Knife ownership in Alaska is intimately connected to the state’s rugged culture and wide range of outdoor activities. Knives see frequent use in fishing, hunting, and many outdoor industries found very commonly within Alaska’s boundaries. Knife owners in this northern state benefit from a highly uniform, favorable set of knife laws legislated by the State of Alaska itself. Following passage of Act SCS HB 33 in 2013, all existing local knife laws were repealed, while municipal governments were granted only extremely limited power to regulate knife possession or use locally.
The state permits municipalities to pass laws regulating knives only if those laws are identical to those passed by the state, or if they apply to a very limited set of circumstances. Towns and cities can decide in what areas knife sales are permitted, and may ban possession of knives in the restricted areas of municipal buildings, provided that the ordinance is clearly posted at every entrance of the building.
Alaska’s law takes a very favorable view of knife owners’ rights. This includes the right to purchase and possess a wide range of knives within the state, including switchblades and gravity knives, and the right to carry and/or conceal these knives in most circumstances.
Legality of Knife Possession
The “ordinary pocket knife” is legal for any person to purchase, own, and carry concealed in Alaska. Ordinary pocket knives are defined as short knives whose blades must be pulled open physically by the user, and are stored in the handle. The maximum blade length is not specified by law, but most police departments consider the length to be either 3” or 4”. The exact definition may be subject to some police interpretation.
A switchblade, defined as any knife whose handle-stored blade flips open in response to pressing a button or similar trigger, is legal to own and carry in Alaska following the 2013 Knife Rights Act. Many websites and other sources still state, incorrectly, that switchblades are illegal to sell, buy, or carry in the state. A minor under 16 cannot legally own or carry a switchblade unless given express permission by their parent or guardian.
Gravity knives are treated similarly to switchblades in a legal sense. Persons over 16 years of age are legally entitled to buy, possess, and carry these knives, while those 16 years old or younger must first secure parental permission. Gravity knives are those that deploy their blade by gravity or centrifugal force (that is, flip open without a mechanical trigger).
Any knife that has a “bias towards closure” due to springs or similar features does not count as a switchblade or gravity knife and is likely to be classified as an ordinary pocket knife regardless of its other attributes or the method by which the blade is deployed.
Knives with fixed blades, regardless of size, are considered deadly weapons. They are regulated exactly like switchblades and gravity knives. Knives with finger rings on the grip are illegal due to a ban on brass knuckles, and finger rings provide the same functionality.
Knife Length Limit
Alaska does not place a legal limit on knife length except in defining an ordinary pocket knife. Any knife can be concealed by a person 21 years or older who is not on school property, posted municipal buildings, or entering another person’s house without permission to bring their knife with them.
Concealed Carry of Knives
Ordinary pocket knives can be carried concealed by anyone who owns one. Switchblades and gravity knives can only be carried concealed by persons 21 years of age or older. If stopped by a police officer, the person carrying a concealed knife must immediately inform the officer of the knife and, if asked, must hand over the weapon temporarily so that it can be secured. Fixed blade knives are typically treated like switchblades and gravity knives.
A knife cannot be carried concealed into a private residence without the owner’s knowledge and permission (excepting ordinary pocket knives as usual). Knives, with the same exception, also cannot be brought onto the grounds or into the buildings of any public school without the school administration’s prior permission.
Other Knife Law Considerations in Alaska
Those who want to own, carry, and use knives in Alaska face very few restrictions and must deal with a refreshingly small number of legal complexities. Whether carried to cut fishing line and gut fish, for use during hunting, for defense against animals, as a general tool, or for any other reason, adults over 21 can bring their blades legally to most locations and are offered an unrestricted choice of pocket knives, switchblades, balisong knives, gravity knives, and fixed blade knives. Alaska is a very “knife-friendly” state, seeking to restrict rights as little as possible. The state-mandated knife law uniformity makes compliance easy whether in the wilderness or the heart of a major city.
Resources and Further Reading