Knives are mostly used for protection, hunting, or handyman work. Even though owning a knife is not illegal in the United States, each state has different regulations on the types of knives that people can have. They also explain how legal knives should be carried and used.
Federal law only prevents switchblades and ballistic knives from being transported or sold on land or property under their jurisdiction. That law does not prevent that action on state land, which must be determined by the state’s government.
Not all state knife laws are created equal. While some states lack any regulation, other states make up in kind. To cover all of those variations, we have a table including the laws and restrictions of each state regarding everything from which knives are banned to how the state handles concealed carry.
The states with the most involved or confusing knife laws include
Despite our best efforts to explain and interpret the law for clarity, these can be very confusing, so please do your own research and even go as far as to contact the state or municipality you plan on visiting to save yourself any headaches later.
California is known for having rather complicated weapon laws, and knives are no exception. It is completely unlawful to bring a weapon into public spaces like schools, public buildings, and any property owned by the U.S. government. As for knives you cannot own or carry, those include air gauge knives, belt buckle knives, lipstick knives, writing pen knives, undetectable knives, Shobi-zue (a staff or rod containing a blade), cane knives, ballistic knives, and switchblades with a blade longer than 2 inches.
Knives you can carry are, as a result, limited. Any automatic knife (spring-loaded) is unlawful to carry, especially in a concealed manner. Switchblades with blades shorter than 2 inches may be carried.
The only knives that can be concealed carried are ones in a folding position, and there are no restrictions on the blade length. Fixed blade knives, such as dirks, daggers, and other sheathed knives, must be open-carried and cannot be concealed.
In Delaware, any knives that are spring-loaded or released by gravity are banned. The law is written so that it could include balisong knives even though they are not released by a spring or gravity.
Knives you cannot own include automatic/switchblades, gravity knives, undetectable knives, throwing stars, and knuckle knives. Knives you can own, as in keep on your property, include all folding knives, fixed knives, dirks, daggers, and butterfly knives.
Restrictions on what you can carry on your person only apply to concealed carry. Basically, it is illegal for any knife that’s not a pocket knife (a folding knife) or has a blade 3 inches or greater to be concealed.
Maine is known for having rather vague knife laws. There are no limitations on what you can own, but concealed carry has many restrictions. It is illegal to carry concealed Bowie knives, dirks, stilettos, and other dangerous or deadly weapons. You can, on the other hand, carry all of these knives out in the open.
The only knives you can carry concealed are regular folding knives and any of the above knives if used to hunt, fish, or trap.
Massachusetts has very few limitations on what you can own. These include balisong knives, butterfly knives, switchblades, automatic knives, dirks, daggers, stilettos, push knives, knives with brass knuckles, disguised knives, large knives (Bowie knives), and throwing knives.
Carry and concealed carry is where it gets a bit more tricky. Firstly, it’s illegal to carry on your person (concealed or open), double-edged knives, automatic knives, switchblades, dirks, daggers, stilettos, ballistic knives, and knuckle knives. It is also illegal to carry any item believed to be dangerous while disturbing the peace or being arrested.
In Massachusetts, it is legal to carry folding knives, Swiss army, and kitchen knives on your person as long as you do not behave in a way that makes them dangerous.
Stilettos, daggers, double-edged knives, ballistic knives, automatic knives with a blade longer than one and one half (1 ½) inches, and any device which enables a knife with a locking blade to be drawn at a locked position is legally considered a “dangerous items.”
While there are no knives that are restricted or banned under Michigan law, concealed carry is heavily restricted, including what knives can be carried and where you can carry them.
Concealed carry is unlawful for knives such as daggers, dirks, stilettos, double-edged non-folding stabbing instruments of any length, and “any other dangerous weapon”. The only exception is hunting knives and switchblades (spring-assisted knives) that are “adapted and carried as such”.
It’s not news that New York has stricter weapon laws than almost any other state, so be sure to do your research and take precautions as laws are changing all the time.
New York law does not differentiate between concealed and unconcealed carry, so if you are carrying a blade on your person for any reason, you have to be sure that it is fixed and less than 4 inches in length. These knives may only be located where others cannot see them. There are several types of knives you cannot carry on your person, including folding knives, balisong knives, automatic or spring-loaded knives, and pileum ballistic.
There are multiple knives banned for non-exempted citizens under New York law, including switchblades (automatic or spring-loaded knives), ballistic knives, metal knuckle knives, and cane swords. Any person under the age of 16 is not allowed to possess a “dangerous knife.” In addition to that, all knives are illegal on New York’s subways.
Also, while some knives are not technically illegal, they may become illegal based on the intent of use. Knives in this category include daggers, dirks, stilettos, machetes, dangerous knives, or razors.
Surprisingly, North Carolina is another state with knife laws that are a bit hard to follow. First, residents are required by law to open carry all knives except pocket knives, even though you are allowed to own many other kinds.
The only type of knife that is banned in North Carolina is the ballistic knife. And while there are exceptions to all of these rules, they are very limited. Altogether, owning knives is not heavily regulated in this state, but carrying is.
In Oregon, ownership of knives is legally lenient. The only rule that they have regarding knife ownership is that a person who has committed a felony cannot own one. The types of knives that people can own in this state include dirks, daggers, or other stabbing knives, bowie knives, switchblades or other automatic knives, ballistic knives, gravity knives, balisong (butterfly) knives, and balisong trainers, and stilettos.
When it comes to concealed carry, the only types of knives that are prohibited are automatic knives, assisted opening knives, dirks, daggers, or ice picks.
Concealment of “dangerous weapons” in the state of Washington is a crime. This basically means that concealed carry is illegal, but the intent is what matters most. In a case where an officer performed a pat-down on someone involved in a disturbance, the officer found a 3-inch paring knife on a teen, who was later charged with that crime. Even though the case was later dropped because the intent was not established, you get the idea. When traveling in the state, be aware that laws are written in such a way that potentially makes any concealed carry illegal. Otherwise, you are able to own anything other than “spring blade” knives. Open carry is generally allowed.