Louisiana knife laws permit almost all types of knife ownership and include a very broad, permissive policy towards open and concealed carry. Practically all restrictions relate to the ownership and carrying of switchblades. Though switchblades have been outlawed for a long time, their exact definition remained vague until very recently. However, Louisiana Senate Bill 78 (SB78) from the 2012 session amended the law to provide a remarkably clear definition of switchblades and several types excluded from that category.
Peace officers may be able to carry switchblades if they claim the blade is a “rescue knife.” This matter remains in a gray area, however, as a rescue knife is not clearly defined nor are specific circumstances mentioned when these blades can and cannot be carried. Other than these corner cases, Louisiana’s knife laws offer wide latitude for personal blade choices.
Legality of Knife Possession
Knife owners and collectors in the state of Louisiana find most of their knife ownership options supported by the state’s legislation. Pocket knives, throwing knives, martial arts throwing stars, swords, machetes, daggers, large fixed blade single-edged or double-edged knives such as Bowie knives and hunting knives, stilettos, undetectable knives made from high-tech materials that cannot be picked up on metal detectors, and disguised blades such as sword canes and belt buckle knives may all be lawfully bought, sold, owned, and transferred according to the individual’s wishes.
All legal knives are eligible for open or concealed carry (though some doubt exists about certain types of concealed carry, and local ordinances sometimes supersede this rule). As usual, schools, school grounds, courthouses, prisons, and (in some areas) public parks or areas where public meetings are being held are areas where knives cannot be legally carried.
Only switchblades are illegal to own, use, or carry in Louisiana. Rescue knives designed to cut seat belts, but which otherwise resemble switchblades, are legal for law enforcement personnel to own and carry. Furthermore, State Attorney General opinion 99-332 from 1999 sets the precedent that, legally speaking, balisong knives are not considered switchblades and are therefore as legal as any other kind of blade. This is because, as Attorney General Richard Ieyoub explained, the button is manually operated, not automatically (that is, through use of a spring).
The passage of 2012’s SB78 amended RS 14:95 § 95 to exclude several other knife types from the switchblade classification, making them lawful to own, carry, and use. These include gravity knives with a detent to provide resistance to opening or spring-loading (or a simple bias) towards the closed position rather than a bias towards the open position. Knives that can be opened one-handed by pressing on a blade projection or simply to the blade itself are also legal as non-switchblades. Only switchblades opened with a button, spring, or other open-biased device are unlawful in Louisiana.
Knife Length Limit
No knife length limit is imposed by the state of Louisiana. Some local governments have ordinances which limit the length of knives suitable for concealed carry, however.
Concealed Carry of Knives
The main law of Louisiana allows concealed carry of any legal knife (that is, anything except a switchblade or other automatic knife) with no length restrictions.
Lacking a preemption law, Louisiana’s absent statutory limits on concealed knife length do not apply everywhere in the state. A number of municipalities impose a maximum blade length for concealed carry within their boundaries, complicating the situation for knife owners. These limits may be 2”, 3”, 4” or some other length depending on the town ordinance in question.
Other Knife Law Considerations in Louisiana
Louisiana’s knife laws offer great freedom of choice and action to knife owners throughout the state, though local ordinances sometimes conflict with this emphasis on knife rights. Though the law itself contains a few vague passages, there is sufficient case law precedent to set the legality of balisong knives and other one-handed knife types, exempting them from the general ban on switchblades.