Do you want to carry your knife without fear of arrest? Find a place with knife-friendly laws.
But if you’re having a hard time determining which places have the most lenient knife laws, you’re not alone. Keeping track of knife laws is difficult these days. Not only does each state have its own knife regulations but in some states, each city has its own rules.
Resources Used in Rankings
How am I a judge on knife laws? Here are a few of the resources I used:
1) Doug Ritter, founder and chairman of Knife Rights. Ritter, who we interviewed in 2011, is part of the team that has helped get many of the laws passed in the states that appear on this list, so I thought his advice would be the best. He gave me his thoughts and recommendations about the subject. His rankings ultimately differed from mine, but I like to think I have some reasons.
2) Knife Rights resources. The Knife Rights website has a lot of great resources on the topic. If you aren’t a member or haven’t donated to the knife rights organization, I highly recommend doing so now.
3) American Knife & Tool Institute website. AKTI is another public advocacy group for all aspects of the knife industry. It has a pretty thorough list of knife laws throughout the United States.
4) “Knife Laws of the U.S.: Loopholes, Pitfalls & Secrets” by Evan F. Nappen. Nappen is “one of the most respected legal authorities in the nation on the topic of knife law” and his book is a great resource on knife law. The book was published in 2015, so some information was a little outdated. Knife News did a ranking in 2015 based on the book.
How States Were Ranked
The truth is nearly all of these states are nearly equal in terms of knife-friendly laws. They all have statewide preemption clauses that prevent individual municipalities from issuing their own knife laws and they all have very little restrictions.
Like I said, the order is somewhat arbitrary but it breaks down into two tiers. The first three states mentioned have a preemption law but “little quirks” as Ritter puts it. The next seven have preemption with nearly no restrictions. The order of the states in each tier could easily be reversed with no complaints from me.
Also, there are many other states that have knife-friendly laws with little to no restrictions but may not yet have preemption.
Note: This is a general overview of the laws and we recommend looking at the actual statutes for the regulations or consulting a lawyer. If you’re reading this in the future, some information may have changed.
Georgia used to have tougher knife laws, which was surprising considering it was home to BLADE Show, the largest knife show in the United States. Knife Rights helped get the preemption law passed in 2012. Then in 2017, the legal carry length was extended to blades with 12 inches.
While there are restrictions (a blade with 12 inches), you can carry pretty much any knife except for swords and machetes under the rules. Those with a weapons carry license may carry knives without limitation.
No blade longer than two inches can be carried on school grounds or at school functions.
Texas is the latest addition to this list. The Lone Star State first passed preemption in 2015; then, starting in Sept. 2017, Texans were allowed to carry any knife above 5.5 inches.
Prior to the most recent change, Bowie knives, switchblades, and other designs were restricted. Unfortunately, Knife Rights didn’t get everything it wanted with the latest law. Due to an unfortunate knife rampage before the law was set to be voted on, blades 5.5 inches or longer have some location-based restrictions.
Juveniles can only carry knives 5.5 inches or longer at their home, house, or boat.
Utah was one of the early successes for Knife Rights. It has very lenient knife laws with no knives being banned under law.
There are a few things to be aware of though. Utah prohibits carrying concealed dangerous weapons. According to AKTI, the dangerous weapon statute has been hotly contested. A knife by itself is not necessarily a dangerous weapon and it is only a dangerous weapon when used that way.
Since it can be open to interpretation, you should tread carefully.
In 2010, Knife Rights achieved its first accomplishment by helping get a knife law preemption bill passed, which repealed dozens of local knife restrictions. Ritter told me that Arizona would probably be first on his list because it was the first state that passed a preemption bill. However, while no knives are expressly forbidden, the law prohibits “carrying a deadly weapon except a pocket knife concealed on his person.”
Folders are therefore good to go, but a police officer may determine what constitutes a “deadly weapon.” This means fixed blades may be a no-go when concealed. According to a document on the Phoenix government’s website, knives are “generally regarded as tools.” Although this could easily be first on the list, the vagueness of the law is concerning.
Also, people under 21 may not carry a deadly weapon — whatever that means.
Alaska underwent a statewide preemption and switchblade ban repeal in 2013. There are essentially no knives forbidden under law, but there are some odd quirks in the law you should be aware of if you live there. For example, concealment is a factor when contacted by the police. According to the law, you should immediately tell the officer that you are carrying something if it is a knife other than a pocket knife.
You also have to get express (read: written) permission to bring a concealed knife (that’s other than an “ordinary pocket knife” into someone’s house.
Don’t take any knives to school without the permission of the Chief Administrator of the school district. This only applies to deadly weapons so you could argue a Swiss Army Knife is OK. Don’t cite me though!
5. New Hampshire
For a brief and wondrous time, New Hampshire was deemed the freest state in the land when it comes to knife laws. In 2010, it became the first state to repeal its ban on switchblades, dirks, daggers, and stilettos. Then, in 2011, it enacted knife law preemption.
New Hampshire does remain one of the best places to live if you carry knives, but there are a few minor restrictions. First, convicted felons are not allowed to carry and you are not allowed to carry in a courthouse. So sorry for all you felons out there. (This can actually be a bad thing since you can get felons for a ton of petty things, including pranks. Some even say the average person commits three felonies a day without knowing!)
Kansas is another one of those states that prohibits the possession of a knife by a convicted felon and in some locations like schools.
Generally, no knives are forbidden by law. However, there are some restrictions on throwing stars, which is somewhat odd. Like the others, switchblades are legal and there is a statewide preemption.
In 2016, Wisconsin passed a switchblade ban repeal and a knife law preemption. People are allowed to carry pretty much any knife. Concealed carry is allowed “unless other facts and circumstances that indicate a criminal or malicious intent on the part of the person apply” (947.01 Disorderly conduct). Then you could be charged with disorderly conduct.
Concealed carry is also prohibited to those who are prohibited from possessing a firearm. This includes “an individual with a prior felony conviction, an individual adjudicated delinquent for an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult, and an individual found not guilty of a felony by reason of mental disease or defect.”
Oklahoma saw the passage of a knife law preemption bill and knife ban repeal in 2015. All types of knives were removed from the unlawful items list, though AKTI warns people should still be cautious with tomahawks, axes, machetes, and throwing stars because they might be treated as other offensive weapons.
As far as I could find, there is no restriction for felons. In fact, during the latest repeal of knife bans in the state in 2016, one gun shop owner praised the allowance of cane swords and switchblades because, “People who have been convicted of a felony, something that’s not violent, like a felony DUI can’t have a gun anymore, so this would be a good self-defense weapon for them.”
There are essentially no restrictions on ownership and carry of knives in the state, according to Knife Rights.
The knife laws for Tennessee are a bit confusing because of the conflicting information out there. But thanks to the knife lobbyists that helped get legislation passed in 2013 and 2014, all knives are allowed to be carried without restriction — whether open carry or concealed.
AKTI and many other sites still have the “intent to go armed” clause in their information but that was repealed in 2014. You can check out the current laws here.
Certain knives like bowie knives, hawk bill knives, daggers, and switchblades are not allowed in schools. The absence of “knife” in general may leave this open to interpretation though.
Although Evan Nappen (author of “Knife Laws of the U.S”) and others have Tennessee as the friendliest also, Ritter told me that he would put Tennessee at seven on a list of 10 because in order to get the laws passed, they had to promise that anyone caught committing a serious crime with a switchblade would face a double sentence.
But, if you live in Tennessee and are a law-abiding citizen, feel free to carry your knives with the freedom those of us in other states aren’t afforded.