Pennsylvania Knife Laws


Pennsylvania’s laws can be extremely confusing at first glance, but we’re going to attempt to make some sense of them.  If you’re unsure about something or don’t agree with my interpretation, please consult with an attorney or other legal professional.

Pennsylvania isn’t the most knife-friendly state in America, and the law is confusing to boot.  However, it would seem as though all knives are legal if you can provide a good reason for owning them.  This last bit is where the confusion starts.  Technically, offensive weapons are illegal to possess, but something called the Curio Exception provides a legal loophole.

Before We Go Further, Let’s Define What a Dangerous Weapon Is

‘Offensive Weapons’ Any, . . . dagger, knife, razor or cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise, . . . or other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.

We Should Probably Define the Curio Exception, Too

It is a defense under this section for the defendant to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he possessed or dealt with the weapon solely as a curio or in a dramatic performance, or that, with the exception of a bomb, grenade, or incendiary device, he complied with the National Firearms Act, or that he possessed it briefly in consequence of having found it or taken it from an aggressor, or under circumstances similarly negativing any intent or likelihood that the weapon would be used unlawfully.

What this law means is that if you buy a sword or prohibited knife for theatrical purposes, or as a decoration in your home, you shouldn’t have a problem.  The same goes if you managed to wrestle a weapon from an assailant.

Basically, if you have a good reason for owning a weapon that doesn’t include self-defense, intimidation, etc., then you’re okay.  You should also make sure the weapon is displayed or packaged in a way that means you can’t readily use it.

For example, if you’re caught carrying a Bowie knife, sword, switchblade, etc., and tell the court that you had just bought it and were merely transporting it home, you’ll be convicted.  The only chance you’d have would be if it was packaged in a way that proved you couldn’t simply draw it and start hurting people.

Similarily, if you have a sword or something in your home, make sure it’s on display or clearly designated for theatrical use in some way and not just laying around or the Curio Exception doesn’t apply.

What Kinds of Knives are Legal in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania is so weird.  If you allow for the Curio Exception, then all knives are legal.  There are only restrictions on carrying knives.

  • You can own any kind of knife that isn’t a dagger, knife, or other cutting instrument whose blade is exposed automatically
  • Using the Curio Exception, you can own all knives
  • You can carry openly or in a concealed manner any hunting knife
  • You can carry openly or concealed any legal knife that doesn’t open automatically and has a lawful purpose

What Kinds of Knives are Illegal in Pennsylvania?

Unless you plan on making use of the Curio Exception, automatic knives are illegal.  There are also many restrictions on the carrying of knives.

  • It is illegal to carry any knife that fits the definition of a ‘prohibited weapon’ (mostly automatic knives)
  • You cannot bring your knife to school
  • You cannot own an offensive weapon if you don’t plan on using the Curio Exception loophole

Relevant Statutes

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