’s used for lawful intent. Otherwise, the knife can put you in jail and cost you a heavy fine.