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Deciphering OTF Knife Laws: Navigating the Legal Landscape in the USA

Deciphering OTF Knife Laws: Navigating the Legal Landscape in the USA

Out-The-Front (OTF) knives have captured the attention of knife enthusiasts and collectors for their unique design and functionality. But if you're considering owning or carrying an OTF knife, it's crucial to understand the complex landscape of state laws that govern them. In this article, we'll provide you with a comprehensive state-by-state guide to the legality of OTF knives in the United States.

Federal Overview

At the federal level, OTF knives fall under the category of switchblade knives, which are defined as knives with blades that open automatically by applying pressure to a button or device in the handle. The federal law governing switchblade knives is the Switchblade Knife Act of 1958. Here's a summary of the federal regulations:

  • Possession:¬†Federal law does not prohibit the possession of OTF knives. However, knives with spring-assisted opening mechanisms are typically not considered switchblades under federal law.
  • Sale:¬†Federal law generally permits the sale of OTF knives.
  • Carry Laws:¬†Federal law does not specifically regulate the carry of knives, leaving this aspect primarily to state laws.

It's essential to keep in mind that while federal law sets a baseline, it does not preempt state laws. Each state has the authority to enact its own knife regulations, which can be more restrictive or lenient than federal law.

State-Specific Laws

The legal status of OTF knives varies significantly from one state to another. Below, we provide an overview of the legal status of OTF knives in each state, covering possession, sale, carry laws, and whether the state has preemption status:

States Where OTF Knives Are Legal

  • Alabama:¬†Legal for individuals aged 18 and older. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. However, Alabama does not have state preemption.
  • Alaska:¬†Legal for individuals aged 21 or older. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Alaska has state preemption.
  • Arizona:¬†Legal for all adults. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Arizona has state preemption.
  • Arkansas:¬†Legal for individuals aged 18 and older. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Arkansas does not have state preemption.
  • Florida:¬†Legal for individuals aged 18 and older. Sale and concealed carry are generally permitted, except to concealed carry permit holders. Florida does not have state preemption.
  • Georgia:¬†Legal if blade length is under 12 inches (2 inches on school grounds). Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Georgia has state preemption.
  • Idaho:¬†Legal, with blade length restrictions on school property. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Idaho has state preemption.
  • Indiana:¬†Legal. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Indiana has state preemption.
  • Kansas:¬†Legal. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Kansas has state preemption.
  • Kentucky:¬†Legal for individuals aged 21 and older. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Kentucky's state preemption applies to firearms only.
  • Louisiana:¬†Legal. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Louisiana does not have state preemption.
  • Mississippi:¬†Legal, with exceptions. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Mississippi has state preemption.
  • Missouri:¬†Legal, with blade length restrictions for concealed carry. Sale and open carry are generally permitted. Missouri does not have state preemption.
  • Montana:¬†Legal. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Montana has state preemption.
  • Nebraska:¬†Legal, with blade length restrictions for concealed carry. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Nebraska does not have state preemption.
  • Nevada:¬†Legal. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Nevada does not have state preemption.
  • New Hampshire:¬†Legal. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. New Hampshire has state preemption.
  • North Carolina:¬†Legal. Sale and open carry are generally permitted. Concealed carry is less clear and can vary.
  • North Dakota:¬†Legal, with restrictions on concealed carry. Sale and open carry are generally permitted. North Dakota does not have state preemption.
  • Ohio:¬†Legal. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Ohio has state preemption.
  • Oklahoma:¬†Legal. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Oklahoma has state preemption.
  • Oregon:¬†Legal, with restrictions on concealed carry. Sale and open carry are generally permitted. Oregon has state preemption.
  • Pennsylvania:¬†Legal, with exceptions. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Pennsylvania does not have state preemption.
  • South Carolina:¬†Legal, with exceptions. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. South Carolina's state preemption applies to firearms only.
  • South Dakota:¬†Legal. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. South Dakota does not have state preemption.
  • Tennessee:¬†Legal, with exceptions. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Tennessee has state preemption.
  • Texas:¬†Legal, with exceptions. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Texas has state preemption.
  • Utah:¬†Legal, with restrictions for convicted felons. Sale and open carry are generally permitted. Utah has state preemption.
  • Vermont:¬†Legal, with blade length restrictions. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Vermont has state preemption.
  • Virginia:¬†Legal, with exceptions. Sale and open carry are generally permitted. Concealed carry is restricted in certain circumstances. Virginia does not have state preemption.
  • West Virginia:¬†Legal, with restrictions for individuals under 21. Sale and open carry are generally permitted. West Virginia has state preemption.
  • Wisconsin:¬†Legal, with restrictions for prohibited individuals. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Wisconsin has state preemption.
  • Wyoming:¬†Legal. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Wyoming has state preemption.

States with Restricted OTF Knife Laws

  • California:¬†OTF knives are illegal unless the blade length is under 2 inches. Sale is legal for blades under 2 inches, and open or concealed carry is permitted with such knives. California does not have state preemption.
  • Colorado:¬†Legal with restrictions. Sale and open carry are generally permitted, with blade length limitations. Concealed carry is limited to specific situations, such as for hunting or lawful protection in privately owned vehicles. Colorado's preemption law primarily applies to firearms.
  • Connecticut:¬†Legal. Sale and open or concealed carry are generally permitted. Connecticut does not have state preemption.
  • Illinois:¬†Legal with exceptions. Sale is limited to Illinois FOID card owners. Open or concealed carry is generally legal at the state level, but numerous cities and localities have knife ordinances.

 

I've additionally generated a table providing information on what is permitted or prohibited by state. It's important to note that prior to making a purchase, you should remain mindful of state, federal, and local laws applicable in your area. 

 

LegalUnclear, generally interpreted as illegalNO

  possesion  sale  carry laws  state preemption 
Alabama  Legal for people aged 18 and older legal legal to carry openly or concealed  NO
Alaska  legal for people aged 21 or older  legal for people aged 18 and older minors need written permission  legal to carry openly of concealed for people aged 21 and older  YES
Arizona  legal  legal  legal to carry openly of concealed for people aged 21 and older  YES
Arkansas legal legal 18 years or older  legal to carry openly or concealed  NO
California Illegal unless under 2 inches  legal if blade length under 2 inches legal to carry openly or concealed with a blade length under 2 inches  NO
Colorado  Legal  Legal  Legal to carry openly or concealed if the blae length is under 3.5"  Limited. In practice, the state's preemption law only applies when transporting a "weapon" in a privately owned vehicle "for hunting or lawful protection." (CRS 18-12-105.6).
Connecticut  Legal  Legal  legal to carry openly or concealed  NO 
Delaware  illegal  illegal  illegal  NO
District of Columbia (D.C.)  illegal  illegal  illegal  N/A
Florida Legal  Legal 18 Years or Older illegal, except to concealed carry permit holders  NO 
Georgia  Legal if blade length is under 12 inches (2 inches on school grounds) legal legal to carry openly or concealed  YES
Hawaii illegal illegal illegal NO
Idaho Legal (blade length must be under 2.5 inches on school property) legal 18 years or older  illegal except to concealed carry permit holders YES
Illinois Illegal, Except to illinois FOID card owners  Illegal, except to sellers with an Illinois FOID card Legal to carry openly or concealed at the state level. However, numerous cities and localities have knife ordinances. NO
Indiana Legal  Legal  Legal to carry openly or concealed  YES
Iowa Legal Legal Illegal without a permit if the knife meets the definition of a "dangerous weapon;" legal otherwise Although Iowa has a preemption statute (724.28), it only applies to firearms. Cities and counties may enact knife ordinances.
Kansas Legal Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed YES
Kentucky Legal Legal legal to carry openly or concealed for people aged 21 and older  Kentucky's preemption statute (KRS 65.870) applies to firearms only. Cities and localities may enact knife ordinances
Louisiana Legal Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed NO
Maine  Legal Legal Open carry is legal if not carried "in a threatening manner," concealed carry is illegal except when hunting, fishing, or trapping NO 
maryland  Legal  Illegal  Open carry is legal without "intent or purpose of injuring an individual" unlawfully (carrying for self-defense is unlawful). Concealed carry is illegal. NO 
Massachusetts Legal if blade length is 1.5 inches or less Illegal   Legal to carry openly or concealed (including vehicle carry) if blade length is 1.5 inches or less NO 
Michigan  Legal  Legal  legal to carry opened and concealed  NO 
Minnesota  Illegal  Illegal Illegal  NO 
Mississippi legal except to minors, intoxicated individuals (MS code97-37-13) and Felons (MS Code 97-37-5) Legal except to minors and intoxicated individuals  Illegal, except inside one's own property, place of business, vehicle, or while engaged in a "legitimate weapon-related activity" YES
Missouri Legal Legal Legal to carry openly, legal to carry concealed if blade length is 4 inches or less (no blade length restriction for valid concealed carry permit holders) except where restricted by MO Statute 571.107 NO
Montana Legal Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed YES
Nebraska  Legal Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed, legal to carry concealed if the blade length is 3.5 inches or less NO
Nevada Legal Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed NO
New Hampshire Legal Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed YES
New Jersey  Legal with restirction  Illegal  Theoretically legal to carry openly or concealed; however, this is contingent on the knife's intended purpose being considered lawful. NO
New Mexico Illegal Illegal Illegal YES
New York  Illegal except for select members of law enforcement, military, and government, and to licensed hunters, anglers, and trappers. Illegal except for select members of law enforcement, military, and government, and to licensed hunters, anglers, and trappers. Illegal NO
North Carolina  Legal
North Dakota Legal  Legal Legal to carry openly, illegal to carry concealed except to concealed carry permit holders NO
Ohio Legal Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed YES
Oklahoma Legal Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed YES
Oregon  Legal Legal Legal to carry openly, Illegal to carry concealed YES
Pennsylvania  Legal Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed unless the person carrying it has "intent to employ it criminally" (PACS 907) NO
Rhode Island Legal Legal Legal to carry openly, concealed carry is legal if the blade length is 3 inches or less. NO
South Carolina  Legal Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed, except while committing a crime, or with the intention to do so Yes. However, several cities, including Charleston, Greenville, and Columbia, have knife ordinances in place implemented before the adoption of a statewide preemption law. Local law enforcement may continue enforcing these ordinances, despite being inconsistent with state legislation.
South Dakota Legal Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed NO
Tennessee Legal Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed, Except on school Grounds YES
Texas  Legal Legal. Location-restricted knives can only be sold to people over the age of 18. Legal to carry openly or concealed, except at select places if carrying is a "location-restricted knife" YES
Utah Legal  Legal, except to convicted felons  Legal, except to convicted felons YES
Vermont Legal if blade length under 3 inches Legal if blade length under 3 inches to people aged 16 or more. Legal to carry openly or concealed  YES
Virginia Legal Legal Illegal, except at home, one's own place of business, or another exemption listed under 18.2-308© NO
Washington Illegal Illegal Illegal NO
West Virginia Legal Legal Legal to carry openly. Concealed carry legal only to individuals aged 21 or older. Persons under 21 but over 18 may legally conceal-carry with a West Virginia Provisional Concealed Handgun License. YES
Wisconsin Legal  Legal Legal to carry openly or concealed, except to individuals prohibited from possessing firearms YES
Wyoming  Legal Legal Legal YES
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