Pocket knives are a useful and versatile tool for everyday use, but if you are under the age of 18, you might be wondering if you can even buy one. Knife laws can be confusing, so we’ve compiled what you need to know before purchasing a pocketknife.
There is no federal law that dictates an age requirement for purchasing a pocketknife; instead, knife laws defer to individual states. They vary from state to state and can be rather complicated. Ordinary pocketknives are typically legal for all ages to possess and purchase.
If you are under the age of 18, make sure you brush up on state laws before setting out to acquire a pocketknife. The legality of pocketknife variations can be very different, depending on where you live. The following article provides age-related legal information by state, as well as basic knowledge of knife and blade types.
What is a Pocket Knife According to Law?
The defining characteristic of a pocketknife is a foldable blade of fewer than 4 inches that fits inside the handle and can fit in a pocket.
The types of pocketknives that are classified as ordinary and typically legal to carry include:
- Single Blade Folding Pocket Knives
- Multi-Blade Folding Pocket Knives
- Swiss Army Knives
- Pen Knives
- Jack Knives
Types of pocketknives that often come with legal restrictions include:
- Switchblade or Automatic Knives
- Bowie Knives
- Gravity Knives
- Butterfly or Balisong Knives
- Stiletto Knives
- Other Knives with Assisted-Opening Mechanisms
Knife Laws by State
Knife laws fall under state jurisdiction and tend to vary from state to state. Some state laws are more up to date than others, and local municipals sometimes have their own knife laws.
For example, Santa Clarita law states, “Every person who sells to any minor any dirk or dagger, or any knife with a blade three inches or more in length, or any snap-blade or spring-blade knife, regardless of the length of the blade, unless such minor is accompanied by an adult person and unless the person selling such dagger or knife keeps a full and complete record of the name and address of the purchaser, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Furthermore, knife laws require you to abide by the laws of each area as you travel through them.
Generally, knife laws address knife type or blade length and fall under two categories:
- Ownership: Laws that forbid individuals from owning types of knives that are deemed dangerous or deadly weapons.
- Carry: Laws that restrict what kinds of knives an individual can carry, typically regarding open carry or concealment. Knives that don’t have utility purposes are often classified as weapons and barred from being carried.
If you are looking to purchase a knife that is legal everywhere and, in most situations, choose a knife that has explicit utility purposes and appears relatively harmless. Pocket knives, leathermans, and multi-tools with blades that are less than 3 or 2.5 inches are typically safe and legal.
The following table outlines age-related knife laws for each state:
|State||Age-Related Knife Restrictions|
|Alabama||Bowie knives and knives of “like kind and description” may not be sold to someone under the age of 18.|
|Alaska||People under the age of 21 cannot carry a concealed knife that is not an ordinary pocketknife. Minors under 16 can only have a switchblade or gravity with the consent of a parent or guardian.|
|Arizona||Persons under 21 years old may only own and carry pocketknives, defined as folding knives that must be pulled open manually. Likely gravity or automatic knives would be deemed unlawful for those under the age of 21.|
|Arkansas||State law prohibits the sales of deadly weapons to minors under 18, though it is unlikely that this applies to ordinary pocket knives. Minors cannot carry concealed knives except for regular pocketknives.|
|California||Along with complex state laws, major cities have their own knife laws. California doesn’t have age-related restrictions, but limits types of knives and blade-lengths for everyone. Fixed blades are open-carry only, and switchblades with a blade greater than 2 inches are illegal. While an ordinary, utility pocket-knife should be fine to carry, we suggest looking up city-specific guidelines.|
|Colorado||No age restrictions, but it is illegal to carry any knife with a blade over 3.5 inches in length—unless it is a fishing or hunting knife. Any knife that is under 3.5 inches can be carried openly or concealed.|
|Connecticut||No age restrictions, but it is unlawful to carry stilettos, automatic knives over 1.5 inches, switchblades over 1.5 inches, and any other blade over 4 inches.|
|Delaware||No age restrictions, but relatively strict knife laws. Notably, switchblades and gravity knives are illegal. The only knives legal to carry concealed are 3-inch or shorter pocketknives.|
|Florida||No weapons, other than an ordinary pocketknife, may be sold to any person under the age of 18 without permission from a parent or guardian.|
|Georgia||It is a misdemeanor to furnish any person under the age of 18 with various weapons, including any “knife designed for the purposes of offense or defense.”|
|Hawaii||No age restrictions, but balisongs, switchblades, and butterfly knives are banned.|
|Idaho||Unlawful to sell to minors under 18 without written parental consent. Need parental or guardian consent to own a bowie or dirk if under 18. Need a parent or guardian with you to possess a bowie or dirk if under 12.|
|Illinois||Minors cannot carry, possess, or conceal any knife with a blade two inches or longer. Switchblade knives are only available for those who own a valid Firearms Owner’s Identification Card, which requires a minimum age of 21.|
|Indiana||Deadly weapons may not be sold or transferred to minors. Minors can only possess a dangerous knife if they have permission from a parent or guardian. Throwing stars and ballistic knives are illegal.|
|Iowa||Knives with blades exceeding 5 inches are considered dangerous weapons and illegal to carry without a permit. Dagger, razor, stiletto, and switchblade knives are also regarded as dangerous weapons.|
|Kansas||No age restrictions. Blades cannot be longer than 4 inches. Throwing stars and ballistic knives are illegal.|
|Kentucky||Individuals under the age of 21 may carry any “ordinary” hunting or pocketknife. Though there are no clear guidelines for what constitutes an “ordinary” knife. Carry laws are very lax.|
|Louisiana||No age restrictions. Only switchblade knives are prohibited from concealed carry.|
|Maine||No age restrictions. Illegal to carry dirks, stilettos, or switchblades. Illegal to conceal bowie, dirk, stilettos, and “other dangerous or deadly” weapons. Knives used to hunt, fish or trap are safe to conceal and carry.|
|Maryland||Several non-rural counties prohibit minors from carrying knives between an hour after sunset and an hour before sunrise except when hunting. Otherwise, restrictions are no different for juveniles than adults. Concealed dirk, bowie, switchblade, razors, and star knives are prohibited.|
|Massachusetts||No age restrictions. Practically any knife or bladed implement can be owned but not carried. Automatic knives with blades longer than 1.5 inches are illegal to carry outside the home. Otherwise, legal knives become unlawful when used dangerously.|
|Michigan||No age restrictions. Out-the-front double-edged automatic knives are illegal. Fixed blade knives may not be concealed or in a vehicle.|
|Minnesota||No age restrictions. Switchblades are illegal. Legality has to do with intent to cause harm.|
|Mississippi||Minors may not carry or possess deadly weapons at all. Sales to minors are prohibited.|
|Missouri||No age restrictions. Knives with blades 4 inches or less cannot be concealed.|
|Montana||No knife restrictions.|
|Nebraska||No age restrictions. Knives with blades longer than 3.5 inches cannot be concealed.|
|Nevada||No age restrictions. Illegal to carry concealed machetes or other deadly weapons without a permit. Some local restrictions apply to concealed carry.|
|New Hampshire||No knife restrictions.|
|New Jersey||No age restrictions. Most knives are illegal to carry outside the home without having a lawful purpose.|
|New Mexico||No age restrictions. Concealed carry of dagger, bowie, butcher, and dirk knives is prohibited. Switchblade and butterfly knives are illegal to own.|
|New York||Persons under the age of 16 may not possess a “dangerous knife.” Possession of switchblades, ballistic, and metal knuckle knives are prohibited.|
|North Carolina||Unlawful to sell or furnish a bowie or dirk knife to a minor. Open carry is required except for ordinary pocket knives. Ballistic knives are illegal.|
|North Dakota||No age restrictions. It is illegal to conceal or carry gravity knives, switchblades, dirks, daggers, stilettos, scimitar, swords, or any other knife with a blade 5 inches or longer.|
|Ohio||No age restrictions. Concealed carry of any deadly weapon is prohibited. Ballistic knives are illegal.|
|Oklahoma||No knife restrictions.|
|Oregon||No age restrictions. Concealed carry of dirks, daggers, butterfly knives, gravity knives, or knives that swing into position by force is prohibited.|
|Pennsylvania||Unlawful to sell or transfer any deadly weapon to a person under the age of 18. Pocket knives have been held to be lethal weapons.|
|Rhode Island||Various knives or blades, including daggers, dirks, stilettos, bowie knives, and knives with blades longer than 3 inches may not be sold or transferred to minors without written consent from a parent or guardian.|
|South Carolina||No knife restrictions.|
|South Dakota||No knife restrictions.|
|Tennessee||No knife restrictions.|
|Texas||Knives with blades longer than 5.5 inches may not be sold to or owned by minors under the age of 18.|
|Utah||No knife restrictions for non-restricted persons.|
|Vermont||The furnishing or selling of dangerous weapons to persons under the age of 16 is prohibited. Switchblade knives with a blade longer than 3 inches are illegal.|
|Virginia||No age restrictions. Unlawful to conceal dirk, bowie, switchblade, ballistic, machete, razor, and throwing knives. Illegal to possess, sell, or furnish switchblade or ballistic knives.|
|Washington||No age restrictions. It is illegal to own a switchblade or other spring blade knife. It is unlawful to conceal, dirks, daggers, and dangerous weapons.|
|West Virginia||Minors under the age of 18 may not possess knives in the deadly weapon class unless emancipated. Consequently, it is illegal to sell, lend, or transfer deadly weapons to minors.|
|Wisconsin||Unlawful to transfer a dangerous weapon to a minor, which may or may not include knives.|
|Wyoming||To carry concealed knives, you must meet carry permit requirements, which include being 21 years old or older.|
Where Can I Carry a Knife?
State or federal laws generally prohibit knives in the following designated areas:
- Power plants, hydroelectric facilities, nuclear facilities
- Organized public events and gatherings
Most notably, for individuals under the age of 18, most states prohibit knives at schools. Additionally, state laws tend to require that you inform officers if you are carrying any knives when asked if armed.
According to federal and state laws, ordinary pocketknives (as defined above) are generally legal for minors under 18 to possess and buy. Other types of pocket knives, such as automatics, switchblades, or knives with blades longer than 2.5 inches, are either a grey area or undoubtedly illegal.
Furthermore, a lot of companies have their own policies regarding knife sales to minors. Even if state law permits, any store can refuse to sell you a pocketknife per company guidelines. If you are under 18, your safest bet is to purchase an ordinary, folding pocketknife with a parent present for consent if requested.