Knife Laws in the United States

The federal government and separate state governments regulate knife laws in the United States. There is one federal law that pertains to knife ownership and use. All other laws regarding knife use are state regulations. The laws will, therefore, vary from state to state and can even vary from one municipality to another. For instance, if you are a resident living in the city of Denver in the state of Colorado, you have to abide the knife regulations existing in Denver and the state. Now consider that in just a 30-minute drive away you would be in Boulder, Colorado where you also have to abide by the knife laws established in Boulder.

As you travel from one city to another and move from Colorado to Boulder or vice versa, you have to abide by the knife laws of the state and in between both cities. The fact that various municipalities can create and enforce knife laws can really make understanding knife regulations a thorny issue. Remember that if a state government has established a preemption, then the laws established by municipalities are nullified. If such is the case, as you travel from one location to another within the state in question, you only have to abide by state law controlling knife ownership and use.

If you want an overview of knife laws in the US, scroll down to keep reading this article. If you want to find out about the laws in your state, click on it below:

1958 – The Switchblade Knife Act

Enacted in August 1958, The Switchblade Knife Act bans the creation, sale, importation, and transport of the switchblade for any commercial purposes. The Act also bans the possession and use of switchblades on Indian territories, federal lands, and any lands under federal jurisdiction. The possession or sale of switchblade knives is disallowed on Federal territorial or maritime jurisdictions like Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and other US territories. The same banning of sales and ownership applies to military bases.

The act does not stop an individual from owning a switchblade or carrying the knife when not on federal property, and it does not regulate intrastate sale/purchase of the weapon. The Act includes a definition of the switchblade to make clear what knives are included in the law. The knives are those that open by pressure of the hand when pushing a part of the device or a button or any knife with an automatic opening function, whether it opens from gravity, inertia, or both.

In the late 1980s, the Switchblade Knife Act was amended to ban the possession, creation, importation, and/or sale of ballistic knives. Again, in 2009, the Act was amended once more. Essentially, the act applies to anyone traveling from one state to another within the nation or for those who are entering property governed by the federal government.

Knife Ownership versus Carry Regulations

Ownership regulations define who can own knives and the types of knives acceptable in terms of ownership. Knife ownership laws also define those weapons that are unacceptable, as they are deemed dangerous and potentially deadly. The switchblade knife is one such weapon whereas the Bowie knife is another. The Bowie knife was strictly regulated in an effort to control dueling or knife fighting. The laws restricting Bowie knife ownership in many states remain in place today.

Just as some laws pertain to ownership, others pertain to whether a person can carry a particular knife or not, and if so, what restrictions are imposed on the person who is carrying the weapon in question. Carry laws will include restrictions on whether the weapon can be carried out in the open or in a concealed manner, and the laws will specify the knives to which the regulations apply. For instance, some states with regulations allow a person to carry a knife as long as the knife does not exceed a specified length and it is not concealed while the individual is transporting the weapon from one place to another. If the weapon is concealed then it becomes an issue where the individual is breaking the law. Typically, if a state has banned a knife from being a weapon one can carry legally, it often means the knife has no practical uses. In other words, the knife is, in reality, created for the sole purposes of being a weapon, and not a productive tool for day-to-day use.

Additional Knife Regulations

In some US states, there are regulations in place that do not allow an individual to use a knife to commit a crime or to display the knife openly for participating in an aggravating or harassing crime. Essentially, this means when an individual is committing a crime, if the person is unarmed, the penalty is less severe than it would be if the individual were found armed with one or more knives. In contrast, a knife used for utility purposes usually does not pose a legal issue.

Some states will regulate the age a person can be before they can buy a knife. Here, pocket knives, and utility knives are often legal for carrying to, from, and during work. Of course, the individual will also have to find out about place of employment regulations that can also restrict if the individual can carry the knife on the premise within the workplace. In New York State, for example, the shopper must be at least 18 years of age to purchase a knife.

As a general rule of thumb, knife laws in the United States aren’t overly strict. The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution ensures that all levels of government don’t become overly aggressive with any knife laws.

Ambiguous Laws

Anyone interested in owning and using knives, especially when wanting to carry and conceal a weapon, should be clear on any ambiguous language the state laws might have pertaining to weapon ownership and transport. For instance, it may seem obvious, at least at first, that words like “open carry,” means a person is carrying a weapon that is unconcealed and visible to other people. Some people question the ambiguity of this notion, however. The law does not specific how the individual is supposed to carry the knife as in, does it have to be fully or partially exposed? These issues are something a knife owner needs to be perfectly clear on before transporting knives from one location to another. Essentially, the individual who wants to own the knives in question must also be the individual that ensures all local state laws in relation to knife ownership are fully understood.

Open Carry Regulations

There are several different open carry regulations, including:

  • Anomalous Open Carry: The law about open carry differs from one state to another. With anomalous open carry regulations, the local regulations lend to the existence of various restrictions, including a ban on carrying a knife at all.
  • Licensed Open Carry: If a citizen has received a qualifying permit or carry license, he or she is free to carry a knife when walking and in a vehicle.
  • Non-Permissive Open Carry: This law means that people cannot open carry a weapon or one can carry a weapon under the strictest of conditions. For instance, you can carry a weapon when you are hunting or when on your property.
  • Rural Open Carry: In some places in the state, open carry is not permitted. If the population numbers are low that year in the area, then there are exceptions where knife owners can open carry their weapons.

State-by-State Legal Guide

Here at, you will find everything you need to learn about the knife laws in each state. For each state, we cover the legal issues pertaining to the legality of knife possession, the legal knife length in a state, if permitted, and we cover information on concealed carry as well as additional knife regulations.  Review the options you have by examining the written laws established by the state. Click on your state above to see this info. Ultimately, you are responsible for making sure you adhere to all laws and regulations pertaining to knife ownership in your state. Finally, you should make it a point to review the laws from time to time, as laws are often changed and modified, and it is your responsibility to remain informed about changes to local laws.


Indefinitely Wild. “What Knives You Can Carry Where in the United States.” Website. URL:

Delta Survivalist. “Is That Switchblade Legal? Knife Laws by Region and State.” Website. URL:

Additional Reading:

Weapon Laws for Dummies. “US Switchblade Laws.” Website. URL: “Knife Law.” Website. URL: