West Virginia Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

flag of West Virginia
flag of West Virginia

The Essentials

Legal to Carry Concealed with No Permit

  • Any knife, unless a prohibited person carrying a “dangerous weapon”.

Prohibited Persons Prohibited from Carrying “Dangerous Weapon”

  • Anyone under the age of 18 who is not emancipated or is unmarried.
  • Anyone under the age of 21

West Virginia Knife Law Overview

West Virginia is another state with highly permissive knife laws, with the only minor restrictions being on people under the age of 21 or who are otherwise forbidden from owning and using firearms, i.e. deadly weapons, which is more or less per the course in most states.

West Virginia does name some particular knife actions and styles specifically to place them by type in the category of “deadly weapon” along with other maiming instruments, but this is mostly so they always remain distinct from ordinary pocket knives that would otherwise fall outside the description.

The only speedbump on the road to freedom in West Virginia is the lack of statewide preemption which means you may, and unfortunately will, run into wildly varying prohibitions on knives from town to town, and especially in major cities. We’ll get into that near the end of the article.

Otherwise, the only thing you need to know if you are living in or traveling through West Virginia for the most part is whether or not you have lost your rights to carry a knife due to a criminal record.

So long as the answer is “no” and you are over 21 years old you and your knife are good to go!

Relevant West Virginia State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

The laws of West Virginia have explicitly enshrined the right of the citizenry to keep and bear arms, including knives.

We’ll be examining each of the most relevant language of the following statutes in the next section. Section 61 Article 7 covers the lion’s share of the laws regarding Dangerous Weapons.

  • WV Code Section 61-7-1
  • WV Code Section 61-7-2 and -2(3)
  • WV Code Section 61-7-3
  • WV Code Section 61-7-6
  • WV Code Section 61-7-7
  • WV Code Section 61-7-8
  • WV Code Section 61-7-10

WV Code 61-7-1. Legislative findings

The Legislature finds that the overwhelming support of the citizens of West Virginia for article three, section twenty-two of the Constitution of this state, commonly known as the “Right to Keep and Bear Arms Amendment”, combined with the obligation of the state to reasonably regulate the right of persons to keep and bear arms for self-defense requires the reenactment of this article.

Enough said. You will rarely if ever find clearer language regarding the right to keep and bear arms than that.

Moving speedily along to 61-7-2 which covers definitions of various dangerous weapons. Irrelevant sections concerning other weapons besides knives and piercing weapons have been omitted unless their language makes them relevant to law concerning knives as well.

WV Code 61-7-2. Definitions

(2) “Gravity knife” means any knife that has a blade released from the handle by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force and when so released is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever or other locking or catching device.

(3) “Knife” means an instrument, intended to be used or readily adaptable to be used as a weapon, consisting of a sharp-edged or sharp-pointed blade, usually made of steel, attached to a handle which is capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing or tearing wounds.

The term “knife” shall include, but not be limited to, any dagger, dirk, poniard or stiletto, with a blade over three and one-half inches in length, any switchblade knife or gravity knife and any other instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing or tearing wounds.

A pocket knife with a blade three and one-half inches or less in length, a hunting or fishing knife carried for hunting, fishing, sports or other recreational uses or a knife designed for use as a tool or household implement shall not be included within the term “knife” as defined herein unless such knife is knowingly used or intended to be used to produce serious bodily injury or death.

(4) “Switchblade knife” means any knife having a spring-operated blade which opens automatically upon pressure being applied to a button, catch or other releasing device in its handle.

(9) “Deadly weapon” means an instrument which is designed to be used to produce serious bodily injury or death or is readily adaptable to such use. The term “deadly weapon” shall include, but not be limited to, the instruments defined in subdivisions (1) through (8), inclusive, of this section or other deadly weapons of like kind or character which may be easily concealed on or about the person.

For the purposes of section one-a, article five, chapter eighteen-a of this code and section eleven-a, article seven of this chapter, in addition to the definition of “knife” set forth in subdivision (3) of this section, the term “deadly weapon” also includes any instrument included within the definition of “knife” with a blade of three and one-half inches or less in length. …

(10) “Concealed” means hidden from ordinary observation so as to prevent disclosure or recognition. A deadly weapon is concealed when it is carried on or about the person in such a manner that another person in the ordinary course of events would not be placed on notice that the deadly weapon was being carried.

For purposes of concealed handgun licensees, a licensee shall be deemed to be carrying on or about his or her person while in or on a motor vehicle if the firearm is located in a storage area in or on the motor vehicle.

Easy enough to understand so far. Any knife with a blade over three inches fits the definition of “deadly weapon” as does any kind of knife utilizing a gravity or automatic (switchblade) action.

Now, short blades under 3 ½” or any “hunting or fishing knife” carried for the purpose or “recreational or household knives” do not meet that criteria barring, as we will learn shortly, they are used as weapons or carried with intent to be used as weapons.

Concealed means exactly what you’d think it would mean, and covers the carry of deadly weapons, i.e. knives that fit into the above categories, which will be the vast majority of them, especially ones suitable for self-defense.

But, that is not such a big deal as I mentioned because just a short way down the statutes we come upon 61-7-7 which reads:

WV Code 61-7-7. Persons prohibited from possessing firearms; classifications; right of non-prohibited persons over twenty-one years of age to carry concealed deadly weapons; offenses and penalties; reinstatement of rights to possess; offenses; penalties

(c) Any person may carry a concealed deadly weapon without a license therefor who is:

(1) At least twenty-one years of age;

(2) A United States citizen or legal resident thereof;

(3) Not prohibited from possessing a firearm under the provisions of this section; and

(4) Not prohibited from possessing a firearm under the provisions of 18 U. S. C. §922(g) or (n).

Simply put, you are good to go to carry any knife at all you care to in West Virginia so long as you are over 21 years old and able to own a gun, since being disqualified from owning a gun (a deadly weapon) will naturally preclude you in the eyes of the state from possessing other deadly weapons, e.g. knives.

(3) names specific prohibitions to owning firearms and ergo knives at the state level, while (4) specifies the federal level to the same effect.

The restrictions to gun ownership of Subsection 3 are below, and abbreviated. If you have done any of the following, no knives or guns for you:

  • Convicted of any crime punishable by more than one year of imprisonment
  • Are a habitual drunkard
  • Are a habitual, unlawful user of a controlled substance
  • Have been adjudicated mentally defective
  • Have been dishonorably discharged from the military
  • Are the subject of a restraining order
  • Are guilty of any felony crime in WV or any other state

So assuming you aren’t a dirtbag or have a checkered past, you have nothing to worry about.

Now, minors have it a little tougher in WV. If you are under the age of 18, your rights regarding anything but a common pocketknife are curtailed and don’t forget your common pocketknife can be classed as a deadly weapon with a wave of the hand if you get in extenuating trouble. Younger folk are covered in Section 61-7-3 and Section 61-7-8.

WV Code 61-7-3. Carrying a deadly weapon without provisional license or other authorization by persons under twenty-one years of age; penalties

(a) Any person under twenty-one years of age and not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms under section seven of this article who carries a concealed deadly weapon, without a state license or other lawful authorization established under the provisions of this code, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $1,000 and may be imprisoned in jail for not more than twelve months for the first offense; but upon conviction of a second or subsequent offense, he or she is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be imprisoned in t a state correctional facility not less than one nor more than five years and fined not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000.

Ouch. So definitely don’t conceal carry anything from the “deadly weapons” category above if you are under 21. Now, it does not say anything about open carry, but I’d take care on pushing your luck that far. Sure, you can go die for your country at 18, but cannot be trusted to keep a knife under your jacket.

Section 61-7-8 covers folks younger than 18:

WV Code 61-7-8. Possession of deadly weapons by minors; prohibitions

Notwithstanding any other provision of this article to the contrary, a person under the age of 18 years who is not married or otherwise emancipated shall not possess or carry concealed or openly any deadly weapon: Provided, that a minor may possess a firearm upon premises owned by the minor or his or her family or on the premises of another with the permission of his or her parent or guardian…

You definitely cannot carry a deadly weapon if you are under 18 and not emancipated or married. Seems weird, but okay, I guess. The exceptions are if you are on property your family owns and you have permission from mom and dad or you are toting a firearm while hunting or going to or from hunting.

No-Go Zones

Government buildings, courts and schools, per usual. Concerning school facilities, any deadly weapon of any kind is forbidden, with only a few exceptions below. The matter of whether or not common pocket knives, i.e. non-deadly weapons are allowed in schools is unclear.

Do not ever take a knife into a public school in WV! You can, however, leave your knife locked inside your car on school grounds. Private and secondary schools are A-OK so long as the school has a written policy allowing it.

WV Code 61-7-11a Possessing deadly weapons on premises of educational facilities; reports by school principals; suspension of driver’s license; possessing deadly weapons on premises housing courts of law and family law courts

(b) (1) It is unlawful to possess a firearm or other deadly weapon:

(A) On a school bus as defined in §17A-1-1 of this code;

(B) In or on the grounds of any primary or secondary educational facility of any type: Provided, That it shall not be unlawful to possess a firearm or other deadly weapon in or on the grounds of any private primary or secondary school, if such institution has adopted a written policy allowing for possession of firearms or other deadly weapons in the facility or on the grounds thereof;

(C) At a school-sponsored function that is taking place in a specific area that is owned, rented, or leased by the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission, a county school board, or local public school for the actual period of time the function is occurring.

(2) This subsection does not apply to:

(E) A person who, as otherwise permitted by the provisions of this article, possesses an unloaded firearm or deadly weapon in a motor vehicle or leaves an unloaded firearm or deadly weapon in a locked motor vehicle;

Preemption (or the Lack Thereof)

There is absolutely no preemption regarding weapons in West Virginia, and the municipalities have taken advantage of it to make you ride the ride as they want you to while in their zone of control.

You’ll need to do your homework on a county by county and city by city basis. The gist seems to be that knives of 3” or under that do not otherwise fall into the special categories of weapon above are okay.

Bottom Line

West Virginia is a good state for knife owners overall with clear, concise and reasonably easy to follow legal language covering knives and other deadly weapons in the hands of civilians.

The state is though hampered by its lack of preemption law and a slightly fuzzy law regarding taking common knives into schools. You can do a whole lot worse that West Virginia when you want to carry a knife.

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