Carrying kitchen knives in public not protected by the right to bear arms

So holds the Washington Court of Appeals in today’s City of Seattle v. Evans (Wash Ct. App. June 30, 2014) decision. The court cites a Washington Supreme Court precedent in concluding that kitchen knives aren’t “arms” for purposes of the Washington Constitution’s right-to-bear-arms provision, which reads:

The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.

And the court decides on its own that the Second Amendment doesn’t invalidate the carrying ban:

SMC 12A.14.080 does not “eliminate all possibility of armed self-defense in public.” It does not destroy the right to bear arms in public under the guise of regulating it. This ordinance prohibits carrying a concealed or unconcealed dangerous knife or carrying a concealed deadly weapon. It does not ban all knives, nor does it ban firearms.

Note that the relevant Washington Supreme Court precedent leaves open the possibility that certain knives that are “traditional or modern arms of self-defense” are indeed protected under the Washington Constitution, though ordinary kitchen knives, it concludes, are not. Note also that the Washington ordinance exempts some carrying of knives:

A. A licensed hunter or licensed fisherman actively engaged in hunting and fishing activity including education and travel related thereto; or

B. Any person immediately engaged in an activity related to a lawful occupation which commonly requires the use of such knife, provided such knife is carried unconcealed; provided further that a dangerous knife carried openly in a sheath suspended from the waist of the person is not concealed within the meaning of this subsection;

C. Any person carrying such knife in a secure wrapper or in a tool box while traveling from the place of purchase, from or to a place of repair, or from or to such person’s home or place of business, or in moving from one (1) place of abode or business to another, or while in such person’s place of abode or fixed place of business.

Thanks to David Stearns for the pointer.

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.
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Eugene Volokh | June 30