Knife Laws in Minnesota

The cool, green northern state of Minnesota, sometimes dubbed the “Land of Ten Thousand Lakes,” is a popular destination for hunters and fishermen, most of whom are frequent users of knives. As might be expected, knife laws are quite relaxed in many ways despite lengthy text devoted to them in the statutes. Switchblades and metal knuckles (which probably include metal finger rings built into historic trench knives) are illegal to own or carry, but all other kinds of knives are legal.

Recreation-related knives, in particular – such as hunting knives, fishing knives, and buck knives – are treated leniently in Minnesota law, including several precedent-setting decisions. Certain knives are considered to be “dangerous weapons” and can be illegal under specific circumstances. Mainly, however, open and concealed carry are permitted, with no blade length limit concerns, as long as the carrier’s intent is not to harm others.

Without any type of preemption rule, it should be noted, local governments within Minnesota can – and sometimes do – pass their own contrary knife ordinances, imposing greater restrictions within their jurisdiction, up to a total ban on knives in a few towns.

Legality of Knife Possession

The state of Minnesota outlaws only one type of knife directly – switchblades and similar automatic knives – though its ban on metal knuckles probably applies to knives with built-in finger rings also. The 2014 Minnesota Statutes on Dangerous Weapons, section § 609.66, classifies making, selling, or owning a switchblade as a misdemeanor crime carrying a penalty of up to 90 days or 1 year in prison, plus fines, depending on whether or not the offense occurred in a public housing zone.

Every other kind of knife is fully legal to own in Minnesota, though its carrying may be somewhat more complex. Folding knives such as pocket knives and buck knives, with or without blades that can be locked open, fixed blade knives whether single-edged (Bowie knives) or double-edged (daggers), hunting and fishing knives, machetes and swords, sword-canes and other disguised blades, throwing stars or knives, and utility knives can all be owned, bought, sold, and given away within the state’s boundaries.

The right to carry (with the exception of illegal switchblades, which are always banned) is vague but apparently wide in Minnesota law. Since Minnesota’s legislation makes no mention of carrying legality beyond banning switchblades and forbidding knives on school property, along with the usual courthouses, government buildings, and prisons, the default is that any legal knife is eligible for open carry or concealed carry provided that it is not being carried with the intent to harm another person.

Recreational knives (those obviously designed for use in hunting or fishing) are particularly unlikely to draw negative attention from the authorities. However, Minnesota law § 625.16 allows those “frightened” by seeing another person carrying a dagger, sword, or “other offensive or defensive weapon” to request that a court order the carrier to deposit a “surety” (bond) for 6 months to assure their good behavior. This strange law is seldom applied, especially since the average passerby is totally unaware of it.

Carrying a knife on school property or in a school is absolutely forbidden unless the individual in question is a peace officer, a military person on active service, a student engaged in military training with official sanction to carry a knife or dangerous weapons, or if a school has decided to allow a gun and knife show to be held on its premises. A few other rare exemptions are described by Minnesota Statute § 609.66 regarding dangerous weapons.

Knife Length Limit

The state of Minnesota does not use blade length to determine the legality of a knife, only its method of opening and the location where it is carried.

Concealed Carry of Knives

Any knife legal to possess may be carried openly or concealed. However, with no preemption law, local communities can (and do) enact stricter ordinances which may ban concealed carry permitted by state law.

Other Knife Law Considerations in Minnesota

Minnesota’s laws include no limits to carrying or blade length for legal knives other than those stipulated, but the same is not always true of individual municipalities. Minneapolis and St. Paul have nearly identical ordinances relating to knives, declaring far stricter carrying rules than the state’s. The Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, § 393.10, classifies any knife with a blade longer than 4” as a “weapon” which cannot be carried openly or concealed within city limits (though it can be carried inside a locked case or box for purposes of transport, and can still be carried in the owner’s home). Woodbury, MN bans knives with blades longer than 3” from public carrying.

Knife owners should also recall that though the state of Minnesota places no limits on length, open carry, or concealed carry, most police officers have little notion of such legal niceties. Caution, circumspection, and politeness are advisable when dealing with such individuals regarding a carried blade.

Resources and Further Reading