Knife legislation

Knife legislation

Knife legislation is legislation regarding knives. Having the potential to be used as offensive weapons, carrying knives in public is forbidden by law in many countries. Exceptions may be made for hunting knives, and for knives used for work-related purposes (e.g. chef's knives).

Carrying or possessing automatic knives (switchblades) by civilians is often banned. Butterfly knives (Balisongs) are also frequently restricted due to an impression of connection with gang activity. A notable exception is Austria, where civilian possession of automatic knives including double-edged automatic OTF ("out the front") daggers is allowed.

New, assisted opening knives where the blade is partially opened manually but the opening is finished by another mechanism (such as a torsion bar) are currently a "grey area" in many countries as the courts and legislature have yet to catch up with development.

Most Western European nations are very unfriendly toward all knives other than small pocket knives and similar small tools.

Carrying knives on commercial airplanes is subject to many prohibitions which vary too frequently to be listed here. Knives can normally be transported by air travelers if securely packed in hold luggage, where they will be inaccessible during the flight.


German law explicitly forbids a few types of knives and regards other types of knives as weapons.

German law defines a weapon to be any item that is intended to reduce or eliminate the ability of a person to attack another person or to defend themselves. Example: A bayonet is intended to injure or kill people, hence it is regarded as a weapon by the law, while a machete is regarded as a tool to clear dense vegetation. A knife with a two-sided blade and a switchblade which is not illegal as described below are always regarded as weapons. Sabres and similar items are regarded as weapons.

German law explicitly lists the following knives as being illegal to manufacture, import, sell or possess:
* Butterfly knives
* Gravity knives
* Push daggers
* Switchblade knives are the only knives where the law makes restrictions on the length of the knife:
** All OTF switchblade knives are regarded as illegal to possess.
** All side-opening switchblade knives are illegal, except when the blade
*** is no longer than 8.5 cm
*** is at least 20% as wide as it is long
*** has a continuous back.

The law makes an exception for push daggers: These knives may be owned and used by owners of a hunting permit, or by members of the fur industry.

All weapons are subject to restrictions, including a minimum age of the owner, they have to be stored properly and may not be carried at certain public events. All knives that are not illegal or regarded as weapons can be purchased, owned and carried by anyone.

In February 2008 a new law was passed which outlaws the carrying of certain types of knives: all switchblades, even those formerly allowed for carrying; all locking folders with one-handed lock mechanisms; all locking folders or fixed blades of certain blade types (daggers, bowies,clarifyme tantosclarifyme); all fixed blades over 12.5 cm.


With the exception of any type of switchblade, any knife with an overall length of no more than 15 cm (about 5.9 in), with a blade length of no more than 6 cm, is legal to carry. Knives must be concealed and should not be easily available. The Japanese Guns and Knives Control Law forbids knives being used as defensive weapons, but is relatively tolerant toward knives which can be opened using a single hand. For example, any type of butterfly knife is legal.

With the exception of katanas, any swords are regarded as offensive weapons. The weapons law begins by stating "No-one shall possess a fire-arm or fire-arms or a sword or swords", and very few exceptions are allowed."Law Controlling Possession, Etc. of Fire-Arms and Swords" (1978), Law No 6, Art 3, EHS Law Bulletin Series, No 3920.] However, if they have artistic value, possession is legal as long as the sword is registered.

Violations of the law come with a sentence of up to one year in prison and a fine of ¥300,000 (approx. US$2,600).

United Kingdom

The UK and the United States share a common origin as to the right to bear arms, which is the 1689 Bill of Rights.cite web
title=BBC NEWS Britain's changing firearms laws
] However, over the course of the 20th century, the UK gradually implemented tighter regulation of the civilian ownership of firearms through the enactment of the 1968, 1988, 1994 and 1997 Firearms (Amendment) Acts [ [ Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 (c. 5) ] ] leading to the current outright ban on the ownership of all automatic, and most self loading, firearms in the UK. As guns became a rarer and rarer commodity, culminating in the outright ban on pistols in 1997, knives became the preferred weapon for criminals. (Note that Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legislative powers and consequently not all UK legislation applies in these countries.)

In the UK, the main knife legislation is found in the Criminal Justice Act (CJA) 1988, but certain types of knife are banned under the Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act (ROWA) 1959 (amended 1961), the relevant section of the latter being 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 [...]

Subsection 2 also makes it illegal to import knives of this type. As a result it is (almost) impossible to obtain such a knife without either committing or abetting an offence. The above legislation does not refer to 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.

The CJA 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 phrase "good reason" 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).

The special exception which exists in the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (s139) 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 of less than 3" (76 mm) may still be considered an offensive weapon if carried or used for that purpose. It is a common belief that a folding knife must be non-locking for this provision to apply, 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 case of "R. v Desmond Garcia Deegan" (1998) in the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, the ruling that 'folding' was intended to mean 'non-locking' was upheld. As the only higher court in England and Wales is the House of Lords the only way this ruling could be overturned is by a dissenting ruling by the Court of Appeal, the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords or by Act of Parliament.

The same Act (as amended 1996) also 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.

(This is followed by subsection 4 which gives the same specific excuses 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" in length would be considered legal.

The same Act (as amended 1996) also 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, [...]

(Exceptions follow for safety razor blades, so only cut-throat razors are affected.)

British courts have in the past taken the marketing of a particular brand of knife into account when considering whether an otherwise legal folding knife was carried as an offensive weapon. A knife which is marketed as "tactical", "military", "special ops", etc. could therefore carry an extra liability. The Knives Act 1997 now restricts the marketing of knives as offensive weapons and thus it is much less likely that such marketing could be used as evidence against a defendant.

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 "bona fide" reason for carrying a knife (if this is the case). 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.

United States of America

Every state and many cities have laws that concern the carrying of weapons, and these laws either explicitly or implicitly cover various types of knives. Some states have laws that prohibit ownership of certain knives. Local restrictions can be far greater; Portland, Oregon (which, ironically, is home of Gerber Legendary Blades) passed a law banning all pocket knives, until the measure was finally overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court. Further complications are provided by the use of such terms as "dagger", "dirk", "stiletto" and "Bowie knife" with no clear definition of what these are, as well as restrictions on blade length in the absence of any standard for how this length is to be measured. One such dispute over measurement resulted in the arbitrary seizure by US Customs of a shipment of Columbia River Knife and Tool company knives, resulting in an estimated US$1 million loss to the company before the shipment was released. [cite web |url= |title=STATE KNIFE LAWS|author=BERNARD LEVINE] [cite web |url= |title=United States Code TITLE 15 CHAPTER 29 - MANUFACTURE, TRANSPORTATION, OR DISTRIBUTION OF SWITCHBLADE KNIVES] [cite web |url= |title=Pocketknives are Tools Used by Millions |author=David D. Kowalski]

New designs such as assisted-opening knives make the question of what is legal to carry even more complicated. The assisted-opening design used, for example, by Kershaw employs a system by which the user starts the blade open by pressing a nub on the knife tang which extends out the back of the handle liners. The torsion bar then takes over and completes the opening of the knife. This system has is generally not considered a "switchblade" because the user must move the blade to open it. [cite web |url= |title=Knife Technology: SpeedSafe]

People's Republic of China

Due to concerns about potential violence at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China is beginning to restrict "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 cm (8.6 in) in length, and knives with blades over 15 cm in length also having a point angle of less than 60 degrees. [cite web |url= |title= Registering potentially dangerous knives |author=Kirby Chien] [cite web |url= |title=China strengthens control over deadly knives]

ee also

*Hunting license


External links

* [ Knife laws in the US (by state)]
* [ California Knife Laws: A Comprehensive Guide]

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