Knife Laws in Arkansas

Formerly quite restrictive regarding the ownership and carrying of knives, Arkansas completed a legislative about-face in a series of repeals from 2007 to 2013. Currently, the state is among the union’s knife-friendliest, a welcome change for those enjoying the rugged recreational charms of the Ozarks or Arkansas’ extensive park areas. The first move towards this new approach came in 2007 with the repeal of Arkansas Code 5-73-121 by H 1235, Act 83 of 2007. This eliminated a 3.5” upper length limit on knives.

A further legislative effort in 2011 assisted in lifting the knife length limit even more comprehensively at a state level. This relic of the days of Bowie knife duels no longer hampers the approximately 1 million hunters and fishermen who enjoy Arkansas’ many recreational possibilities, and who often use knives longer than 3.5”. This change was intended to benefit both individual rights and to help fill the government coffers by making the Natural State a more attractive hunting and fishing destination.

Nevertheless, Arkansas’s knife laws remain complicated by the failure of a 2013 bill, House Bill HB 1668, to pass prior to adjournment. The bill, which gave the state knife law preemption over all local laws, expired and was never passed. Therefore, local and municipal governments can still regulate knife length in contradiction to state law.

Legality of Knife Possession

The state of Arkansas makes no legal distinction between knife types. A knife is considered to be any bladed weapon capable of cutting or stabbing. This definition includes, but is not limited to, switchblades, gravity knives, Bowie knives, balisongs, butterfly knives, throwing stars, swords, spears, dirks, daggers, stilettos, and KA-BAR knives. Other than intent to use the knife for illegal purposes, length was the only determining factor for knife legality, and this restriction no longer applies.

Arkansas law makes it illegal for a minor, defined as any person younger than 18 years of age, to carry any knife except an ordinary pocket knife. Selling or giving a knife to a minor is a Class A Misdemeanor according to state code 5-73-109, “Furnishing a deadly weapon to a minor,” unless it is done with the approval of a parent or legal guardian. The law permits a peace officer to disarm a minor carrying an illegal knife without arresting them, at the peace officer’s discretion.

From the viewpoint of the state, an adult (that is a person 18 years old or older) can possess and carry any knife or bladed implement they choose. However, the lack of a preemption act means that local governments within the state are free to pass ordinances banning certain types of knives or knives over a certain length if they wish. Palmer, AR bans sheathed knives in some locations, while Texarkana forbids knives on public transport.

Knife Length Limit

The state of Arkansas formerly made it illegal to carry any knife whatsoever, openly or in concealment, with a blade longer than 3.5”, except on the owner’s property. This law, state code 5-73-121, is repealed and no longer applies on a state level. Nevertheless, many localities still enforce the 3.5” blade length limit, including Fort Smith and Eureka Springs.

Concealed Carry of Knives

The state allows concealed carry of knives of any size or construction, with the exception of school grounds, schools, and certain government buildings. Municipalities enforce these rules and may also add concealed carry ordinances of their own. Minors under 18 years of age cannot carry concealed knives anywhere in the state, with the exception of a regular pocket knife.

Other Knife Law Considerations in Arkansas

Arkansas leans strongly towards guaranteeing maximum knife right to both residents and visitors, permitting all kinds of knives with any blade length, including swords. Recent repeals of 19th century anti-Bowie laws greatly improved knife carrying options for sportsmen as well as workers and ordinary citizens.

The preemption act’s failure, however, means local authorities could potentially make trouble for an individual otherwise in compliance with state law. Though such intervention is unlikely due to Arkansas’ focus on its hunting and fishing tourism industry, research of local knife laws remains advisable for those carrying blades longer than the generally accepted limit of 3.5”.

Resources and Further Reading (Bill did not pass)