Every state has its own laws regarding carrying a concealed weapon, and many of these laws apply to knives as well as firearms. Some cities even add their own restrictions on concealed weapons, leading many residents to become confused about wither it’s legal to carry a multi-tool in your pocket.
The good news is that despite the confusing language of many concealed weapons laws, carrying a multi-tool is usually legal.
Example of a Concealed Weapons Law
Here’s a look at a sample of a concealed weapons law, this one from Oregon:
Oregon Public Order Offense 166.240 Carrying of concealed weapons. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, any person who carries concealed upon the person any knife having a blade that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force, any dirk, dagger, ice pick, slungshot, metal knuckles, or any similar instrument by the use of which injury could be inflicted upon the person or property of any other person, commits a Class B misdemeanor.
The confusion seems clear: People who collect or own knives for sporting and hunting purposes might think that the terms above apply to their multi-tools, or at least to a multi-tool blade. However, the law clearly pertains only to any blade “that projects or swings into position by force of a spring or by centrifugal force.” The blade on a multi-tool does not open by a spring (such as a switchblade) or sheer force (like a butterfly knife), but through a slow unfolding action. Hence, carrying a standard multi-tool is legal under this law.
This is made even clearer in a further subsection regarding carrying concealed weapons in public buildings: “Any dirk, dagger, ice pick, slingshot, metal knuckles or any similar instrument or a knife other than an ordinary pocket knife, the use of which could inflict injury upon a person or property”… is prohibited. So, upon closer inspection, it seems clear that you can carry your multi-tools and pocket knives around legally.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are a few exceptions. First, if you have had prior trouble with the law, you might want to speak with your local law enforcement before carrying a pocket knife or multi-tool; otherwise, you might be charged with concealed weapon because of your prior record. Even a multi-tool could be considered a weapon in some situations.
Second, never carry a multi-tool or pocket knife with you through the airport terminal. You will be stopped, and in most cases you will have to give it up or throw it away. Always pack your multi-tools safely in your checked luggage.
As for those awesome Bowie and Damascus sporting knives you received for your birthday, you’ll have to keep them at home or use them with you only when appropriate, like when you’re camping or hunting. Be sure to never carry any of your sporting knives into a public building, such as a school or library – otherwise you could be charged with a felony.