- Legal to Carry Openly: Any knife except dirk, dagger, butterfly knives, gravity knives or switchblades; assisted opening knives probably forbidden under current statutes
- Legal to Carry Concealed: Any knife except dirks, daggers, butterfly knives, gravity knives or switchblades; assisted opening knives probably forbidden under current statutes.
Hawaii Knife Law Overview
Hawaii is a fairly tolerant state for the carry of knives. Some explicit bans on type and action along with some murky language when defining what is acceptable and what is not makes the matter a bit tough to suss out.
Additionally, there is not statewide preemption in the Aloha State and concealed weapons permits are only valid for pistols, so you’ll get no help with otherwise restricted knives.
Zero tolerance policies for weapons at schools means you’ll need to keep your blades far, far away but on the bright side there are no length restrictions, so you can carry a legal design that is big or small with no issue.
We’ll look at Hawaii’s state statutes below.
Relevant Hawaii State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives
- HRS 134-9
- HRS 134-51
- HRS 134-52
- HRS 134-53
Hawaii law on knives properly begins for the manor woman on the street in 134-51, which spells out the prohibition on dangerous weapons. You cannot carry any dangerous weapon concealed or openly in Hawaii:
134-51 Deadly weapons; prohibitions; penalty.
(a) Any person, not authorized by law, who carries concealed upon the person’s self or within any vehicle used or occupied by the person or who is found armed with any dirk, dagger, blackjack, slug shot, billy, metal knuckles, pistol, or other deadly or dangerous weapon shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and may be immediately arrested without warrant by any sheriff, police officer, or other officer or person.
Any weapon, above enumerated, upon conviction of the one carrying or possessing it under this section, shall be summarily destroyed by the chief of police or sheriff.
(b) Whoever knowingly possesses or intentionally uses or threatens to use a deadly or dangerous weapon while engaged in the commission of a crime shall be guilty of a class C felony.
So, what is deadly or dangerous weapon?
The definition varies state to state, but generally it can be anything the prosecution or arresting officer wants it to be if they have cause or whim, unless the state law also spells out exactly what they aren’t.
In the case of Hawaii’s statutes, there is no “protected class” of allowed weapons, or conditions when it is otherwise permissible to carry a dangerous weapon. We have to rely on case law for precedent to guide our behavior and hope that we don’t get ground to grist in the mill of the justice system.
Hawaii case law has already furnished, generally, that “deadly or dangerous weapons” are those instruments whose sole design is to inflict bodily or injury or death (55H 531, 523, P.2d 299).
The evil switchblades are thankfully struck down in the very next section, 134-52:
§134-52 Switchblade knives; prohibitions; penalty.
(a) Whoever knowingly manufactures, sells, transfers, possesses, or transports in the State any switchblade knife, being any knife having a blade which opens automatically (1) by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife, or (2) by operation of inertia, gravity, or both, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(b) Whoever knowingly possesses or intentionally uses or threatens to use a switchblade knife while engaged in the commission of a crime shall be guilty of a class C felony.
Hawaii is highly conspicuously lacking in “bias toward closure” language fast becoming the defacto standard in states that do not wish to burden citizens with bans on now-common assisted opening pocket knives.
Since Hawaii does not have that language template, or any language similar thereto in the statutes, assisted opening knives of all kinds occupy a gray area at the very best, and likely are not legal under the law currently.
But good news! The busybodies in the Hawaiian state legislature found the impetus to ban that most insidious of scourges on the face of the public- butterfly knives! Finally, someone through of the children! Read it and weep in 134-53:
134-53 Butterfly knives; prohibitions; penalty.
(a) Whoever knowingly manufactures, sells, transfers, possesses, or transports in the State any butterfly knife, being a knife having a blade encased in a split handle that manually unfolds with hand or wrist action with the assistance of inertia, gravity or both, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(b) Whoever knowingly possesses or intentionally uses or threatens to use a butterfly knife while engaged in the commission of a crime shall be guilty of a class C felony.
Regarding carrying of any knife, legal or otherwise, the statute makes no exemptions, and grants no extraneous privileges if one should obtain the mythical Hawaiian concealed handgun permit; the statute covering its acquisition and disposition makes no mention of knives whatsoever:
134-9 Licenses to carry.
(a) In an exceptional case, when an applicant shows reason to fear injury to the applicant’s person or property, the chief of police of the appropriate county may grant a license to an applicant who is a citizen of the United States of the age of twenty-one years or more or to a duly accredited official representative of a foreign nation of the age of twenty-one years or more to carry a pistol or revolver and ammunition therefor concealed on the person within the county where the license is granted.
Where the urgency or the need has been sufficiently indicated, the respective chief of police may grant to an applicant of good moral character who is a citizen of the United States of the age of twenty-one years or more, is engaged in the protection of life and property, and is not prohibited under section 134-7 from the ownership or possession of a firearm, a license to carry a pistol or revolver and ammunition therefor unconcealed on the person within the county where the license is granted.
The chief of police of the appropriate county, or the chief’s designated representative, shall perform an inquiry on an applicant by using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, to include a check of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement databases where the applicant is not a citizen of the United States, before any determination to grant a license is made. Unless renewed, the license shall expire one year from the date of issue.
(b) The chief of police of each county shall adopt procedures to require that any person granted a license to carry a concealed weapon on the person shall:
(1) Be qualified to use the firearm in a safe manner;
(2) Appear to be a suitable person to be so licensed;
(3) Not be prohibited under section 134-7 from the ownership or possession of a firearm; and
(4) Not have been adjudged insane or not appear to be mentally deranged.
(c) No person shall carry concealed or unconcealed on the person a pistol or revolver without being licensed to do so under this section or in compliance with sections 134-5(c) or 134-25.
(d) A fee of $10 shall be charged for each license and shall be deposited in the treasury of the county in which the license is granted.
If you are fortunate enough to please the crown and obtain your concealed weapons permit, do remember it endows you with not one extra privilege for your knife, if you carry one.
Technically, one may carry their knives anywhere they wish in Hawaii that does not alert by placard that no weapons are allowed, but schools in particular are places where one must not carry your knife due to Hawaii’s strong “inchoate crimes” statutes.
An inchoate crime is one where the state can show that, due to the circumstances and preponderance of evidence, a person was planning to commit a crime, only they did not get to go through with it.
Don’t chance it. Keep you knives away from schools and any other place that restricts weapons.
There is no dependable preemption in the state of Hawaii. It will be up to you to stay abreast of all county and city laws governing knives in Hawaii.
Larger cities in particular may have local ordinances that can be significantly more restrictive, and have harsher penalties, than the state statutes proscribe.
Hawaii is a positively brutal state for gun owners, but merely okay for knife owners. There are restrictions by type for a few classes of knives, but no length restrictions and concealed carry of commonplace pocketknives or knives which are obviously tools should not get you in hot water.
Even so, wide-reaching language in the statutes governing knives means you should stay on your toes and err on the side of caution in this pineapple-y place.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.