Knife Laws in Tennessee

Joining a number of other states, Tennessee recently revised its laws governing knife possession and ownership to allow much broader rights in both of these areas. Knives with blades longer than 4” are now legal to carry, and switchblades are no longer illegal to own, buy, sell, and carry – though the maximum fine for using one in the course of a felony was doubled from $3,000 to $6,000. As of July 1st, 2014, knife ownership and carrying in Tennessee is basically unrestricted, excepting of course carrying on school property and a few other restricted sites.

The Volunteer State also rationalized its knife laws by instituting a preemption law. This means that the clutter of local ordinances relating to knives is swept away, leaving only the clear, effective state knife law as the rule for knives in all jurisdictions. Though local governments can still pass a few limited knife regulations, these cannot contradict the state law, and are automatically invalid and repealed should they do so.

Legality of Knife Possession

In Tennessee, it is currently legal to own basically any kind of knife desired, including pocket knives, switchblades, gravity knives, balisong knives, hunting knives, KA-BAR knives, throwing stars, daggers, dirks, swords, sword-canes, clasp knives, machetes, and many other single-edged and double-edged knives with fixed or folding blades. Senate Bill 1771 of 2013, which went into effect on July 1st of that year, made it legal to own switchblades, a right extended to minors as well by House Bill 581 of the same year.

All legal knives can be open carried in Tennessee (and carried concealed, also) thanks to 2014 legislation. Many older Internet resources still repeat the previous law which limited blade length to 4” or less while carrying, but this rule has been superseded.

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Knife Length Limit

The former 4” blade length limit on knives in Tennessee was lifted by Senate Bill 1438 of the 2014 session. Currently, there is no maximum blade length on knives that can be owned or carried in the Volunteer State.

Concealed Carry of Knives

Concealed carry of all legal knives is fully lawful within the state of Tennessee.

Other Knife Law Considerations in Tennessee

The state of Tennessee passed a comprehensive preemption bill in 2013, House Bill 581 of the 2013 session. This bill was signed into law, then took effect on July 1st, 2013, and has been in effect since. HB 581 made significant changes to knife law, including laying the groundwork for the full legalization of switchblade knives and making it legal to sell a switchblade knife, loan it, or give it as a gift to a minor, altering section § 39-17-1303 of the Tennessee Code Annotated.

Even more importantly from a knife owner’s perspective, Section 7 of HB 581 is an emphatic preemption rule. This section forbids metropolitan, city, and county governments from regulating knife ownership or carrying in any way that conflicts with state law. A knife owner can go anywhere in Tennessee, confident that the same law applies regardless of exactly where they happen to be in the state.

Resources and Further Reading