Texas, America’s famous “Lone Star State,” has quite restrictive knife carrying laws that forbid many types of blade from public carry of any kind, open or concealed. Knife ownership is broadly based, outlawing possession of gravity knives only, but many common knife types are illegal to carry outside the owner’s home, privately owned car, or boat. Only short, single-edged pocketknives are eligible for carry in most locations, though exemptions are made for hunting, fishing, and historical reenactments.
As of 2015, bills designed to remove many of Texas’ restrictions on knife carrying are being debated by the legislature, but none have passed and their eventual passage is uncertain. Among their provisions would be a statewide preemption ruling, but until the time this bill actually becomes law, Texas remains a checkerboard of local ordinances making knife carrying and even more complex activity.
Legality of Knife Possession
It is important for those researching Texas knife law to understand the usage of the phrase “illegal knife” in Texan law. An illegal knife is not actually illegal to own, buy, or sell, despite the way it sounds. It is simply illegal to carry this knife in public either openly or concealed, with a very few exceptions.
Texas allows ownership of all knives and blades except for gravity knives. This includes all folding knife types, including pocket knives and switchblades, plus butterfly knives, KA-BAR knives, Bowie knives, daggers and swords, hunting and fishing knives, throwing knives and throwing stars, machetes, utility knives, disguised knives, and so on.
Despite this, most knives are classified as “illegal knives” which cannot be open or concealed carried in public spaces, with very few exceptions. The Texas Title 10 Penal Code, section § 46.01, describes illegal knives as any knife with a blade over 5.5” long, any hand instrument that can cut or cause other injuries by being thrown, daggers including dirks, stilettos, and poniards, plus other types, Bowie knives, swords, and spears.
Each of these categories is broadly, not narrowly, defined. Thus, all throwing knives, stars, shuriken, throwing axes, and related items are illegal knives. Daggers include all fixed blade double-edged knives, Bowie knives are self-explanatory, swords include sword-canes and machetes, and spears encompass all long-hafted bladed implements.
Section § 46.02 makes it a Class A misdemeanor (or a Third Degree Felony in a place where liquor is sold) to carry any of these “dangerous knives” except in a few situations. These include in the owner’s home, on their property, or in any area they individually control (such as a retail space rented for a sole proprietorship business), in a privately owned vehicle or watercraft of the knife owner, directly en route to your car or boat, while actually hunting or fishing, or while engaged in a historical reenactment.
Section § 46.03 forbids carrying illegal knives onto school grounds, and while at a polling place, courthouse, racetrack, airport, or within 1,000 feet of an officially designated place of execution on the same day that an execution is scheduled to happen.
Finally, section § 46.06 makes it illegal for anyone, including parents and guardians, to gift, loan, rent, sell, or otherwise give a dangerous knife to a person under 18 years of age.
Knife Length Limit
The only knives eligible for open or concealed carry in Texas are single-edged folding or fixed-blade knives with blades 5.5” long or less. Switchblades are now legal for open or concealed carry, but only if their blades meet the length limit and they are single-edged.
Concealed Carry of Knives
Texas does not distinguish between open and concealed carry, since most types of both are equally illegal within the state’s boundaries.
Other Knife Law Considerations in Texas
Many jurisdictions within Texas maintain their own ordinances regarding knives. Some, like Corpus Christi, impose even stricter limits on blade length – in this case banning the carrying of knives with blades longer than 3”, rather than the state’s 5.5”. Others have quirky laws little likely to see practical application today, such as Melissa, TX’s ban on people working as pedlars or those distributing handbills to carry any kind of knife at all. Statewide preemption still lies in the future, if it is in fact ever ratified.