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Are Switchblades Illegal? Know the Law Before You Carry

Written by:
Dr. Braide Honest
Updated:
May 26, 2024
switchblade knife laws

Switchblades, also known as automatic knives, have a blade that springs out from the handle when a button or lever is pressed. This mechanism allows for quick deployment, making them popular for various uses, including self-defense. However, their ease of concealment and rapid deployment have also led to their association with criminal activities, prompting extensive legal regulations.

are switchblades legal

Are switchblades illegal in the US?

The primary federal law concerning switchblades is the Federal Switchblade Act of 1958. This law restricts the manufacture, sale, and transportation of switchblades across state lines but does not apply to possession or use within states. The Act prohibits mailing switchblades via the U.S. Postal Service, though carriers like UPS and FedEx are not subject to these restrictions. The Act defines a switchblade as any knife that opens automatically by pressing a button, applying hand pressure to the handle, or using inertia or gravity.

Are switchblades illegal

The Federal Switchblade Act

The Federal Switchblade Act, passed on August 12, 1958 (Public Law 85-623), is the primary U.S. legislation governing switchblade knives, also known as automatic or auto-open knives. This Act regulates the manufacture and introduction of switchblades into interstate commerce, but it does not apply to individual consumers or most merchants selling knives within a state. Importantly, it has no impact on state laws regarding switchblades.

Importation and Interstate Commerce: 

This section prohibits the importation and interstate commerce of switchblade and gravity knives. Essentially, this means that these knives cannot be brought into the United States from abroad or transported across state lines for commercial purposes.

Mailing Restrictions: 

The second section prohibits mailing switchblades through the U.S. Postal Service, with certain exceptions outlined in U.S. Title 18. These exceptions include shipments to civilian or military procurement officers and other specific entities.

State Laws and Ownership

While the Federal Switchblade Act does not restrict the ownership, possession, or carrying of switchblade knives at the federal level, individual states have enacted their own laws regulating these knives. Currently, automatic knives are legal in 44 states, with seven states imposing various restrictions. Most states allow the ownership and use of auto-open knives, but it is crucial to check specific state laws for any local restrictions.

legal switchblade

Commercial Sale and Transportation

The Federal Switchblade Act restricts the commercial sale of switchblades across state lines but does not impose federal restrictions on the sale of these knives within the states. Additionally, there are no federal restrictions on carriers like UPS or FedEx transporting automatic knives, although they cannot be sent through the U.S. Postal Service except under the aforementioned exceptions.

Switchblade Legality by State

Understanding the intricacies of switchblade laws is essential for knife enthusiasts and owners. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the legal status of switchblades in each U.S. state. Disclaimer: This is not legal advice!

US Automatic Knife Laws

Image Credit: akti.org

Alabama

In Alabama, switchblades are legal to own and carry. There are no restrictions on the size or type of switchblade, making it a permissive state for knife enthusiasts. However, all dangerous weapons are prohibited on school premises.

Alaska

Alaska allows the ownership and carrying of switchblades, but those under 16 must have parental consent. The state imposes minimal restrictions on knife types and sizes, but knives are not allowed on school property without the school district’s approval.

Arizona

Arizona has no specific restrictions on switchblades for individuals over 21. Residents must inform law enforcement if they are carrying a concealed knife when questioned or pulled over. Knives are banned in schools, polling stations, and power plants.

Arkansas

Switchblades are legal in Arkansas, with few limitations. Knives cannot be carried near schools or public buildings. Giving a knife to a minor or an incarcerated person is illegal, and knives cannot be carried for unlawful use.

Are switchblades illegal in California?

In California, switchblades with blades longer than 2 inches are illegal. The state has strict laws against concealed carry of certain knives, and weapons are banned in schools. Knives disguised as other objects are also prohibited.

are switchblades legal in california

Colorado

Switchblades are legal in Colorado, but knives with blades longer than 3.5 inches are restricted, except for hunting and fishing purposes. Schools are designated weapon-free zones.

Connecticut

Connecticut allows switchblades with blades up to 1.5 inches. Knives with blades longer than 4 inches are generally prohibited. Specific laws apply to different knife types, including automatic and gravity knives.

Delaware

Switchblades and gravity knives are illegal in Delaware. Only 3-inch folding or pocket knives can be carried concealed. Knives with pointed tips meant to deter metal detectors are also banned.

District of Columbia

Switchblades are prohibited in Washington, D.C. Knives cannot be carried in schools or recreational areas, and penalties for violations are severe. The city has strict regulations on knife possession and carry.

Are switchblades illegal in Florida?

Florida allows most knives, but ballistic knives, including some switchblades, are illegal. Common pocket knives under 4 inches can be carried concealed. Knives are banned near schools.

are switchblades legal in florida

Are switchblades illegal in Georgia?

In Georgia, switchblades with blades 12 inches or less are legal to carry, both openly and concealed. Blades longer than 12 inches are considered weapons and are subject to restrictions. Knives are prohibited on school grounds.

Hawaii

Hawaii bans all switchblades and butterfly knives. Balisongs and gravity knives can lead to misdemeanors. All other knives are legal to own and carry, but there is a zero-tolerance policy for knives on school grounds.

Idaho

Switchblades are legal to carry openly in Idaho. Concealed carry of dangerous weapons, including Bowie knives and daggers, is restricted. Knives over 2.5 inches are banned on school grounds.

Illinois

Switchblades are generally illegal in Illinois but can be purchased with a Firearms Owner Identification (FOID) card. Knives are banned on school property, public housing, and in places serving alcohol. Chicago has additional restrictions on knives.

Indiana

Switchblades are legal in Indiana, except for throwing and ballistic knives. Concealed carry of permissible knives is allowed, but they are banned from schools. Knives cannot be sold to intoxicated individuals.

switchblade knife

Iowa

Switchblades are illegal in Iowa. Concealed carry of daggers, balisongs, and knives with blades longer than 5 inches is also banned. Possessing a knife over 5 inches can lead to a misdemeanor.

Kansas

Kansas permits all types of knives, including switchblades. There are no restrictions on the type or size of knife one can carry. However, students are prohibited from possessing switchblades on school property.

Kentucky

All knives, including switchblades, are legal in Kentucky for individuals over 21. There are no restrictions on open carry, and all knives can be transferred and sold. Deadly weapons are banned on school grounds.

Louisiana

Switchblades are legal in Louisiana, with no restrictions on carrying them openly or concealed. As of August 1, 2022, the state removed the prohibition on concealing automatic knives. Knives are banned in schools.

Maine

Maine lifted its prohibition on automatic knives in 2015, making all such knives legal. Concealed carry of dangerous knives, like Bowie knives and stilettos, is restricted. Knives are not allowed near schools.

switchblade knives

Maryland

Maryland permits most knives but bans switchblades and gravity knives in Baltimore. Knives cannot be carried openly or concealed if they are dangerous weapons. Knife laws are stricter near Washington, D.C.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts bans switchblades, ballistic knives, and other dangerous knives, with a maximum blade length of 1.5 inches for automatic knives. Knives are banned from school zones, including universities. Boston and Salem have additional ordinances.

Michigan

Switchblades are legal in Michigan following the removal of the ban in October 2017. Double-edged fixed-blade knives cannot be carried concealed. Pocket knives are unrestricted. Knives are banned on school grounds.

Minnesota

Switchblades are illegal in Minnesota. Other types of knives are generally legal, but knives intended as dangerous weapons cannot be carried. Knives are prohibited near schools, with additional restrictions in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth.

Mississippi

Mississippi allows switchblades for individuals over 18 without felonies. Convicted felons and minors cannot own switchblades. Concealed carry of dangerous weapons is prohibited, and knives are banned near schools.

switchblades legal

Missouri

Missouri has no restrictions on switchblades following the removal of the ban in 2012. Pocket knives with blades under 4 inches can be carried concealed. There are no forbidden or restricted knives under state law.

Montana

Switchblades are legal in Montana. Knives with blades 4 inches or longer are banned on school property. Local governments can restrict knife possession on their property but cannot impose other restrictions.

Nebraska

Nebraska allows all knives except for those with domestic violence histories, fugitives, and convicted felons. Knives under 3.5 inches can be carried concealed. Lincoln and Omaha have stricter ordinances, and knives are banned on school property.

Nevada

Switchblades are legal in Nevada, but they are banned on school property and in Clark County. There are no state restrictions on knife types or sizes. Concealment restrictions apply to certain knives.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire allows all knives, including switchblades, except for convicted felons and individuals with drug-related offenses. Knives are banned in courthouses, and schools are weapon-free zones.

switchblades legality

New Jersey

Switchblades are generally illegal in New Jersey. Knives are restricted on educational property, and possession of knives for unlawful purposes is illegal. Camden has additional restrictions on switchblades and concealed carry weapons.

New Mexico

Switchblades and balisongs are illegal in New Mexico. Concealed carry of knives is restricted, and switchblades cannot be bought, sold, manufactured, or transferred. Knives are banned on public buses and school property.

New York

New York heavily regulates knife possession, with most switchblades banned. Exceptions exist for hunting knives, daggers, and stilettos. Knives are banned on school grounds, with additional restrictions in cities like Buffalo and Rochester.

North Carolina

Switchblades are illegal in North Carolina. Bowie knives cannot be sold to minors, and concealed carry is limited to ordinary pocket knives. Knives are banned on school property, with additional restrictions in Charlotte and Greensboro.

North Dakota

North Dakota allows all knives, but knives longer than 5 inches are considered dangerous weapons and are banned near schools and public events. Bismarck, Grand Forks, and Fargo have additional restrictions.

why are switchblades illegal

Are switchblades illegal in Ohio?

Switchblade restrictions were removed in Ohio in April 2021. Any knife can be carried openly or concealed if not used as a weapon. Knives are banned near schools, with additional restrictions in Akron and Cleveland.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma has no restrictions on switchblades. All types of knives are legal to own and carry. Knives are banned on school grounds, with exceptions for certain activities like hunter safety education.

Oregon

Oregon restricts the concealed carry of switchblades, butterfly knives, and other spring-assisted knives. Knives are banned in schools, public buildings, and government facilities. There are no restrictions on open carry.

Are switchblades illegal in Pennsylvania?

Switchblades are illegal in Pennsylvania, along with other knives serving no immediate lawful purpose. Knives are banned on school grounds, with Philadelphia having additional restrictions on cutting weapons in public areas.

Rhode Island

Switchblades can be legally open-carried in Rhode Island. Concealed carry is restricted for knives longer than 3 inches. Knives cannot be sold to minors without parental authorization, and schools are weapon-free zones.

South Carolina

South Carolina does not restrict the ownership of switchblades but prohibits their concealed carry. Charleston bans knives longer than 3 inches from being concealed, and other cities have similar restrictions.

South Dakota

Switchblades are legal in South Dakota, with concealed carry allowed unless there is intent to harm. Dangerous weapons are banned on school grounds, with additional ordinances in cities like Sioux Falls and Rapid City.

Tennessee

Tennessee has no restrictions on switchblades or other types of knives. State law provides location-based restrictions for school buildings and grounds, making them weapon-free zones.

Are switchblades illegal in Texas?

Switchblades are legal in Texas, but knives longer than 5.5 inches are restricted in certain locations, including schools, government buildings, and amusement parks. Minors can only carry larger knives under specific conditions.

Utah

Utah does not restrict switchblades but prohibits their ownership by convicted felons, parolees, and individuals with illegal status. Knives are banned on school grounds, and certain locations have additional restrictions.

Vermont

Switchblades with blades longer than 3 inches are illegal in Vermont. Knives can be carried concealed as long as there is no intent to harm. Knives are banned on or near school property.

Virginia

Virginia allows switchblades, but they cannot be carried concealed. Dangerous weapons, including switchblades, are prohibited on school grounds, except for folding pocket knives less than 3 inches long.

Washington

Switchblades are illegal in Washington state. Concealed carry of dangerous weapons is also prohibited. Cities like Seattle and Spokane have additional ordinances, and knives are banned on school grounds.

West Virginia

Switchblades are legal in West Virginia but cannot be carried concealed. Minors cannot possess deadly weapons unless married or emancipated. Knives are banned on school grounds, with additional ordinances in Charleston and Wheeling.

Wisconsin

Switchblades are legal to open carry in Wisconsin. Malicious intent with any weapon is illegal. Minors cannot possess dangerous weapons, and knives are banned on school grounds. Local ordinances may impose further restrictions.

Wyoming

Wyoming permits all types of knives, including switchblades. Concealed carry of dangerous weapons is allowed for peace officers, permit holders, and individuals over 21. Knives are restricted in mental health, corrections, and court facilities.


Video Credit: Blade HQ

Final Thoughts

Switchblade laws in the United States vary widely by state, with specific local regulations adding further complexity. Understanding the legal landscape is crucial for responsible ownership and use of switchblades. Always consult local laws to ensure compliance and safe handling.

Author: Braide Honest | Connect with me on LinkedIn

References: 

State Laws Regarding Automatic Knives AKTI

U.S. Code at the Office of Law Revision Counsel.

Some U.S. states have laws restricting or prohibiting automatic knives or switchblades wikipedia.org 

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