North Dakota Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

Legal to Carry Openly:

  • Any kind of knife

Legal to Carry Concealed with Permit

• Knives including those categorized as “dangerous weapons.” See below.

North Dakota state knife laws featured

North Dakota Knife Law Overview

Compared to its southerly cousin, North Dakota is the weak sister when it comes to carry of knives and clean, easy to interpret laws. The Other Dakota has confusing, redundant and sometimes inconsistent statutes that make it easy to lose confidence in your legal status if you are not thoroughly briefed on the law.

Restrictions

The only saving grace is a state-issued or equivalent out of state permit will afford you significantly more leeway to carry what you want where you want it

There is, once again, no statewide preemption law to back you up if some uppity, rarefied air-breathing politician wants to kibosh your rights on their patch. We’ll sort out this confusing bundle of legislation below.

Relevant North Dakota State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • 62.1-01-01
  • 62.1-02-04
  • 62.1-02-05
  • 62.1-04-01
  • 62.1-04-02
  • 62.1-04-03
  • 62.1-04-03.1

Starting upon this winding misadventure into legalism, we depart upon 62.1-01-01 which helpfully defines for us the term dangerous weapon as well as other commonly used terms pertaining to the discussion thereof under the law:

62.1-01-01. General definitions.

As used in this title, unless the context otherwise requires:

“Dangerous weapon” includes any switchblade or gravity knife, machete, scimitar, stiletto, sword, dagger, or knife with a blade of five inches [12.7 centimeters] or more; any throwing star, nunchaku, or other martial arts weapon; any billy, blackjack, sap, bludgeon, cudgel, metal knuckles, or sand club; any slungshot; any bow and arrow, crossbow, or spear; any weapon that will expel, or is readily capable of expelling, a projectile by the action of a spring, compressed air, or compressed gas, including any such weapon, loaded or unloaded, commonly referred to as a BB gun, air rifle, or CO2 gun; and any projector of a bomb or any object containing or capable of producing and emitting any noxious liquid, gas, or substance.

“Dangerous weapon” does not include a spray or aerosol containing CS, also known as ortho-chlorobenzamalonitrile; CN, also known as alpha-chloroacetophenone; or other irritating agent intended for use in the defense of an individual, nor does the term include a device that uses voltage for the defense of an individual, unless the device uses a projectile and voltage or the device uses a projectile and may be used to apply multiple applications of voltage during a single incident, then the term includes the device for an individual who is prohibited from possessing a firearm under this title.

2. “Direct supervision of an adult” means that an adult is present in such close proximity so as to be capable of observing and directing the actions of the individual supervised.

10. “Plain view” means the handgun is placed in such a location or carried in such a position as to be easily discernible by the ordinary observation of a passerby. In a motor vehicle, this includes being placed on the seat, dashboard, or in a gunrack as long as the handgun is not covered or is in any other way concealed from view

12. “Secured” means the firearm is closed into the trunk or nonpassenger part of the vehicle; placed into a closed and secure carrying device; rendered inoperative by the use of a trigger, hammer, cylinder, slide, or barrel-locking device that renders the firearm incapable of firing until the device is unlocked and removed; or so disassembled or disabled as to be rendered incapable of firing.

Knives of all kinds are included into the term “dangerous weapons” either by type or action (switchblade, stiletto, dagger, etc.) or by feature, in this case blade length, which North Dakota specifies as being 5” or longer.

Ostensibly, any knife which is not of forbidden type and possessing a blade shorter than 5” will be exempt from any statute regulating “dangerous weapons.” In practice, many otherwise common knives are easily snared in technical grounds by falling to the broad category of a dagger, dirk or stiletto if an unscrupulous or overzealous prosecutor wants them to.

Pay attention in particular to the definitions of “plain view” and “secured,” as the second especially will be relevant to the carry of knives in your vehicle.

Moving on to 62.1-04-01, we are provided a definition of concealed that pertains to the rest of the statutes:

62.1-04-01. Definition of concealed.

A firearm or dangerous weapon is concealed if it is carried in such a manner as to not be discernible by the ordinary observation of a passerby.

There is no requirement that there be absolute invisibility of the firearm or dangerous weapon, merely that it not be ordinarily discernible.

A firearm or dangerous weapon is considered concealed if it is not secured, and is worn under clothing or carried in a bundle that is held or carried by the individual, or transported in a vehicle under the individual’s control or direction and available to the individual, including beneath the seat or in a glove compartment.

A firearm or dangerous weapon is not considered concealed if it is:

1. Carried in a belt holster which is wholly or substantially visible or carried in a case designed for carrying a firearm or dangerous weapon and which is wholly or substantially visible;

2. Locked in a closed trunk or luggage compartment of a motor vehicle;

3. Carried in the field while lawfully engaged in hunting, trapping, or target shooting, whether visible or not;

4. Carried by any person permitted by law to possess a handgun unloaded and in a secure wrapper from the place of purchase to that person’s home or place of business, or to a place of repair, or back from those locations; or

5. A bow and arrow, rifle, shotgun, unloaded handgun, or a weapon that will expel, or is readily capable of expelling, a projectile by the action of a spring, compressed air, or compressed gas including any such weapon commonly referred to as a BB gun, air rifle, or CO2 gun, while carried in a motor vehicle.

So, that is fairly troubling. As far as the standard of concealment goes, it is nebulous; “absolute invisibility” and “ordinarily discernible” don’t really mean anything, especially the latter. Discernible to who, and how?

This is one of those “a little bit pregnant” type situations: is a sheathed belt knife that is 50% covered by a light shirt concealed, or not? Could you say that a scabbard and knife handle that blend in to your clothing constitutes concealment? Tricky, tricky: you must be extremely cautious of running afoul of laws worded so; they usually are for a reason…

In your vehicle, there is not much help: you cannot keep a knife under your seat, concealed on your person or in the glove box. Other than that, if you care to lock you knife in the trunk while you drive around town or are lawfully out hunting, trapping, or target shooting you may carry concealed, but that is it without a permit. 62.1-04-02 expands on that:

62.1-04-02. Carrying concealed firearms or dangerous weapons – License distinctions.

1. An individual, other than a law enforcement officer, may not carry a firearm or dangerous weapon concealed unless the individual is licensed to do so or exempted under this chapter.

2. An individual who is not otherwise precluded from possessing a class 2 firearm and dangerous weapon license under this chapter and who has possessed for at least one year a valid driver’s license or nondriver identification card issued by the department of transportation may carry a firearm concealed under this chapter.

3. For purposes of this chapter, the difference between a class 1 and class 2 firearm and dangerous weapon license is only the extent to which a holder of either license may be eligible to receive reciprocal rights in other jurisdictions.

A class 1 firearm and dangerous weapon licenseholder is eligible to receive reciprocal rights in more jurisdictions than a class 2 firearm and dangerous weapon license holder. The rights and privileges conveyed by a class 1 or class 2 firearm and dangerous weapon license within the state are identical.

Plainly put, if you have a permit, you can carry knives and other dangerous weapons concealed on or about your person. We can also see that any visitors or recent transplants to North Dakota can carry a concealed dangerous weapon if they share reciprocity with ND in 62.1-04-03.1:

62.1-04-03.1. Reciprocity.

A person who has a valid license issued by another state to carry a concealed firearm or dangerous weapon in that state and whose state grants to residents of this state the right to carry a concealed firearm or dangerous weapon without requiring a separate license to carry a concealed firearm or dangerous weapon issued by that state may carry, subject to the provisions of this state’s law, a concealed firearm or dangerous weapon in this state, and the other state’s license is valid in this state.

No-Go Zones

Quite a few. The highlight reel includes churches, places that serve alcohol for consumption on premises and schools, along with other publicly owned buildings. 62.1-02-04 and 62.1-02-05 have all the details you could want, and plenty you don’t:

62.1-02-04. Possession of firearm or dangerous weapon in liquor establishment prohibited – Penalty – Exceptions.

An individual who enters or remains in that part of the establishment set aside for the retail sale of alcoholic beverages and the consumption of purchased alcoholic beverages or used as a gaming site at which bingo is the primary gaming activity while that individual knowingly possesses a firearm or dangerous weapon is guilty of an infraction.

In addition, an individual is guilty of an offense under this section for the knowing possession of a device that uses a projectile and voltage or a device that uses a projectile and may be used to apply multiple applications of voltage during a single incident in the part of an establishment set aside for the retail sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages.

2. This section does not apply to:

  • A law enforcement officer.
  • The proprietor.
  • The proprietor’s employee.
  • A designee of the proprietor when the designee is displaying an unloaded firearm or dangerous weapon as a prize or sale item in a raffle or auction.
  • Private security personnel while on duty for the purpose of delivering or receiving moneys used at the liquor establishment or at the gaming site at which bingo is the primary gaming activity.
  • The restaurant part of an establishment if an individual under twenty-one years of age is not prohibited in that part of the establishment.

If you aren’t a cop, the owner, the owner’s employee or a hired cash collector/armored car guard, don’t carry your knife in there. You’ll notice there is no exception for license holders.

62.1-02-05. Possession of a firearm or dangerous weapon at a public gathering – Penalty – Application.

1. An individual who knowingly possesses a firearm or dangerous weapon at a public gathering is guilty of an infraction. For the purpose of this section, “public gathering” means an athletic or sporting event, a school, a church or other place of worship, and a publicly owned or operated building.

2. This section does not apply to:

a. A law enforcement officer, or a correctional officer employed by the department of corrections and rehabilitation or by a correctional facility governed by chapter 12-44.1.

A correctional officer employed by the department of corrections and rehabilitation may carry a firearm only as authorized in section 12-47-34. A correctional officer employed by a correctional facility governed by chapter 12-44.1 may carry a firearm or dangerous weapon only as authorized in section 12-44.1-30;

b. A member of the armed forces of the United States or national guard, organized reserves, state defense forces, or state guard organizations, when on duty;

c. A competitor participating in an organized sport shooting event;

d. A gun or antique show;

e. A participant using a blank cartridge firearm at a sporting or theatrical event;

f. A firearm or dangerous weapon carried in a temporary residence or motor vehicle;

g. A student and an instructor at a hunter safety class;

h. Private and public security personnel while on duty;

i. A state or federal park;

j. An instructor, a test administrator, an official, or a participant in educational, training, cultural, or competitive events involving the authorized use of a dangerous weapon if the event occurs with permission of the person or entity with authority over the function or premises in question;

k. An individual in a publicly owned or operated rest area or restroom;

l. An individual possessing a valid concealed weapons license from this state or who has reciprocity under section 62.1-04-03.1 authorizing the individual to carry a firearm or dangerous weapon concealed if the individual is in a church building or other place of worship and has the approval to carry in the church building or other place of worship by a primary religious leader of the church or other place of worship or the governing body of the church or other place of worship;

So, sporting events, schools, churches or other places of worship, and publicly owned or operated buildings are out. You’ll again see there is no exception save one (assuming you aren’t a cop): if you have a permit and if you get the permission of the religious leader of a church then and only then may you carry at your place of worship. Otherwise, don’t do it.

Preemption

None. You will be contending with local ordinances and big city laws that may certainly be more restrictive than these fairly stout state laws.

The cities of Fargo, Bismark and Grand Forks all have significant restrictions beyond what has been shown above. You know the drill; do your homework, know the law backwards and forwards. Ignorance is never an excuse.

Bottom Line

North Dakota has little of the friendliness to carried weapons that its southern sibling does. A permit will afford you more latitude in concealing knives on your person or in your car, but does nothing to ease tedious restrictions on forbidden locations and a total lack of statewide preemption.

Maybe we should all be thankful we can carry at all in this former deep country state, but I for one appreciate a big serving of freedom instead of Big Brother finger-wagging.

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About Tom Marlowe

Tom Marlowe
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.

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