Nebraska Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

  • Legal to Carry Openly: Any kind of knife
  • Legal to Carry Concealed without a Permit: Any knife with a blade less than 3 ½” except any dirk, dagger, or stiletto
  • Legal to Carry Concealed with Permit: No changes to above; forbidden knives still not permissible.
flag of Nebraska
flag of Nebraska

Nebraska Knife Law Overview

Nebraska is a generally friendly and permissive state for knife ownership and carry, with clear and easy to understand legal language in most aspects.

This is hampered only by the reliance on case law for some elements, of most concern to the average knife carrier being the opinion regarding the language that interests knives of less than 3 ½”.

Considering that Nebraska does quantify self-defense of self, property or family as an affirmative defense, this might be less of a concern but a concern it remains.

A lack of statewide preemption also means you’ll have to stay abreast of local municipal law to ensure your chosen knife is legal anywhere you go.

These quibbles aside, you’ll have little or nothing in the way of restriction as to what knife you can carry openly, and almost no restrictions on what you can carry concealed without a permit.

In the sections below we’ll dig deeper into the laws governing knife ownership and carry in Nebraska.

Relevant Nebraska State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • 28-1201
  • 28-1202
  • 79-267

The bladed implements in question are defined in 28-1201, which uses plain and easy to understand language so there is precious little room for misunderstanding. Something of a rarity for state law:

28-1201 Terms, defined.

(1) Firearm means any weapon which is designed to or may readily be converted to expel any projectile by the action of an explosive or frame or receiver of any such weapon;

(5) Knife means:

(a) Any dagger, dirk, knife, or stiletto with a blade over three and one-half inches in length and which, in the manner it is used or intended to be used, is capable of producing death or serious bodily injury; or

(b) Any other dangerous instrument which is capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds and which, in the manner it is used or intended to be used, is capable of producing death or serious bodily injury;

(6) Knuckles and brass or iron knuckles means any instrument that consists of finger rings or guards made of a hard substance and that is designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by striking a person with a fist enclosed in the knuckles;

Annotation : The Legislature intended the words “with a blade over three and one-half inches” to apply to daggers, dirks, knives, and stilettos, such that any of these items having blades over 3 1/2 inches are “knives” under subsection (4) of this section. Daggers, dirks, knives, or stilettos with blades over 3 1/2 inches are knives per se. When a case involves an instrument not specifically named in subsection (4) of this section, the State bears the burden of proving that the instrument is a dangerous instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds, and thus is a “knife” for purposes of section 28-1205(1). State v. Bottolfson, 259 Neb. 470, 610 N.W.2d 378 (2000).

While the language is clear in the section above, once again we run into the “any other dangerous instrument/knife/whatever” issue, whereby anything that can produce a cutting, stabbing or tearing wound that is capable of producing death or serious injury is considered a “knife” for the purposes of the statutes, not a knife per se.

Confused? Good, that means you are entering the Realm of Legalese.

While not all knives are a “knife”, or restricted weapon for the purposed of carry, all “knives” are knives per se.

This is tricky: while Nebraska is overwhelmingly “knife permissive” it would not be out of the question at all for the common person who carries a typical, folding pocketknife to, in the right circumstances according to certain authorities, be guilty of carrying a restricted “knife.”

Look again at the passages above: a “knife” (defined as a class of weapon you cannot carry concealed without a permit, e.g. dirks, daggers, stilettos and similar weapons of like kind with blades over 3 ½”) may also include knives of any description with blades less than 3 ½”.

To my knowledge, there has been no such occurrence that laid out an otherwise law-abiding good guy or good gal for such an innocuous act, but one must be aware of it, reader.

Section 28-1202 spells out the regulations for the carry of “knives” and other weapons as well as affirmative defenses:

28-1202 Carrying concealed weapon; penalty; affirmative defense.

(1)(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, any person who carries a weapon or weapons concealed on or about his or her person, such as a handgun, a knife, brass or iron knuckles, or any other deadly weapon, commits the offense of carrying a concealed weapon.

(b) It is an affirmative defense that the defendant was engaged in any lawful business, calling, or employment at the time he or she was carrying any weapon or weapons and the circumstances in which such person was placed at the time were such as to justify a prudent person in carrying the weapon or weapons for the defense of his or her person, property, or family.

(2) This section does not apply to a person who is the holder of a valid permit issued under the Concealed Handgun Permit Act if the concealed weapon the defendant is carrying is a handgun.

(3) Carrying a concealed weapon is a Class I misdemeanor.

(4) In the case of a second or subsequent conviction under this section, carrying a concealed weapon is a Class IV felony.

Annotations: In order to be a deadly weapon per se under subsection (1) of this section, the weapon must be one specifically enumerated in the statute. Whether an object or weapon not specifically named in the statute is a deadly weapon is a question of fact to be determined by the trier of fact, and the resolution of that fact question will depend on the evidence adduced as to the use or intended use of the object or weapon. State v. Williams, 218 Neb. 57, 352 N.W.2d 576 (1984). Whether an object or weapon not specifically enumerated in subsection (1) of this section was a deadly weapon is a question of fact to be decided by the trier of fact. State v. Kanger, 215 Neb. 128, 337 N.W.2d 422 (1983).

The law is clear: a concealed handgun permit, does not permit you to carry restricted knives! Don’t make the mistake of doing so; the first violation of the above section is a misdemeanor, the second is a serious felony.

The good news is that this same section also affirms as a defense against carrying an otherwise forbidden weapon as being engaged in lawful pursuits when circumstances conspired so to as require the citizen to employ the weapon justly in self defense.

Once again, to my knowledge, this has not been thoroughly tested out in court, i.e. an otherwise law-abiding citizen carrying what would nominally be an “illegal” knife (say a stiletto with a 5” blade), and had to use that knife in justified self-defense.

The fallout and precedent of such an event remain to be seen.

No-Go Zones

Again, nominally, schools, though the statutes specifically apply to school officials and students. I would not assume you are okay to carry a knife or any weapon into a school in Nebraska.

79-267 Student conduct constituting grounds for long-term suspension, expulsion, or mandatory reassignment; enumerated; alternatives for truant or tardy students.

The following student conduct shall constitute grounds for long-term suspension, expulsion, or mandatory reassignment, subject to the procedural provisions of the Student Discipline Act, when such activity occurs on school grounds, in a vehicle owned, leased, or contracted by a school being used for a school purpose or in a vehicle being driven for a school purpose by a school employee or by his or her designee, or at a school-sponsored activity or athletic event:

(1) Use of violence, force, coercion, threat, intimidation, or similar conduct in a manner that constitutes a substantial interference with school purposes;

(2) Willfully causing or attempting to cause substantial damage to property, stealing or attempting to steal property of substantial value, or repeated damage or theft involving property;

(3) Causing or attempting to cause personal injury to a school employee, to a school volunteer, or to any student. Personal injury caused by accident, self-defense, or other action undertaken on the reasonable belief that it was necessary to protect some other person shall not constitute a violation of this subdivision;

(4) Threatening or intimidating any student for the purpose of or with the intent of obtaining money or anything of value from such student;

(5) Knowingly possessing, handling, or transmitting any object or material that is ordinarily or generally considered a weapon;

(6) Engaging in the unlawful possession, selling, dispensing, or use of a controlled substance or an imitation controlled substance, as defined in section 28-401, a substance represented to be a controlled substance, or alcoholic liquor as defined in section 53-103.02 or being under the influence of a controlled substance or alcoholic liquor;

(7) Public indecency as defined in section 28-806, except that this subdivision shall apply only to students at least twelve years of age but less than nineteen years of age;

(8) Engaging in bullying as defined in section 79-2,137;

(9) Sexually assaulting or attempting to sexually assault any person if a complaint has been filed by a prosecutor in a court of competent jurisdiction alleging that the student has sexually assaulted or attempted to sexually assault any person, including sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults which occur off school grounds not at a school function, activity, or event. For purposes of this subdivision, sexual assault means sexual assault in the first degree as defined in section 28-319, sexual assault in the second degree as defined in section 28-320, sexual assault of a child in the second or third degree as defined in section 28-320.01, or sexual assault of a child in the first degree as defined in section 28-319.01, as such sections now provide or may hereafter from time to time be amended;

(10) Engaging in any other activity forbidden by the laws of the State of Nebraska which activity constitutes a danger to other students or interferes with school purposes; or

(11) A repeated violation of any rules and standards validly established pursuant to section 79-262 if such violations constitute a substantial interference with school purposes.

It is the intent of the Legislature that alternatives to suspension or expulsion be imposed against a student who is truant, tardy, or otherwise absent from required school activities.

The proscription against firearms on school grounds is clear, but nowhere is the mention of knives made. Again, while the statutes might be murky on this issue, you would be wise to exercise maximum discretion if you choose to carry any weapon or dangerous tool on the grounds of any school in the state of Nebraska.


There is no statewide preemption in the State of Nebraska. This means you’ll once again need to bone up on all the local laws covering knives in the places where you live, work and travel.

While a comprehensive review of municipal laws in Nebraska are beyond the scope of this article, it is known that the cities of Hastings and Omaha both feature restrictions on knives by type beyond what the state laws mandate. Stay aware out there!

Bottom Line

Nebraska is a generally friendly state as far as the carry of knives is concerned, but it is one with a lack of preemption, and some fairly dodgy language as far as the legality of concealed knives under the 3 ½ blade length limitation.

Other than that, the laws are clear and easy to read, and feature minimal restriction on type or action, as well as places where you are allowed to carry.

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