While Oregon doesn’t top the list as the most knife-friendly state, it is certainly less restrictive than most. The difference between Oregon’s knife laws and most other states is that Oregon relies on court decisions, rather in codified statutes. This information is not as readily available and consequently many find Oregon’s knife laws confusing.
Knife ownership in The Beaver State, however, is relatively straightforward. It is legal to own most types of knives, including dirks, daggers, and switchblades. There are certain restrictions regarding conceal carry which is important to consider and discussed below.
Permitted Knives In Oregon
The following knives are legal to own in Oregon:
- Bowie knives
- Ballistic knives
- Gravity knives
- Butterfly knives and balisong trainers
Restriction on Convicted Felons
Like New Hampshire, one of the most prominent restrictions on knife ownership in Oregon applies to convicted felons. Unlike the language in other states’ statutes, the language in Oregon’s statute is incredibly broad. It specifically outlaws ownership, possession, custody, and control of the instrument.
The relevant law reads: “Any person who has been convicted of a felony under the law of this state or any other state, or who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of the Government of the United States, who owns or has in the person’s possession or under the person’s custody or control any instrument or weapon having a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force or any blackjack, slungshot, sandclub, sandbag, sap glove, metal knuckles … or who carries a dirk, dagger or stiletto, commits the crime of felon in possession of a restricted weapon.”[i] (emphasis added)
Length of a Blade and Pocketknives
It is legal to conceal carry a pocketknife. However, it would appear from case-law that knives with blades over six inches are illegal to conceal carry.
In State v. Witherbee, the defendant “indicted and convicted for carrying ‘concealed about his person a 6″ Survival Knife, not an ordinary pocketknife.’”[ii] It is worth noting the facts of that case as the defendant was charged with burglary after effecting unlawful entry to a building while carrying the knife in question.
Earlier decisions, such as State v. Pruett and State v. Strong found that knives with a 3 and one-half inch blade and a knife that was four and three-quarter inch blade, respectively, fit the definition of an ordinary pocketknife. While the Witherbee case was later than the other two cases, the Court’s finding begs the question of whether it was the intended use of the knife in addition to the length of the blade that concluded the issue.
Oregon Law on Concealed Carry
Oregan law is incredibly clear on the restriction for concealed carry. The pertinent law reads, in relevant part: “Any person who carries concealed upon the person any knife having a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force, any dirk, dagger, ice pick, slungshot, metal knuckles or any similar instrument by the use of which injury could be inflicted upon the person or property of any other person, commits a Class B misdemeanor.” [iii] (emphasis added)
Case law concerning concealed carry provides clues into the definition of dirk and dagger knives, which are not discussed in statutes. In 2009, the Court of Appeals of Oregon decided this issue by looking at the plain reading of a definition of dirks and daggers.
The facts of State v. Ruff are as follows: “Officer Linck, a member of the Newberg Dundee Police Department, went to a city park after a police dispatcher informed him that ‘an off-duty officer called in [about] a man sitting in the bushes and [the man] had been swinging a samurai type sword around and the information was also given that he was carrying it under his coat.’ When Linck arrived at the park, there were several people in the vicinity of the sidewalk adjoining the park watching defendant.
The officer spoke with the informant who had called the police because he was concerned about the defendant’s mannerisms and the fact that he had a sword in a public area. As Linck conversed with the informant, defendant came walking up out of the park and got in his vehicle. At the time, Linck was able to observe that the defendant had an object with him, although he could not determine if it was a sword.”
The Court noted: “The terms “dirk” and “dagger” are not defined by statute. We conclude therefore that the legislature intended that the ordinary meanings of the words apply. A “dagger” is defined as a “short knife used for stabbing.” Webster’s Third New Int’l Dictionary 570 (unabridged ed. 2002). A “dirk” is commonly understood to mean a “long straight-bladed dagger[.]”
The historical function of a dagger was to pierce armor. Historically, daggers existed in several varieties; a dirk was one kind of dagger with a blade of approximately 18 inches. While a three-and-one-half foot long samurai sword is not a dirk or a dagger, it could qualify as an “other similar instrument” for purposes of ORS 166.240(1) if it also is designed for stabbing.” Therefore, the Court concluded:
“By ordinary definition, a sword is “a weapon with a long blade for cutting or thrusting set in a hilt usually terminating in a pommel and often having a tang or a protective guard where the blade joins the handle [or] an instrument of destruction.” …Here, given the description provided, Linck could reasonably suspect from the information furnished by the informant that the sword in defendant’s possession, while he was in the park, was designed primarily to inflict injury on the person or property of another by stabbing, similar to the function of a dirk or dagger, and that the sword had been concealed on the defendant’s person.”[iv]
In sum, convicted felons face serious restrictions on knife ownership in Oregon. While there is no indication that there are any changes or other reforms in knife law on the horizon in Oregon, it is safe to say that Oregon is one of the more lenient states. It is legal to own any knife and legal to open carry any knife. Individuals may not conceal carry dirks, daggers, butterfly knives, gravity knives or any knife that swings into position by force.
None of the material in this article should be interpreted as legal advice. I am not a lawyer. Never take any action with legal consequences without first consulting with a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. This article should not be relied upon for making legal decisions. This information is provided for scholarship and general information only.