Brief and to the point, knife laws in Rhode Island are chiefly concerned with preventing the concealed carry of any knife or bladed implement, with the exception of a plain pocketknife whose blade measures 3” long or less. Other than this sole exception, knife owners should assume that any knife is illegal for concealed carry, and equally legal for open carry, in the Ocean State.
There are very few limitations on knife ownership in Rhode Island, though metal knuckles are illegal to own and therefore, by extension, World War I trench knives are also illegal to own. “Kung fu weapons” are also illegal to own. The law does not clarify if this includes throwing stars.
Rhode Island makes no effort to enforce a preemption rule, so local municipalities are free to add additional restrictions to knife ownership or carrying. However, since there are few large municipal governments in Rhode Island, the number of different law codes in force remains low by default.
Legality of Knife Possession
All kinds of knives are legal to possess, buy, sell, manufacture, give away, or receive in Rhode Island, with the sole exception of those featuring metal finger rings, which would qualify as illegal metal knuckles (brass knuckles). It is illegal to carry or possess, though only with the intent to unlawfully use them against another person, sword-canes, Bowie knives, daggers, dirks, stilettos, and similar implements that are capable of inflicting stabs or cuts on other individuals. In effect, all knives are illegal if owned or carried for the purpose of harming somebody, but legal if owned or carried for a different purpose.
Kung fu weapons are banned from ownership as well as carrying, except for a certified martial arts trainer who uses them as part of their training. What weapons are included in this category are not specified, but it is a reasonable interpretation to think that throwing stars, shuriken, and so on are forbidden under Rhode Island statutory law.
Open carry of any legal knife is allowed within Rhode Island’s boundaries. Of course, it is illegal to carry any kind of knife or blade onto school grounds, into a school, in a courthouse or prison, or in government buildings posted as off-limits to knives or weapons.
Knife Length Limit
The state of Rhode Island legislates no blade length limit for mere possession or open carrying of a knife. However, there is a 3” blade length limit for concealed carrying.
Concealed Carry of Knives
Section § 11-47-42 of the Rhode Island statutes forbids practically all knives except small, ordinary, folding pocket knives from being carried concealed. Metal knuckles are illegal to own or conceal, which bans trench knives and other knives with metal finger rings. Daggers, stilettos, dirks, Bowie knives, and sword-canes are illegal to carry concealed also. Finally, any knife not included in the categories above cannot be used for concealed carry if it has a blade longer than 3”.
For all practical purposes, this bans concealing any knife about the person with the exception of a regular folding pocket knife with a blade 3” long or shorter. Violation of this law results in penalties of up to a $1,000 fine, and/or 1 year in prison. Violating knives are confiscated automatically and not returned.
Other Knife Law Considerations in Rhode Island
In subsection § 11-47-42 (b), the law further stipulates that it is illegal to sell or give a Bowie knife, dagger, dirk, razor, stiletto, sword-cane, or any knife with a blade exceeding 3” to a minor under 18 years of age. The exception to this rule is if the minor’s parent or guardian provides a written document authorizing a person to sell or give one of these blades to the minor.
Some localities in Rhode Island have created their own knife laws also. These include North and South Kingstown; the first municipality outlaws knives during picketing or demonstrations, while the second bans knives longer than 3” from public parks. Overall, however, Rhode Island allows open knife carry and prohibits most concealed knife carry, making the legal situation of knives usefully clear.
Resources and Further Reading