Hawaii is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. The Aloha State is known for many things, including blue waters, volcanoes, and hibiscus flowers. As a tourist haven, one can expect that Hawaii would not be the most knife-friendly. However, open carry is legal in Hawaii.
Additionally, there are relatively few restrictions on knife ownership compared to other mainland states. As an example, one cannot own balisongs, butterfly knives or switchblades – a commonality that should almost be expected in the United States.
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Additionally, one cannot conceal carry dirks, daggers or metal knuckles or similar knives in Hawaii. Where Hawaii differs from other states, in addition to its beauty and tout as an ideal destination, is in its prohibition on double-edged knives. Overall, knife law in Hawaii is relatively straightforward.
Overview of Hawaii Knife Laws
Court decisions have underscored that the law intends to only prohibit the concealed carry of items that are either (1) specifically listed, (2) manufactured to be weapon deadly or dangerous weapons or (3) modified to be weapons and only weapons. In other words, if the intention of a knife is to inflict dangerous or deadly force, it will be illegal to conceal carry that knife. The relevant law, HRS §134-51 reads, in part:
“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.”
It is important to note that any weapon that could be classified as a deadly or dangerous weapon will fall under this prohibition. Additionally, the knife at issue will be confiscated and destroyed.
It should also be noted that the definition of “other deadly or dangerous weapon” is limited to instruments whose sole design and purpose are to inflict bodily injury or death.[i] One of the most instrumental court decisions on this point comes from State v. Giltner, a 1975 case decided by the Supreme Court of Hawaii that found that a diving knife with a blade that was six and one-half inches long was not a deadly weapon.[ii] The Court noted:
“The instrument recovered by the police is a “Sea Hunter” model diver’s knife, which is standard equipment for many divers engaged in deep-sea diving. It consists of a hard rubber handle with a blade measuring slightly less than 6 ½ inches in length, one edge being serrated for most of its length and then curving convexly to the point.
Since there is no indication from the statute itself or its legislative history that the Legislature intended to enlarge the definition of “dagger” beyond its usual and ordinary meaning, we find that the trial judge erred in concluding that the knife in question was a “dagger” within the meaning of the statute.”
Limitations on Switchblades and Butterfly Knives
Switchblades are specifically outlawed in Hawaii. Switchblades are banned by the following: “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.”[iii] Knife owners should be cognizant that the definition of a switchblade is relatively broad here.
Similarly, butterfly knives are also illegal to own in Hawaii and banned by the following language: “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.”[iv] Given that both butterfly knives and switchblades are specifically discussed in Hawaii’s laws, it would be prudent for knife owners to familiarize themselves with these definitions.
Permitted Knives in Hawaii
There are no limits to the length of the knife blade, and nearly any type of knife ownership is legal with the exception of butterfly knives and switchblades. Knives in Hawaii that can be owned and carried, either openly or concealed, include:
- Pocket knives
- Bowie knives
- Small or large single-edged fixed blade knives
- Cane knives
- Kitchen knives
Note that double-edged knives are not specifically permitted in Hawaii. It is important to understand that there is confusion on whether double-edged knives are legal.
Double-Edged Diver’s Knives
As explained by the Knifeden, double-edged diver’s knives exist in a grey area: “On the one hand, they clearly fall into the category of ‘dirks or daggers,’ due to their double edge. On the other hand, when carried by someone actually engaged in swimming or diving, they no longer qualify as “deadly or dangerous weapons” because such weapons are blades with no purpose other than fighting or inflicting injury.”[v] While diver’s knives are discussed in the Giltner case cited above, remember that the Court defined the knife at issue in great detail noting that the blade measurements and that there was one edge.
Carry Limits in Hawaii
It is illegal to conceal carry dirks, daggers and similar knives. Additionally, like many other states, it is illegal to conceal carry knives with knuckles.
Knife Laws Moving Forward
The knife laws of Hawaii are intended to be specific. However, the law surrounding double-edged knives are less understood. Double-edged diver’s knives have a specific purpose in that they are not intended to be a deadly or dangerous weapon, however, whether they can be concealed carried seems to be fact-specific. Knife owners should always strive to be cognizant of
[i] 55 H. 531, 523 P.2d 299.
[iii] HRS §134-52 (2012)
[iv]HRS § 134-53 (2012)
None of the material in this article should be interpreted as legal advice. I am not a lawyer. Never take any action with legal consequences without first consulting with a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. This article should not be relied upon for making legal decisions. This information is provided for scholarship and general information only.