Connecticut’s knife laws present a study in contrasts. On one hand, possession of any type of knife, including exotic and dangerous types such as ballistic knives, is completely legal, and they may be displayed or carried in the owner’s home or on the owner’s property. However, restrictions on carrying knives in public are very strict. Connecticut law bans many common knife types from public carrying and use outright, unless they are in the hands of a person in possession of an appropriate hunting, fishing, or trade license.
The Nutmeg State’s laws also include the distinctive feature that open carry and concealed carry are treated in an identical legal fashion in most cases. Knife characteristics combined with extremely uncompromising blade length restrictions define the legality of blades, not whether they are carried in a plainly evident belt sheath or hidden in the owner’s clothing.
Legality of Knife Possession
Ownership of knives is completely unrestricted in Connecticut. As long as a knife remains in the owner’s home, it is perfectly legal to possess fixed blade knives of any length, balisong knives, gravity knives, switchblades, ballistic knives, antique knives, Bowie knives, swords, machetes, sword canes, disguised blades like belt buckle knives or an oil dipstick knife, stilettos, dirks, daggers, locking blade knives, or any other type.
Buying and selling of all kinds of knives is also fully permitted. Rules are in place enabling legal transfer of knives otherwise illegal in public to a place of sale, or from a place of sale to the purchaser’s home. Knife stores and knife shows are both legal in Connecticut, though the products they offer may be illegal on the street.
Section 53-206 of the 2011 Connecticut Code (Title 53 crimes, Chapter 943, “Offenses Against Public Peace and Safety”) makes it illegal to carry knives classified as “dangerous weapons.” The section goes on to describe the specific knives banned. “Switch knives” – that is, switchblades, gravity knives, ballistic knives, and similar blades – are illegal, as are “dirk knives,” stilettos, or otherwise permissible knives violating the state’s knife length limits. A dirk knife is a catchall description covering any knife with two edges, which, depending on the interpretation of a police officer, may include single-edged Bowie knives with a sharpened clip. Only short, single-edged knives are universally legal in Connecticut.
Section 53-206 also provides common-sense exceptions to the general rule. Since practically every kind of knife devised by the human mind can be bought, sold, and kept in the home in Connecticut, dealers are permitted to transport knives for sale at knife shows or other retail locations. Private individuals can also transport otherwise illegal to carry knives when shifting the blades directly from one location to another in a lawful manner. This portion of the code (paragraph [b]) applies to people bringing a knife home after buying it at a gun or knife exhibition, and to transferring knives to a new main residence after selling or otherwise vacating your existing home.
People with up-to-date hunting, trapping, or fishing licenses are eligible to carry sports-related knives longer than the usual limit, though other indicators of illegality still apply. For example, switchblades remain illegal. Historical reenactors on their way to and from a reenactment, martial arts trainers, and several other categories of knife owners are also granted partial exemption from the law’s provisions to permit them to transport a knife from their residence to the place where it is to be lawfully used and back and again.
Knife Length Limit
By Connecticut law, no knife with a blade edge 4” long or longer can be carried outside the home except in narrowly defined circumstances. The length is measured along the cutting edge, meaning that curved knives have shorter legal blades overall than those with straight edges. Knives with an automatic spring release mechanism to deploy the blade from the handle (not to be confused with switchblades, which are wholly illegal) are limited to a maximum length of 1.5”.
Certain individuals are legally entitled to carry longer knives. Law enforcement personnel are exempted from this and all other “dangerous weapon” rules Connecticut applies to knives.
Concealed Carry of Knives
Connecticut makes no legal distinction between knives carried openly and those concealed in various ways about the person. Since the majority of knife types are illegal for public carrying, the distinction is largely moot since most knives still permitted would fall into the pocket knife category and probably be eligible for concealed carry in any case.
Carrying an illegal knife in a vehicle, however, subjects the offender to a more severe penalty than carrying the same knife outside a vehicle. Simply carrying an illegal knife exposes the owner to penalties including up to 3 years’ imprisonment and/or a $500 fine. The maximum legal punishment for carrying an illegal knife in a vehicle is 5 years’ incarceration and/or a $1,000 fine.
Other Knife Law Considerations in Connecticut
Connecticut’s knife laws appear designed to impose very stringent limits on public carrying of knives while preserving some rights for those requiring exemptions to pursue their hobbies or professions. People are allowed to collect or use any bladed implement desired in their own home, while exemptions enable properly documented purveyors of merchandise to transport and sell these knives to individuals. Additional exemptions permit these knife owners limited transport rights to bring purchases home or take them when moving to a new house or apartment.
Sportsmen such as hunters and fishermen gain an exemption from length limits provided they have current licenses to prove the use to which the longer knives will be put. People using a knife for a professional craft or trade are likely to be allowed to use appropriate blades. For the most part, however, “public carry” of knives is limited to short, single-edged knives lacking a quick deployment mechanism and not otherwise classed as a “dangerous weapon.”
Resources and Further Reading