ONE FOR THE ROAD
Knives Illustrated|March-April 2021
CHOOSING AN “EVERYWHERE KNIFE” CAN BE DIFFICULT DUE TO COMPLICATED KNIFE LAWS
DOUGLAS S. RITTER

PITFALLS ON THE ROAD

First off, the answer to why there is no such thing is that, in some places, no knife is legal for most people to carry. The most notorious example of this is Philadelphia. Its draconian ordinance §10-820 Cutting Weapons in Public Places prohibits any person except first responders from the “use or possess[ion of] any cutting weapon upon the public streets or upon any public property at any time” unless it is being used in a “trade, profession, or calling.” Their definition of a “cutting weapon” covers “any knife,” as well as anything else “that has a cutting edge similar to that of a knife.” The penalty is not less than $300 and imprisonment for not less than 90 days.

How often such ordinances are enforced is another matter entirely, but do you want to take the chance that you run into the odd law enforcement officer with a bad attitude or having a bad day? That’s when it can get expensive, or even potentially life-changing. Worth noting is that in our experience, most knife arrests or violations occur as a result of some other incident that brings you into contact with an officer, such as a traffic stop, being drunk and disorderly, or something similar.

There are always exceptions to every rule and New York City is the most infamous exception to this one. Most knife violations and confiscations (illegally seized, but they don’t care) in NYC result from having a knife clipped to a pocket. NYC code prohibits any legal knife (under 4-inch blade) from being visibly carried, so it must be carried completely concealed.

PENALTIES VARY

If you know exactly where you will be traveling, you can use Knife Rights’ LegalBlade app to find out what is the law (see sidebar on page 28) in that location. I’d recommend it to anyone who travels.

Beyond outright prohibition on carrying of a knife, many states, cities, and towns prohibit knives with particular operating mechanisms, blade length, blade shape, or how it is carried, as well as other considerations. Many places also have a vague catch-all weapon prohibition and/or a vague “carry with intent to use against another” prohibition that is open to interpretation. Major metro areas particularly tend to enforce these vague laws and ordinances aggressively against any knife they perceive as a “weapon,” as opposed to a “tool.”

The penalties for breaking these laws, ordinances, or administrative codes vary, but the vast majority are misdemeanor offenses if it’s a state law, which is still a very serious concern. Or it can be equivalent to a traffic ticket if it’s local code, which is generally less expensive but still painful. Sometimes the knife is confiscated, and although that isn’t always lawful, arguing with an officer over that can escalate the issue into a much bigger problem.

New Jersey is the only state where violating any of its knife prohibitions is a felony. Other states allow for a misdemeanor offense to be upgraded to a felony if the defendant has a prior criminal conviction. Our experience is that this felony upgrade is almost always prosecuted. In New York City, for example, we commonly see this, even when the original criminal conviction is decades old.

SAFER BETS

If your goal is a “universal” or “nearly universal” carry, let’s look at what is generally prohibited and may potentially cause problems so you can avoid carrying these knives when traveling.

Six states still outright ban automatic knives, and an additional 11 states ban, or restrict in some manner, open carry. These bans generally also include butterfly (balisong) and gravity knives (though there are a few exceptions.) If looking for a “universal” knife, take autos, butterfly knives, and gravity knives off your list.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM KNIVES ILLUSTRATEDView All

TIP TALK

UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BLADE TIP SHAPES AND WHY IT MATTERS

7 mins read
Knives Illustrated
January-February 2021

HOLDING FIRM

GETTING A GRIP ON KNIFE HANDLE BENEFITS, MATERIALS, AND FUNCTIONALITY

9 mins read
Knives Illustrated
January-February 2021

EDGE UP

TIPS, TRICKS, AND TECHNIQUES TO SHARP WHEN ADVENTURING FAR FROM HOME

6 mins read
Knives Illustrated
January-February 2021

THE COMBAT KITCHEN

SLICE, DICE, CHOP, AND CUT: FOOD PREP WITH BLADES FROM POPULAR TACTICAL KNIFE COMPANIES

8 mins read
Knives Illustrated
March-April 2021

MORAKNIV Classics

THESE TIMELESS BUSHCRAFT KNIVES HAVE BEEN UPDATED AND ARE BETTER THAN EVER

8 mins read
Knives Illustrated
March-April 2021

ONE FOR THE ROAD

CHOOSING AN “EVERYWHERE KNIFE” CAN BE DIFFICULT DUE TO COMPLICATED KNIFE LAWS

9 mins read
Knives Illustrated
March-April 2021

TRAVELING LIGHT

SOMETIMES, INEXPENSIVE UTILITY BLADES YOU PICK UP AT YOUR DESTINATION CAN GET THE JOB DONE

6 mins read
Knives Illustrated
March-April 2021

MATCHED PAIR

JB KNIFE WORKS LAYMAN KNIFE AND GAMBIT HATCHET COMBO: ONE PICKS UP WHERE THE OTHER LEAVES OFF

9 mins read
Knives Illustrated
March-April 2021

WHEN BIGGER IS BETTER

THE CAS IBERIA CHOP HOUSE IS A MACHETE THAT PROVIDES BIG BLADE CUTTING POWER

8 mins read
Knives Illustrated
March-April 2021

KITCHEN KNIVES DON'T HAVE TO BE DULL

I have a confession to make. See if this sounds familiar. I take meticulous care of the knives I use for everyday carry, hunting, and general woods wandering. I wipe them down with an oily cloth after use and I never let them get too dull. Seldom do I have to restore a damaged edge. Most of the time I simply touch up the edges of my pocketknives with a few careful strokes across the rough bottom of a ceramic coffee cup. That’s usually all that’s needed. I don’t use my knives as screwdrivers or pry bars. As a matter of fact, I still have the very first knife I ever owned, an old Boy Scout knife that was handed down from my older brother. The blades have a deep patina that comes with using carbon steel over the years, but the knife is very usable still.

2 mins read
Knives Illustrated
March-April 2021