Knife Laws in New York

The state of New York places numerous limitations on knife ownership and knife rights within its jurisdiction. These rules are applied most stringently in New York City itself, where as many as 82,000 arrests for knife possession and 15,000 convictions annually occur due to a combination of the “stop and frisk” policy and the vagueness of New York state’s statutes in making gravity knives illegal.

The definition makes all folding knives that can be opened one-handed illegal to carry, including most pocket knives, depending on how officers and courts decide to interpret the law, though Representative Dan Quart (D-NY) introduced a bill in 2015 to make it necessary to prove intent to harm also.

According to New York state law, switchblades and gravity knives are illegal, as are ballistic knives, metal knuckle knives, sword-canes, or “shirken” (apparently a misspelling of shuriken, as this weapon is also described as a “Kung Fu star”). Other knives are illegal if they are carried with the intent to use them against another. Though knives that do not count as gravity knives and are not carried to be used against another may be technically open carried or concealed, knife owners should exercise extreme caution due to the proven hostility of New York police and courts to any and all knife ownership.

Legality of Knife Possession

Section § 265.01 of the New York Consolidated Laws of 2012 makes it a crime to possess and carry a gravity knife, switchblade knife, “pilum” ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, sword-cane, or shirken (ie shuriken) or Kung Fu star (throwing star). Mere possession of such a weapon is a Class A misdemeanor, or criminal weapons violation in the fourth degree. The police and courts tend to interpret the definition of a gravity knife so broadly as to include not only balisong knives but also regular folding pocket knives, particularly in New York City, as long as a skillful officer can open them one-handed.

Daggers, dirks, stilettos, and other “dangerous knives” are legal to own as long as they are not owned with the purpose of using them unlawfully against another person. Technically, any knife that can be legally owned can also be legally carried, openly or concealed. However, the law provides for an automatic presumption (section § 265.15) that any knife found on an individual is carried with the intent to cause illegal harm. An arrest and indictment is likely to follow, though the defendant can often make a successful defense by pointing out that the blade was not used or shown in a threatening manner and therefore was intended for self-defense (a lawful use) or for a working task (another lawful use).

Knife Length Limit

New York state imposes no legal limit on the length of a knife that may be owned or carried. However, with no preemption law, local city governments can and frequently do impose length limits for concealed carry or for knife possession or carrying in general.

Concealed Carry of Knives

Concealed carry of any knife that it is legal to own is also legal in the Empire State. However, the presumption of violent intent until a jury is convinced otherwise still applies in the case of daggers, dirks, stilettos, and the undefined “dangerous knives.”

Other Knife Law Considerations in New York

Local ordinances in New York state often outdo the state laws in severity. New York City bans concealed knives 4” long or longer, in addition to their interpretation of all pocket knives as gravity knives regardless of detents or bias towards closure. New York City also bans open carry except for a handful of approved reasons. Rochester, NY forbids all concealed carry with the exception of folding pocket knives with a maximum blade length of 3”.

New York knife law must be objectively considered unfriendly to knife ownership and knife rights. Carrying a knife within New York City in particular is a hazardous undertaking that could lead to a jail term extending up to 6 years. Carrying is safer in other areas of New York, but knife owners should be circumspect and familiarize themselves thoroughly with local knife ordinances to avoid unnecessary trouble.

Resources and Further Reading