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Snippet from Wikipedia: Knife legislation

Knife legislation is defined as the body of statutory law or case law promulgated or enacted by a government or other governing jurisdiction that prohibits, criminalizes, or restricts the otherwise legal manufacture, importation, sale, transfer, possession, transport, or use of knives.

The carrying of knives in public is forbidden or restricted by law in many countries. Exceptions may be made for hunting knives, pocket knives, and knives used for work-related purposes (chef's knives, etc.), depending upon the laws of a given jurisdiction. In turn, the carrying or possessing of certain type of knives perceived as deadly or offensive weapons such as automatic or switchblade knives or butterfly knives may be restricted or prohibited. Even where knives may be legally carried on the person generally, this right may not extend to all places and circumstances, and knives of any description may be prohibited at schools, public buildings or courthouses, and at public events.

Knife legislation is defined as the body of statutory law and/or case law promulgated or enacted by a government or other governing jurisdiction that prohibits, criminalizes, or restricts the otherwise legal manufacture, importation, sale, transfer, possession, transport, and/or use of knives.<ref>Legislation, Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, retrieved 20 August 2011</ref>

The carrying of knives in public is forbidden or restricted by law in many countries. Exceptions may be made for hunting knives, pocket knives, and knives used for work-related purposes (chef's knives, etc.), depending upon the laws of a given jurisdiction. In turn, the carrying or possessing of certain type of knives perceived as deadly or offensive weapons such as automatic or switchblade knives or butterfly knives may be restricted or prohibited. Even where knives may be legally carried on the person generally, this right may not extend to all places and circumstances, and knives of any description may be prohibited at airports, schools, public buildings or courthouses, or at public events.


In accordance with the Austrian Arms Act of 1996 (Waffengesetz 1996) it is illegal to buy, import, possess or carry weapons that are disguised as another object or as an object of common use (sword canes, e.g., or knives disguised as ink pens, brush handles or belt buckles).<ref>Waffengesetz 1996 § 17 (1): “Verboten sind der Erwerb, die Einfuhr, der Besitz, und das Führen: 1. von Waffen, deren Form geeignet ist, einen anderen Gegenstand vorzutäuschen, oder die mit Gegenständen des täglichen Gebrauches verkleidet sind.”</ref> For ordinary knives, there are no restrictions or prohibitions based on blade length or opening or locking mechanism.<ref name=“Waffengesetz 1996”>Waffengesetz (1996)</ref>

The Austrian Arms act defines weapons as “objects that by their very nature are intended to reduce or eliminate the defensive ability of a person through direct impact”.<ref name=“Waffengesetz 1996”/> Consequently certain knives are considered “weapons” in accordance with this definition. Except for firearms, however, which are heavily regulated, such knives, including automatic opening lock-blade knives (switchblades), OTF automatic knives, balisongs, and gravity knives<ref>Jell, Sonja (Magistra) Weapons Law: Knives in Austria</ref> are implicitly permitted under the Arms Act, and thus may be bought, possessed and carried by anyone over the age of 18<ref>Waffengesetz (1996) § 11. (1) Der Besitz von Waffen, Munition und Knallpatronen ist Menschen unter 18 Jahren verboten.</ref> who has not been expressively banned from owning any weapon (Waffenverbot) by the civilian authorities.<ref>Waffengesetz 1996 § 12. (1) Die Behörde hat einem Menschen den Besitz von Waffen und Munition zu verbieten (Waffenverbot), wenn bestimmte Tatsachen die Annahme rechtfertigen, daß dieser Mensch durch mißbräuchliches Verwenden von Waffen Leben, Gesundheit oder Freiheit von Menschen oder fremdes Eigentum gefährden könnte.</ref>


Article 3, §1 of the 2006 Weapons Act<ref name=“LAL”>L'Article 3 §1 La Loi du 08.06.2006, Service Public Fédéral Justice (2008), retrieved 27 August 2011</ref> lists the switchblade or automatic knife (couteaux à cran d’arrêt et à lame jaillissante), as well as butterfly knives, throwing knives, throwing stars, and knives or blades that have the appearance of other objects (i.e. sword canes, belt buckle knives, etc.) as prohibited weapons.<ref>Nouvelle Loi sur les Armes, retrieved 27 August 2011</ref> In addition to specifically prohibited knives, the police and local jurisdictions have broad discretion to authority to prohibit the carrying or possession of a wide variety of knives, to include carriage inside a vehicle, if the owner cannot establish sufficient legal reason (motif légitime) for doing so, particularly in urban areas or at public events.<ref name=“LAN”/> This discretion extends to even folding knives without a locking blade.<ref name=“LAL”/><ref name=“LAN”/>


Certain knives are designated as 'prohibited weapons' pursuant to the Criminal Code of Canada. Section 84(1) defines such knives as “a knife that has a blade that opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device attached to or in the handle of the knife”.<ref>Criminal Code of Canada</ref><ref>

</ref> By law, only those who have been granted exemption by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police via the Canadian Firearms Program are allowed to possess (but not acquire) prohibited weapons.

If one is found to be in unauthorized possession of prohibited weapon by any law enforcement officer, he or she is liable to maximum of 5 years in jail and the weapon being seized. The peace officer can then apply to a provincial court judge for the said weapon to be forfeited and be disposed as he or she sees fit. The import and export of such devices are also strictly regulated and enforced by the Canada Border Services Agency.<ref>Bringing Weapons into Canada</ref>

Examples of such knives include:<ref>Importing a Firearm or Weapon Into Canada</ref>

  • automatic knives such as switchblades
  • centrifugal knives such as flick knives or butterfly knives;
  • Constant Companion (belt-buckle knife)
  • finger rings with blades or other sharp objects projecting from the surface;
  • spiked wristbands;

One-handed opening knives have been designated as legal to import by Canada Border Services as long as they don't fall into one of the prohibited categories.

There is no length restriction on carrying knives within the Criminal Code of Canada; the only restriction is for concealed carry.


Due to concerns about potential violence at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China began restricting “dangerous knives”, requiring that purchasers register with the government when purchasing these knives. Included in the new restrictions are knives with "blood grooves", lockblade knives, knives with blades measuring over 22&nbsp;cm (8.6&nbsp;in) in length, and knives with blades over 15&nbsp;cm in length also having a point angle of less than 60 degrees.<ref>

</ref> As of January 2011, according to an authorized Leatherman dealer in Beijing all knives with a locking blade are illegal unless they are part of a larger multi-tool like a leatherman.

However, many people still carry locking pocket knives especially when camping with no issues. He suggested carrying locking knives in checked luggage on airplanes, and on your person in trains and subways since they could be confiscated if found in a bag. Foreigners are generally given a bit more leeway in China so if a traveler is caught with a small knife there will probably be no prosecution and at most confiscation.

Czech Republic

Czech weapon law from the year 2002 concerns firearms only,<ref>

</ref> with no other legislation concerning knives in existence (with the exception of the paragraphs of the penal code penalizing the use of any weapons in criminal offenses). This means there are no restrictions on the possession or carrying of any types of knives or swords, not that it is common or considered appropriate to carry one openly in public places such as streets or public buildings.


In Denmark fixed-blade knives are legal to own if the blade is no longer than 12&nbsp;cm (4.75-in.). Blades over this length may only be legally owned if the possessor has a legitimate reason for carrying the knife and/or a special collector's permit. However, such knives are still generally illegal to carry in public, whether on one's person or in a vehicle, unless transported in such as manner as to prevent ready access by the owner (lockbox, locked trunk, etc.) Folding, non-lock blade knives are legal to carry if the blade length does not exceed 7&nbsp;cm (2.756-in.). Locking knives and knives over 7&nbsp;cm must be transported in public so as not to allow ready access by the owner. Knives with blades that may be opened with one hand (even if the one-hand opening mechanism has been removed), automatic-opening knives (switchblades), push daggers, gravity knives, throwing knives, disguised knives (belt-buckle knife, sword cane, etc.) and knives with ready access by the wearer (neck or belt knives, boot knives, etc.) are illegal to own or possess. Multi-tools featuring one-hand opening blades are also illegal to own or possess.<ref name=“LAN”>Lang, Oliver, Messer in Europa: Mit Dem Messer Auf Reisen, Übersicht&nbsp;– Messer & Recht im Ausland, Messer Magasin (March 2010)</ref>


As of 2011 in the Netherlands a new law prohibits ownership or possession of the following knives, whether kept at home or not: Stilettos, switchblades, folding knives with more than one cutting edge, throwing knives, folding knives with an overall length of more than 28&nbsp;cm when open, butterfly (balisong) or gravity knives, disguised knives (belt knife, sword cane, etc.) and push daggers.<ref name=“LAN”/> Also, it is illegal to carry a fixed-blade knife with more than one cutting edge, though such a knife may be kept at home for collector purposes.<ref name=“LAN”/>

In addition to national laws, each Dutch city and urban district has the right to prohibit carrying of any knife that can potentially be used as a weapon in certain “no-go” areas.<ref name=“LAN”/> Normally a “no-go” area includes all built-up urban areas including bars, cafés, concerts, and public gathering places or events.<ref name=“LAN”/> In public, a knife must be transported in such a manner so that it is not directly usable by the owner, such as storing the knife in a locked case for carrying in a backpack, or placing the locked-up knife in a storage area of a vehicle separate from the passenger compartment.<ref name=“LAN”/>


German knife law establishes three categories of knives: 1) prohibited knives; 2) knives designated as cutting and thrusting weapons; and 3) other knives. Some knives are additionally classified as restricted-use, in that they may be possessed in the home or business, but may not be carried on the person.<ref name=“MES”>Die Rechtslage - WaffG und Messer, retrieved 27 August 2011</ref> In addition, paragraph 42 section 5 of the Weapons Act gives each German state the option in certain areas to enact local regulations prohibiting the carrying of weapons “and any dangerous objects” in so-called “weapons ban” areas for purposes of protecting public safety and order.<ref name=“MES”/> “Weapons ban” areas have been enacted in Berlin and Hamburg.<ref name=“MES”/>

Prohibited knives

German law prohibits the manufacture, importation, or sale of butterfly knives, gravity knives, and push daggers (palm knives),<ref>Waffenrechtliche Betrachtung zum Waffentraining in der Öffentlichkeit, retrieved 27 August 2011: The law contains an exception for palm skinning knives owned or used by hunters or members of the fur industry.</ref> as well as knives designed to be disguised as another object, such as a sword cane or belt buckle knife.<ref name=“MES”/>

Automatic or switchblade knives are generally prohibited, with certain exceptions based on blade length and number of sharpened edges. Switchblades and automatic knives with telescoping blade opening designs are prohibited.<ref name=“MES”/> Side-opening automatic knives are also prohibited unless 1) the blade is no longer than 8.5&nbsp;cm, and 2) the blade is single-edged, i.e. a blade without double edges, such as a stiletto or dagger.<ref name=“MES”/>

Cutting and thrusting weapons

Knives designated as cutting and thrusting weapons, but not otherwise specifically prohibited may be possessed by persons of 18 years and older. German law defines a cutting and thrusting weapon as any object intended to reduce or eliminate the ability of a person to attack another person or to defend themselves. This includes swords, sabers, daggers, stilettos, and bayonets.<ref name=“MES”/> For example, as a bayonet is a military weapon intended to injure or kill people, it is regarded as a weapon by the criminal law. In contrast, a machete is regarded as a tool to clear dense vegetation.<ref name=“MES”/> Knives classed as cutting and thrusting weapons are generally restricted to possession and use on private property, and may not be carried in public ready for use or at certain public events.

Restricted-use knives

All knives that are not illegal or classified as weapons may be legally purchased, owned, and used by anyone on private property. However, some knives are restricted from being carried in public for ready use (Führen), which is defined as exercising actual control of a restricted-class knife outside the home, business, or private property, where the knife is immediately accessible and usable by the possessor in a public area.<ref name=“WAF”>Waffenrechtliche Betrachtung zum Waffentraining in der Öffentlichkeit, retrieved 27 August 2011: Technically, “exercising control over” the knife. This section would apply to those who exercise actual control of a listed knife outside the home, business premises or their own fenced-in property, where the knife is immediately accessible and usable, and in the public sector (for example, city street or park)</ref> Restricted-use knives include:

  • All cutting and thrusting weapons such as daggers, swords, or stilettos (see above 2.)
  • All folding knives that are locking and have a one-handed opening mechanism (whether automatic, assisted-opening, or manual in nature). A knife that has only one of these two features may be legal to carry (namely provided it does not violate the principles below and above).
  • All knives with fixed blades over 12.0&nbsp;cm.<ref name=“MES”/><ref name=“WAF”/>

Restricted-use knives may be carried if transported in a locked, sealed container, or if there is a commonly accepted legitimate purpose for carrying it ready for use, such as participation in a historical reenactment, sporting use (i.e. hunting), or as a necessary tool in a trade or business.<ref name=“MES”/><ref name=“WAF”/> The desire to defend oneself, or to use the knife as a tool without proof of necessity for its use is ordinarily not considered a legitimate purpose under the law.<ref name=“MES”/><ref name=“WAF”/>


It is illegal to carry a knife for use as a weapon in attack or defense. The only general restriction is intended use, not the properties of the knife itself (in particular, there is no restriction of blade length, despite popular belief). In practice there will be significant leeway for interpretation and much will depend on whether a use other than as a weapon can be argued, for which the properties of the knife in question will be relevant. In addition, it is not allowed to carry knives in certain places, such as courtrooms, to football matches, etc.

While carrying a knife is very unusual in the urban centers of Greece, many sorts of knives are used with no problems outside of towns, though normally not carried openly. The general level of violence and crime is much lower than in most of the European Union.

Law 2168/1993 on weapons, explosives, etc.

“Article 1. Meaning of terms, applicability

§ 2. Objects that offer themselves [είναι πρόσφορα] to attack or defense are also considered weapons. In particular:

b) Knives of all sorts, except those where ownership is justified by use in the home, profession or education, or art, hunting, fishing or other similar uses.”

The remaining sections refer to: a) sprays and electro-shockers, c) knuckle dusters, clubs, nunchakus, etc., d) flame throwers or chemical sprays, e) fishing spear-guns.

No license is needed for import, trade or carrying of knives for these uses (Art 7, 5).

See also the constitutional court decision 1299/2008 <ref>1299/2008</ref> where the intended use of the weapon found in the car of two criminals is the point of discussion.

A useful article from a hunting journal (in Greek).<ref>article from a hunting journal</ref>

Hong Kong

Under the Weapons Ordinance (HK Laws. Chap 217), certain knives are designated as 'prohibited weapons', including:

  • Gravity knife
  • Knuckleduster whether spiked or not and with or without blade
  • Any bladed or pointed weapon designed to be used in a fashion whereby the handle is held in a clenched fist and the blade or point protrudes between the fingers of the fist
  • Any knife the blade of which is exposed by a spring or other mechanical or electric device

Possession of prohibited weapon is illegal under section 4 of the ordinance and offender is liable to a fine of and to imprisonment for 3 years.<ref>S.4 ''Weapons Ordinance''</ref> Any Police officers or Customs officers can seize and detain any prohibited weapon. Once convicted, the weapon is automatically forfeited to the government and can then be disposed of by the Commissioner of Police.<ref>S.13 ''Weapons Ordinance''</ref>


Carrying a knife with blade length over

is prohibited in public places in Hungary unless justified by sport, work or everyday activity. Automatic Knives, throwing stars and “French knives” are prohibited regardless of blade length and may be sold only to members of the army, law enforcement and the national security agency. Violation may be punished with a fine up to 50000 HUF. Possession at home and transportation in secure wrapping is allowed for everyone.<ref>



Any fixed knife containing a blade length of 15&nbsp;cm or more requires permission from the prefectural public safety commission in order to possess. Permission requirements also apply to any type of pocket knife over 6&nbsp;cm (including Automatic Knives), spears over 15&nbsp;cm in blade length, and Japanese halberds.<ref>

</ref> All knives with a blade length over 6&nbsp;cm are prohibited from being carried, under a crime law,<ref>

</ref> with an exception for carrying for duty or other justifiable reasons. There is a penalty of up to 2 years prison or up to a ¥300000 yen fine.


All kind of knives are regarded as dangerous tools, but are not considered weapons under Polish law,<ref>Act of 21 May 1999 on weapons and ammunition (Dz.U. 1999 nr 53 poz. 549)</ref> so no restriction related to weapons apply. The exception is a blade hidden in an object that doesn't look like a weapon (a sword in an umbrella, a dagger in a shoe etc.). It is legal to sell, buy, trade and possess any knives, and Polish law does not prohibit carrying a knife in a public place. However, certain prohibitions in possession of so-called “dangerous tools” may apply during mass events.<ref>Act of 20 March 2009 on the safety of the mass events (Dz.U. 2009 nr 62 poz. 504)</ref>


Latvian legislation “Law On the Handling of Weapons” defines knives as: :(1) Cold weapon&nbsp;– an object that has the features of a weapon and that is intended to cause damage utilising human muscle strength or special mechanisms. and prohibits :(2) carry non-firearm weapons except the non-firearm weapons necessary for hunters&nbsp;– in hunting and non-firearms necessary to sportsmen for the relevant sport&nbsp;– in competitions or training.<ref>Latvian law On the Handling of Weapons law</ref>


According to Lithuanian law it is legal to possess and carry most types of knives. This includes hunting knives, pocket knives, multi-tools, survivor knives, balisongs etc. as knives are not considered weapons. The only exception are switchblades. It is illegal to carry or possess a switchblade if it meets one of the following criteria: the blade is longer than 8.5&nbsp;cm; the width in the middle of the blade is less than 14% of its total length; the blade is double sided.<ref></ref><ref></ref>


In Spain there are stringent laws proscribing the carrying of armas blancas, or fighting knives, and prohibiting the manufacture, sale, possession or use of certain knives classified as prohibited weapons.<ref name=“GUAR”>Reglamentación española de armas, retrieved 31 July 2011</ref><ref name=“ARM”>Prohibited Arms, retrieved 17 December 2011</ref> Armas blancas and other sharp-bladed instruments or cutting tools may be freely purchased and owned provided they are not on the list of prohibited weapons, are not purchased or possessed by minors, are kept at home for the exclusive purpose of a collection, and are not transported on the public roads.<ref name=“GUAR”/> It is against the law generally to carry, display or use any kind of knife in public, especially knives with pointed blades, unless one is on one's own property or is working or engaged in a legitimate sporting activity requiring the use of such a knife.<ref name=“ARM”/>

The list of prohibited weapons is found in Anexo I&nbsp;– Armas prohibidas of the Real Decreto 137/1993 Por El Que Se Aprueba EL Reglamento de Armas, which prohibits the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, possession and use of sword canes, automatic knives (switchblades), as well as daggers of any type.<ref name=“ARM”/> Knives with a double-edged, pointed-tip blade blade 11&nbsp;cm (4.33&nbsp;inches) or less in length (measured from the forward end of the handle to the tip of the blade) are considered to be armas blancas, which may be owned, but not carried in public.<ref name=“ARM”/> The law also prohibits the marketing, advertising, sale, possession, and use of folding knives with a blade length exceeding 11&nbsp;cm (4.33 in.), measured from the bolster or top of the handle to the tip of the blade.<ref name=“ARM”/> Certain exceptions to the list of prohibited knives exist for legitimate knife collections and historical artifacts registered with the Guardia Civil for possession exclusively at one's own home.<ref name=“ARM”/>

Civilians are prohibited from possessing knives, machetes, and other bladed weapons officially issued to the police, military, and other official authorities without a special license.<ref name=“ARM”/> Sale of such weapons requires the presentation of an official arms license duly certifying the identity and status of the person entitled to possess such weapons.<ref name=“ARM”/>

United Kingdom

The 1689 Bill of Rights ensured that only Parliament and not the King could restrict the right of the people to bear arms. Over the last 60 years, Parliament has enacted a series of increasingly restrictive laws and acts regarding the possession and use of knives and bladed tools. The United Kingdom (to include England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) has one of the most comprehensive set of laws of any developed nation governing an individual's privilege to import, purchase, possess, sell, and carry knives.<ref>Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 (c. 5)<!-- Bot generated title --></ref>

Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959

The Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959 (amended 1961) (ROWA), prohibits the importation, sale, hire, lending, or gift of certain types of knives in England, Wales, and Scotland as of 13 June 1959<ref name=“ROOWA”>Restriction of Offensive Weapons Bill, New Statesman, retrieved 30 October 2011</ref><ref name=“ROOWA2”>Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959: Short title, commencement, and extent, retrieved 30 October 2011</ref> under Section 1:

:(1) Any person who manufactures, sells or hires or offers for sale or hire, or exposes or has in his possession for the purpose of sale or hire or lends or gives to any other person— ::(a) any knife which has a blade which opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in or attached to the handle of the knife, sometimes known as a flick knife or “flick gun”; or ::(b) any knife which has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force and which, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, spring, lever, or other device, sometimes known as a gravity knife, :shall be guilty of an offence […]<ref name=“ROOWA”/><ref name=“ROOWA2”/>

Subsection 2 also makes it illegal to import knives of this type as of 13 June 1959.<ref name=“ROOWA”/> The above legislation criminalizes the conduct of the original owner or transferor of an automatic-opening or gravity knife, not the new owner or transferee; in addition, the statute does not criminalize possession of such knives other than possession for the purpose of sale or hire. It is therefore not illegal ''per se'' to merely possess such a knife, though the difficulties of acquiring one without violating the statute makes it (almost) impossible to obtain one without either committing or abetting an offence. Furthermore, in the UK it is customary for the Metropolitan Police, not a barrister to be consulted as legal experts on a question of whether a given knife is to be considered illegal under existing under UK knife laws, and this has resulted in a tendency to interpret any bladed object of questionable status as falling within the definition of a prohibited knife.<ref name=“autogenerated1”>Behagg, Zoe, Illegal Knives Sold On eBay, BBC Watchdog, retrieved 15 December 2011: In a BBC 'sting' investigation of an auction site, the reporter brought several knives to the Metropolitan Police, including two knives described as “flick knives” that used thumb pressure on a blade protrusion to manually (not automatically) rotate the blade into the open position using one hand. These so-called “flick” knives were immediately seized and classified by an ordinary police sergeant as illegal flick knives even though the blades of the knives did not “open automatically” per Chapter 37, Section (1)(a) of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959, as amended by Ch. 22, Sect. 1 of the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1961.</ref>

Criminal Justice Act 1988

The Criminal Justice Act 1988 mainly relates to carrying knives in public places, Section 139 being the most important: :(1) Subject to subsections (4) and (5) below, any person who has an article to which this section applies with him in a public place shall be guilty of an offence. :(2) Subject to subsection (3) below, this section applies to any article which has a blade or is sharply pointed except a folding pocketknife. :(3) This section applies to a folding pocketknife if the cutting edge of its blade exceeds 3 inches. :(4) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he had good reason or lawful authority for having the article with him in a public place.

The definition of “public place” is unsettled, but can loosely be defined as anywhere the public have a legitimate right to be whether this access is paid for or not, which could include any populated area within the United Kingdom, including one's motor vehicle, which is defined by law as a 'public place' unless parked on private property. In a remote or otherwise unpopulated area, a public place could include: 1) an organised wilderness gathering or event; 2) a National Park; 3) Forestry Commission land that is held open to the public; 4) public footpaths; 5) bridleways; and 6) any area where an individual does not need to ask specific permission to walk, camp, or travel from a landowner.<ref name=“CHR”>UK Knife Law, Chris Hughes Multi Activity Services (CHMAS) Ltd.</ref>

The phrase “good reason or lawful authority” in Subsection 4 is intended to allow for “common sense” possession of knives, so that it is legal to carry a knife if there is a bona fide reason to do so. Subsection 5 gives some specific examples of bona fide reasons: a knife for use at work (e.g. a chef's knife), as part of a national costume (e.g. a sgian dubh for the Scottish national costume), or for religious reasons (e.g. a Sikh Kirpan). However, even these specific statutory exceptions have proven unavailing to knife owners at times.<ref>Sikhs protest against knife rules, BBC News, 8 April 2009</ref> It is important to note that that “good reason or lawful authority” exceptions may be difficult to establish for those not using a knife in the course of their trade or profession, but merely because the knife is needed in case of emergency or for occasional utility use.<ref name=“CAR”>Disabled Caravanner, 61, prosecuted for having Swiss Army knife in his glove box to cut up fruit on picnics, Daily Mail, 15 April 2010</ref><ref name=“SAM”/><ref name=“SAM2”>Baton Charge Racing Boss Cleared: In 2004, a businessman and ex-military officer, Nicholas Samengo-Turner, was stopped at a mass search checkpoint in London and arrested for possessing a small Swiss Army multitool with two short locking blades (2 15/16 inch/7.47 cm and 2 5/8 inch/6.68 cm) in the locked boot of his car. While eventually cleared, the arrest cost Samengo-Turner a multi-million pound business deal and thousands of pounds in court costs.</ref> A person on holiday and travelling by motor vehicle in the UK might well be obliged to purchase a knife at their destination, rather than risk prosecution if one is found by the police during a routine traffic stop or checkpoint.<ref name=“CAR”/><ref name=“SAM”/><ref name=“SAM2”/><ref>Devon, Ryan, Why that penknife in your pocket makes you a crook, This Is Devon, 17 April 2010</ref>

Although English law insists that it is the responsibility of the prosecution to provide evidence proving a crime has been committed, an individual must provide evidence to prove that they had a “good reason or lawful authority” for carrying a knife (if this is the case) upon being detained. While this may appear to be a reversal of the usual burden of proof, technically the prosecution has already proven the case (prima facie) by establishing that a knife was being carried in a public place (see Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 on Knives, etc.; New powers to tackle gun and knife crime)

As the burden of proving “good reason or lawful authority” lies with the defendant, it is likely that an individual detained and searched by the police will need to prove the following (sometimes known as the THIS list): Has THIS person got permission; to use THIS article (knife); for THIS use; on THIS land; and by THIS land owner.<ref name=“CHR”/>

The special exception which exists in the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Sec. 139) for folding knives (pocket knives) is another “common sense” measure accepting that some small knives are carried for general utility; however, even a folding pocket knife or multi-tool equipped with a blade of less than 3&nbsp;inches (76&nbsp;mm) may still be considered an offensive weapon if it has a locking blade.<ref name=“SAM”>Samengo-Turner, Nicky, The policeman found my penknife. 'You're going down, mate,' he said, The Daily Telegraph, 28 November 2004</ref><ref name=“HARR”>Harris v. DPP, 1 All ER 562, [1993] 1 WLR 82, 96 Cr App Rep 235, 157 JP 205 (1992)</ref> It is a common belief that a folding pocket knife with a blade of 3&nbsp;inches (76mm) or less must have a locking blade to be considered an offensive weapon, but the wording of the Criminal Justice Act does not mention locking and the matter becomes a question as to the definition of “folding pocket knife”. In the Crown Court appeal of Harris v. DPP (1992)<ref name=“SAM”/> and the Court of Appeal case of R. v Deegan (1998)<ref>Offence of having article with blade or point in public place</ref> the ruling that 'folding' was intended to mean 'non-locking' was upheld. As the only higher court in England and Wales to the Court of Appeal is the Supreme Court, the only way the decision in R. v. Deegan could be overturned is by a dissenting ruling by the Supreme Court or by Act of Parliament.

In Scotland, the Criminal Law (Consolidation) Act 1995 prevents the carrying of 'offensive weapons', including knives and other articles with blades or points in public places without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.

Other relevant Scotland knife legislation includes the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons Act) (Scotland), Order 2005 which bans sword canes, push daggers, butterfly (balisong knives), throwing stars, knives that can defeat metal detectors, and knives disguised as other objects, and the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2006 which makes it an offence to sell a knife, knife blade, or bladed or pointed object to a person under eighteen years of age, unless the person is sixteen or older and the knife or blade is “designed for domestic use.” In 2007, the passage of the Custodial Sentences and Weapons (Scotland) Act 2007 allowed exemption from criminal liability under section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Scotland) for selling a prohibited offensive weapon if the sale was made for purposes of theatrical performances and of rehearsals for such performances, the production of films (as defined in section 5B of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (c. 48)), or the production of television programmes (as defined in section 405(1) of the Communications Act 2003 (c. 21)).

Offensive Weapons Act 1996

The Offensive Weapons Act 1996 covers the possession of knives within school premises: :(1) Any person who has an article to which section 139 of this Act applies with him on school premises shall be guilty of an offence. :(2) Any person who has an offensive weapon within the meaning of section 1 of the M1 Prevention of Crime Act 1953 with him on school premises shall be guilty of an offence. :(3) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) or (2) above to prove that he had good reason or lawful authority for having the article or weapon with him on the premises in question. :(4) (Subsection 4 gives the same specific exceptions as subsection 139(5) with the addition of “for educational purposes”. This would appear to imply that all legislation on knives in public applies similarly to school premises, and therefore a folding pocket knife under 3 inches (76mm) in length would be considered legal.)

The Offensive Weapons Act 1996 imposes an age restriction on the sale of knives: :(1) Any person who sells to a person under the age of sixteen years an article to which this section applies shall be guilty of an offence […] :(2) Subject to subsection (3) below, this section applies to— ::(a) any knife, knife blade or razor blade…<ref>Offensive Weapons Act (1996):Under (2)(a), safety razor blades are exempted from this section, so that only straight razors are affected.</ref>

In Scotland, the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 makes it an offence to sell knives to someone under 18 years of age (including any blade, razor blade, any bladed or pointed article, or any item made or adapted for causing personal injury.)

Knives Act 1997

The Knives Act 1997 prohibits the sale of combat knives and restricts the marketing of knives as offensive weapons.

Prevention of Crime Act 1953

The Prevention of Crime Act 1953 prohibits the possession in any public place of an offensive weapon without lawful authority or reasonable excuse.<ref>Bryan v. Mott, 62 Cr App R 71 (1976): 'Lawful authority’ means those occasions where people from time to time are required to carry weapons as a matter of governmental duty, such as police officers or members of the armed forces, not private persons.</ref> The term “offensive weapon” is defined as: “any article made or adapted for use to causing injury to the person, or intended by the person having it with him for such use”.

Under the Prevention of Crime Act, otherwise 'exempt' knives carried for “good reason or lawful authority” may be still deemed illegal if authorities conclude the knife is being carried as an “offensive weapon”. In recent years, the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 has been reinterpreted by police and public prosecutors, who have persuaded the courts to minimize exceptions to prosecution on the grounds that the defendant had “lawful authority or reasonable excuse” in order to apply the Act to a wide variety of cases.<ref name=“RAM”>'Rambo' student charged with possessing six-inch plastic knife has case against him dropped, The Daily Mail, 11 November 2008</ref> This new approach now includes prosecution of citizens who have admitted carrying a knife for the sole purpose of self-defence (in the eyes of the law, this is presently viewed as an admission that the defendant intends to use the knife as an “offensive weapon”, albeit in a defensive manner, and in otherwise justifiable circumstances).<ref name=“DIR”>DirectGov, Crime and Violence: Knife crime, DirectGov UK Government Information Service, England & Wales: “If you carry a knife to protect yourself or make yourself feel safer but don’t intend to use it then you are committing a crime.”</ref> While the onus lies on the officer to prove offensive intent, UK prosecutors and courts have in the past taken the appearance and the marketing of a particular brand of knife into account when considering whether an otherwise legal knife was being carried as an offensive weapon. In addition, the Knives Act 1997 now prohibits the sale of combat knives and restricts the marketing of knives as offensive weapons. A knife which is marketed as “tactical”, “military”, “special ops”, etc. could therefore carry an extra liability. Even when the knife in question appears relatively innocuous (blade length not exceeding three inches, non-locking blade), there is the perception that anyone carrying a knife in a public place is well advised to take steps to place the knife in question out of their immediate control, i.e. storing the knife when on foot or when using public transit in the bottom of a rucksack, not on the belt, in the pocket, or around the neck, and while traveling in a privately owned motor vehicle, by placing the knife in locked storage in the vehicle boot, not in the glove compartment or in the seating area.<ref>UK Knife Law, Chris Hughes Multi Activity Services (CHMAS) Ltd.</ref><ref>Don't carry knives, Scouts told, BBC News, 8 September 2009</ref>

Custodial Sentences and Weapons Act 2007

Further legislation in Scotland, known as the Custodial Sentences and Weapons Act 2007, is now in effect (certain parts of this Act came into force on 10 September 2007). This legislation amends the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and makes it compulsory to possess a local authority license to sell knives, swords and blades (other than those designed for 'domestic use'), or to sell any sharply pointed or bladed object “which is made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person.” Any dealer in non-domestic knives will be required to hold a ‘knife dealer’s licence’.

Northern Ireland

The laws restricting knife ownership, use, possession and sale are nearly identical to the laws of Scotland and the rest of the UK, though contained in different acts.<ref>Knives and the Law, NIdirect Government Services, retrieved 25 July 2011</ref> In 2008, in response to a surge in public concern over knife-related crimes, Northern Ireland doubled the prison sentence for persons convicted of possessing a knife deemed to be an offensive weapon in a public place to four years' imprisonment, and added an evidentiary presumption in favour of prosecution for possession of a knife.<ref>Sentence doubled for knife possession in Northern Ireland, The Belfast Telegraph, 16 July 2008, retrieved 25 July 2011</ref>


In recent years, laws criminalising knife possession in the United Kingdom have been strictly interpreted and applied by police and prosecutors to citizens and foreigners alike of all ages and backgrounds, even where the evidence supporting the crime is in doubt.<ref name=“RAM”/><ref name=“McD”>McDonald, Craig, Innocent man spent three months in jail after CCTV blunder - cops mistook rose for knife, The Daily Record,, 28 August 2010</ref> This development, combined with increasingly frequent application of such laws to marginal or inadvertent offenders by the police and the public prosecutor<ref name=“SAM”/><ref>Kingston, Peter, Cutting edge research,, 10 February 2009: Public prosecutors have on occasion hired engineers to test the 'sharpness' of a blade involved in a charge in hopes of increasing the severity of the offender's sentence if convicted.</ref><ref>Allen, Nick and Bloxham, Andy, Middle classes lose faith in 'rude' police, The Daily Telegraph, 29 May 2008: A Civitas study revealed that because of requirements to meet arrest quotas, “the police seem intent on criminalising those whose offences, if they can be regarded as offences at all, are trivial.”</ref> can easily result in an arrest and a criminal charge in the event a person carrying a folding knife, scissors, plastic knife, multi-tool, or bladed object is detained and searched, and the defendant may have to wait weeks or months for a trial or other disposition of his case by the public prosecutor.<ref name=“CAR”/><ref name=“McD”/><ref>Salkeld, Luke, Judge orders court to apologise to gardener prosecuted for having a scythe, The Daily Mail, 10 October 2008: In Crown v. Drew, police searched a van owned by a gardener named Peter Drew. After discovering a scythe, two axes, a machete, and a bread knife in Drew's work van, items which according to police were not professionally contained “in a bag at the back of the van”, Drew was arrested. Police readily admitted that Drew had explained to them that all of the items were used in his gardening business, but the officers felt this was for the courts to decide. The crown prosecutor offered no evidence to disprove Drew's claim that he had “good reason” to carry such items as part of his daily working tools. After eight months of what Drew described as “a nightmare”, the case was finally withdrawn by the prosecutor on the day of trial.</ref><ref name=“MAN”>Man arrested after knives seized in Leicester, BBC News, 30 October 2010</ref><ref name=“KDPP”>Knife death sparks police pledge, BBC News, 2 July 2008</ref><ref>Burglar murder charge dropped at last minute,, 19 April 2010</ref><ref>Baton charge racing boss cleared, BBC News, 26 October 2005</ref><ref>Nugent, Helen, Ex-officer cleared over knife in bag, The Sunday Times, 27 October 2005</ref> HM Customs officials in the Customs Inspection unit at the Mount Pleasant Postal Depot in London, aware of the steadily narrowing interpretation of what constitutes a legal knife in England and Wales, have begun confiscating knives imported through the mail, going so far as to individually test otherwise legal locking and non-locking<ref>Some HM Customs officers are apparently taking the position that even pocket knives without locking blades are in fact “locked blades” for purposes of seizure if they merely possess a backspring capable of holding the blade in the open position.</ref> bladed pocket knives to see if they can be made to open their blades to the fully opened position with a practised “double-action of the wrist”; those that open fully and thus fail the 'test' are confiscated and destroyed as illegal 'gravity knives' under the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act 1959.<ref name=“CUS”>C2-26 Offensive Weapons, Book of Guidance, HM Revenue & Customs, Sec. 2.5 Lock knives: “A lock knife is a knife with a blade that folds into the handle, is manually opened and locked in place. Lock knives are not prohibited weapons. However, some lock knives are capable of being opened by making use of centrifugal force provided by a double-action of the wrist and therefore fall within the definition of a gravity knife as detailed in section 2.1 and are therefore to be seized.”</ref>

Paradoxically, the acknowledged failure of previously enacted anti-knife legislation in reducing the number of violent crimes involving a knife<ref>Steele, John, The vagaries of UK knife crime statistics, The Daily Telegraph, 20 March 2007: By March 2007, up to 60,000 young people in England and Wales were being stabbed and injured each year in crimes of knife violence, the equivalent of more than 160 victims a day, despite increasingly severe laws against the carrying of knives, a stricter interpretation of those laws by public prosecutors, and numerous crackdown campaigns by the police, including the use of mass public searches using metal detectors.</ref> has led to demands for even stricter measures.<ref>Deaths on rise as government anti-knife crime strategy fails,, 22 July 2009</ref><ref>Townsend, Mark, Call for tough knife laws after teen death,, 6 January 2008: “Norman Brennan, of the 'Knives Destroy Lives Campaign', reiterated his demand for a mandatory five-year prison sentence for anyone who carries a knife 'unreasonably'. His call came as Islington Borough police commander Bob Carr called for automatic prison sentences for anyone found carrying a knife.”</ref> The likelihood of being detained and searched by the police in the United Kingdom depends frequently upon circumstances and the policies of the local constabulary, but is more likely to occur in areas noted for incidents of random assault and violent crime, where an individual encounters the police in the course of an investigation of a criminal complaint involving a knife, during vehicle stop-and-search operations at police checkpoints,<ref>Terrorism Act 2000, Section 44: The United Kingdom allows police to search citizens or foreigners without cause or even reasonable suspicion in certain areas under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act; this power has recently been restricted to vehicle searches after an adverse ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in January 2010.</ref> or where the police are conducting mass searches of the public at large in so-called dispersal zones as part of knife crime crackdown operations under Section 60 of the Public Order Act.<ref name=“SAM”/><ref name=“MAN”/><ref name=“KDPP”/><ref>Doctor murder: police road checks, Metro Online, 15 August 2007</ref><ref>Man with knife wound treated at Epsom General Hospital, BBC News, 28 June 2011</ref><ref>Thousands of knives seized by Met, BBC News, 18 May 2009</ref>

United States of America

Federal laws

Under the Switchblade Knife Act of 1958 (amended 1986, codified at 15 U.S.C. §§1241-1245), switchblades and ballistic knives are banned from interstate shipment, sale, or importation, or possession within the following: any territory or possession of the United States, i.e. land belonging to the U.S. federal government; Indian lands (as defined in section 1151 of title 18); and areas within the maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the federal government, with the exception of federal, state law enforcement agencies and the military.<ref>United States Code, Title 15, Chapter 29, Sections 1241-1245</ref> In addition, federal laws may prohibit the possession or carrying of any knife on certain federal properties such as courthouses or military installations. U.S. federal laws on switchblades do not apply to the possession or sale of switchblade knives within a state's boundaries; the latter is regulated by the laws of that particular state, if any.

Occasional disputes over what constitutes a switchblade knife under federal law has occasionally resulted in U.S. Customs seizures of knives from U.S. importers or manufacturers.<ref>Precise Imports v. Kelly, 378 F.2d 1014 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 389 U.S. 973, 88 S.Ct. 472, 19 L.Ed.2d 465 (1967)</ref><ref>United States v. Murphree, 783 F.2d 605, 609-10 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 107 S.Ct. 142, 93 L.Ed.2d 84 (1986)</ref> In one case the seizure of a shipment of Columbia River Knife and Tool company knives resulted in an estimated US$1 million loss to the company before the shipment was released.<ref>




Amendment 1447 to the Switchblade Knife Act (15 U.S.C. §1244), signed into law as part of the FY2010 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill on October 28, 2009, provides that the Act shall not apply to spring-assist or assisted-opening knives (i.e. knives with closure-biased springs that require physical force applied to the blade to assist in opening the knife).<ref>Amendment 1447 to 15 U.S.C. §1244 adds a fifth exception to the definition of a switchblade knife: Sections 1242 and 1243 of this title shall not apply to: 5) a knife that contains a spring, detent, or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade and that requires exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist, or arm to overcome the bias toward closure to assist in opening the knife.</ref>

State and local laws

Each American state also has laws that govern the legality of carrying weapons, either concealed or openly, and these laws explicitly or implicitly cover various types of knives. Some states go beyond this, and criminalize mere possession of certain types of knives. Other states prohibit the possession and/or the concealed carrying of knives that feature blade styles or features sufficient to transform them into “dangerous weapons”<ref name=“WONG”>Wong, David, Knife Laws of the Fifty States: A Guide for the Law-Abiding Traveler, AuthorHouse, ISBN 1-4259-5092-2, ISBN 978-1-4259-5092-7 (2006)</ref><ref>Wong, p. 134: Dangerous weapon, i.e. a knife capable of being transformed by circumstances of its threatened, attempted, or actual use into a weapon capable of causing death</ref> or “deadly weapons”, i.e. knives either optimized for lethality against humans or designed for and readily capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.<ref name=“WONG”/><ref>Ohin v. Commonwealth of Virginia, 622 S.E. 2d 784, 47 Va App. 194 (Va Ct. App. 2005): (Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed conviction for concealed carry of folding knife with 3.5-inch locking blade, crossguard, and oversized handle, based on 'catchall' provision in Virginia Code § 18.2-308(A)(v) prohibiting concealed carry of 'any weapon of like kind'.</ref> These frequently include knives with specific blade styles with a historical connection to violence or assassination, including thrusting knives such as the dirk, poignard, and stiletto, the bowie knife, and double-edged knives with crossguards designed for knife fighting such as the dagger.<ref name=“WONG”/><ref name=“CAS”>Cassidy, William L., The Complete Book Of Knife Fighting, ISBN 0-87364-029-2, ISBN 978-0-87364-029-9 (1997), pp. 9–18, 27–36</ref> Some states make the carrying or possession of any dangerous or deadly weapon with intent to unlawfully harm another a crime.<ref name=“WONG”/>

Historical Origin

The origin of many knife laws, particularly in the southern states, comes from attempts by early state legislatures to curtail the practice of knife fighting and dueling with large knives such as the bowie knife, which was commonly carried as an item of personal defense prior to the invention of the revolver.<ref>See Ala. Code 1975, §13-6-120, Sec. 13A-11-50: “Carrying concealed weapons. Except as otherwise provided in this Code, a person who carries concealed about his person a bowie knife or knife or instrument of like kind or description or a pistol or firearm of any other kind or an air gun shall, on conviction, be fined not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00, and may also be imprisoned in the county jail or sentenced to hard labor for the county for not more than six months.” A companion statute allows the jury to mitigate punishment if the accused can produce evidence that he was reasonably in fear of being attacked at the time he was carrying the concealed knife.</ref> In Alabama,<ref>Ala. Code 1975</ref> Mississippi,<ref>Mississippi Code, Crimes § 97-37-1: Deadly weapons; carrying while concealed; use or attempt to use; penalties: “(1) Except as otherwise provided in Section 45-9-101, any person who carries, concealed in whole or in part, any bowie knife, dirk knife, butcher knife, switchblade knife…shall upon conviction be punished” by a fine and/or imprisonment.</ref> New Mexico,<ref>New Mexico, Criminal Offenses - 30-1-12 (B), Definitions…“deadly weapon” means any… weapon which is capable of producing death or great bodily harm, including but not restricted to any types of daggers,…bowie knives, poniards, butcher knives, dirk knives..“</ref><ref>New Mexico, Criminal Offenses - 30-7-2: “Unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon… consists of carrying a concealed…deadly weapon anywhere, except in the following cases: own residence or property; private automobile, or other means of conveyance.”</ref> Texas,<ref name=“WONG”/> and Virginia,<ref name=“WONG”/> the carrying on one's person of large and lengthy fighting knives capable of causing grievous wounds such as the Bowie Knife<ref>Walker, Greg, Battle Blades: A Professional's Guide to Combat/Fighting Knives, ISBN 0-87364-732-7 (1993), p. 210: The effectiveness of the Bowie knife can be seen in one of Col. James (Jim) Bowie's early fights in which he defended himself against three knife and gun-wielding attackers. At the end of the fight, all three of Bowie's assailants were dead; one man was nearly decapitated, the second was disemboweled, and the third had his skull split open.</ref> is prohibited by statute,<ref name=“WONG”/><ref>Virginia Code § 18.2-308(A): The Virginia statute prohibits only the concealed carrying of a Bowie knife upon one's person, while Texas prohibits the carrying of such a knife whether concealed or not.</ref> originally in the interest of controlling or eliminating the then-common practice of ”dueling“, a term which had degenerated from a rarely used social custom into a generalized description for any knife or gun fight between two contestants.<ref name=“CAS”/><ref>Virginia Code § 18.2-308(A)</ref> In many jurisdictions, a local tradition of using knives to settle differences or for self-defense<ref name=“CAS”/><ref>Cassidy, p. 10: In some states the popularity of certain knives such as the Bowie and Arkansas Toothpick was such that schools were established to teach their use in knife fighting, further popularizing such knives and compelling authorities to pass legislation severely restricting such schools.</ref> resulted in the enactment of statutes that restricted the size and length of the knife and particularly, the length of its blade.<ref name=“CAS”/>

After the Civil War, many restrictions on knife and even gun ownership were imposed by state, county, and city laws and ordinances that were clearly based on fear of weapon possession by certain racial groups, particularly African-American and Hispanic Americans.<ref name=“CRAM1”>Cramer, Clayton, Concealed Weapon Laws of the Early Republic: Dueling, Southern Violence, and Moral Reform, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0-275-96615-7 (1999), p. 118</ref><ref name=“CRAM2”>Cramer, Clayton E., The Racist Roots of Gun Control, ©1993 Clayton E. Cramer, all rights reserved (1993)</ref> In some states, so-called “Black Codes” adopted after the Civil War required blacks to obtain a license before carrying or possessing firearms or Bowie knives.<ref name=“CRAM2”/> The governments of Texas and other former states of the Confederacy, many of which had recognized the right to carry arms such as Bowie knives openly before the Civil War,<ref>Cockrum v. State, Texas Supreme Court (1859)</ref> passed new restrictions on both gun and knife possession and use.<ref name=“CRAM2”/><ref>Cockrum v. State, id.</ref> In some cases, these laws were directed at freed slaves and other minorities; in other cases, by reconstruction legislatures anxious to disarm rebellious militias and groups seeking to disenfranchise African-American and other minorities.<ref name=“HALB”>Halbrook, Stephen P., The Right to Bear Arms in Texas: The Intent of the Framers of the Bill of Rights, Baylor Law Review, 41 Baylor L. Rev., pp. 629-688 (1989)</ref> The April 12, 1871 law passed by the Texas' Reconstruction legislature is typical, and is the ancestor of the present law restricting knife possession and use in Texas:

“Any person carrying on or about his person, saddle, or in his saddle-bags, any pistol, dirk, dagger, sling-shot, sword-cane, spear, brass knuckles, bowie knife, or any other kind of knife, manufactured or sold, for the purpose of offense or defense, unless he has reasonable grounds for fearing an unlawful attack on his person, and that such ground of attack shall be immediate and pressing; or unless having or carrying the same on or about his person for the lawful defense of the State, as a militiaman in actual service, or as a peace officer or policeman, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor…”<ref name=“HALB”/>

While most gun restrictions were eventually repealed, many knife laws remained in effect in the South. In Texas, this was largely explained by the presence of large numbers of Texans of Mexican descent.<ref name=“MCD”>McDonald, Jason, Racial Dynamics in Early Twentieth-Century Austin, Texas, Lexington Books, ISBN 9780739170977 (2012), p. 48: The typical Texan of Mexican heritage was commonly portrayed as displaying a proclivity for “knife play” frequently culminating in a fatality.</ref> By 1870, Texas whites of the day had almost universally and exclusively adopted the revolver for self-defense, while Texans of Mexican descent, steeped in the blade culture (el legado Andaluz) of Mexico and Spain and generally without the means to purchase handguns, continued to carry knives.<ref name=“CRAM2”/> Thus while local and state Texas gun laws and ordinances were gradually relaxed or eliminated during the late 1800s, the old prohibitions against bowie knives, daggers, dirks, and other long-bladed knives remained on the books, since they served to disarm and control a minority group viewed as engaging in lawless behaviors and violence without legal justification.<ref name=“MCD”/><ref name=“CRAM1”/>

Interpreting current state laws

Many of today's state criminal codes restricting knife use and ownership have been amended repeatedly over the years rather than rewritten to remove old classifications and definitions that are largely a historical legacy, a process that frequently results in illogical, confusing, and even conflicting provisions. Thus in Arkansas, a state in which knife fights using large, lengthy blades such as the Bowie and Arkansas Toothpick were once commonplace,<ref name=“CAS”/><ref>The Wilson-Anthony Fight, Department of Arkansas-Heritage, retrieved 1 August 2011: In 1836 a knife fight broke out between the Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives, John Wilson, and Rep. Joseph Anthony in the middle of a contentious legislative session; Anthony was killed, while Wilson was expelled from office and later indicted for murder.</ref> a state statute made it illegal for someone to “carry a knife as a weapon”,<ref>Arkansas Criminal Statute Section 5-73-121: Punishable except when “upon a journey or upon [one's] own premises”, this statute was clearly designed to enable prosecution of persons carrying knives without good cause in towns and cities, while exempting farmers and others carrying knives on their own property or when traveling to and from their local communities.</ref> specifying that any knife with a blade 3.5&nbsp;inches or longer constituted prima facie evidence that the knife was being carried as a weapon, yet allowed a complete exemption to the law when “upon a journey”.<ref>Section 5-73-121, Arkansas Criminal Code (2006)</ref>

While Arkansas eventually repealed its archaic criminal knife possession law in its entirety,<ref>Arkansas Repeals Anti-Knife Statute: Section 5-73-121 of the Arkansas criminal code was repealed in its entirety in 2007.</ref> other states still periodically amend archaic criminal codes that penalize both historic and present-day human behavior involving knife use and ownership; these patchwork statutes can result in lengthy legal disputes over legislative intent and definitions.<ref>End Knife Control, The Washington Times, 22 May 2012</ref><ref>Levine, Bernard, Oppressive Knife Laws in America: What They Are, What You Can Do About Them, and the Anti-Knifer Mindset, Blade Magazine (July 1998)</ref> As one example, Indiana law makes it illegal to possess a 'dagger', 'dirk', 'poniard', 'stiletto', 'switchblade', or 'gravity knife' on school property, or to possess any knife on school property “capable of being used to inflict cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds” if that knife “is intended to be used as a weapon”, but provides for a criminal penalty only if a person “recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally” possesses such a knife on school property.<ref>

</ref> The statute thus requires 1) an examination of the knife and the legislative history of the statute; 2) expert testimony on the individual characteristics of historic knife designs to determine whether the knife in question fits within one of the six specified categories of knife; 3) a determination as to whether the blade can cause a “cutting, stabbing, or tearing wound”; 4) a determination as to what degree of injury constitutes a “wound”, and 5) two separate determinations of the defendant's intent by the fact finder&nbsp;– before guilt or innocence may be adjudged.<ref>Indiana Criminal Code IC 35-47-5-2.5, Possession of a knife on school property: The statute is silent on the question of whether the slightest cut or puncture constitutes a “wound” (thus effectively banning all knives of any type) or if a de minimis rule applies, a dilemma that forces the trial court to make further inquiries into the statute's legislative history as well as prior appellate court determinations, if any.</ref>

Some states prohibit the possession of a folding knife with a quick-opening mechanism such as a gravity knife, butterfly knife, balisong, or switchblade.<ref name=“WONG”/> Other states may impose no restrictions at all,<ref>

</ref> while many allow possession with some restrictions (age, carrying on one's person, carrying concealed, carrying while a convicted felon, prohibited possessor, or while in the commission of a serious offense, etc.)<ref name=“WONG”/>

The continual advent of new knife designs, such as assisted-opening knives can complicate issues of legality, particularly when state laws have not been carefully drafted to clearly define the new design and how it is to be classified within existing law. This omission has led in the past to cases in which state courts have substituted their own understanding of knife design to interpret legislative intent when applying statutes criminalizing certain types of knives.<ref name=“WONG”/><ref>State of Florida v. Darynani, So.2d (Fla. 4th DCA 2000): In State of Florida v. Darynani, a Florida appellate court held that a poorly written state criminal knife statute (Sec. 790.225) that had been hurriedly drafted in 1985 to prohibit the ballistic knife must be interpreted to prohibit switchblade knives as well, despite the lack of any specific evidence that the legislative branch intended to prohibit switchblades when drafting the ballistic knife provision. The court's error was finally corrected by the Florida Legislature in 2003 with the passage of HB 1227 (2003) (see HB 1227 (2003).</ref>

City, County, and local laws

City, county, and local jurisdictions (to include sovereign Indian nations located within a state boundary) may enact their own criminal laws or ordinances in addition to the restrictions contained in state laws, which may be more restrictive than state law.<ref name=“WONG”/> Virtually all states and local jurisdictions have laws that restrict or prohibit the possession or carrying of knives in some form or manner in certain defined areas or places such as schools, public buildings, courthouses, police stations, jails, power plant facilities, airports, or public events.<ref name=“WONG”/>

Local or city ordinances are sometimes drafted to include specific classes of people not covered by the state criminal codes, such as individuals carrying folding knives with locking blades primarily for use as weapons.<ref name=“WONG”/> For example, a San Antonio, Texas city ordinance makes it unlawful for anyone to knowingly carry within city limits “on or about his person” any folding knife with a blade less than 5.5&nbsp;inches long with a lock mechanism that locks the blade upon opening.<ref name=“WONG”/> This ordinance is designed to work in tandem with the Texas state statute<ref>Texas Criminal Code Sec. 46.01(6)(A)</ref> making illegal the carrying of knives with blades longer than 5.5&nbsp;inches.<ref>Ordinance Chapter 21, Sec. 21-17, Part II, Code of Ordinances of San Antonio, Texas</ref> The San Antonio ordinance allows police to charge persons carrying most types of lock blade knives without good cause with a criminal misdemeanor violation, allowing police to remove the knife from the possession of the offender, while providing exemptions from the ordinance designed to protect certain classes of people the city assumes to pose no threat to public order.<ref>Ordinance Chapter 21, Sec. 21-17, Part II, Code of Ordinances of San Antonio, Texas: Sec. 21-17 contains exemption from prosecution for law enforcement and corrections officers, for members of the armed forces, for persons carrying the knife on their own premises or while traveling, for persons engaged in a lawful sporting activity (hunting, fishing), or for those using the knife in connection with a lawful occupation.</ref> Occasionally, city and county ordinances conflict with state law. In one example, the city of Portland, Oregon initially passed a city ordinance banning all pocket knives, until the measure was overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court as conflicting with state criminal statutes.

See also


knife_legislation.txt · Last modified: 2020/03/12 18:35 (external edit)