TN Knife Law Overview

Discussion in 'Knives and Bladed Tools' started by Jeff, Jul 23, 2012.

  1. Jeff

    Jeff TOF Admin Staff Member Administrator

    UPDATE: As of July 1, 2014 the below restrictions no longer apply in the State of Tennessee. All knives are legal regardless of blade length or deployment method.

    Based on my understanding of TCA, here is what I gather on TN Knife Law.

    Knives <= 4" are acceptable to carry in public.

    Knives > 4" are acceptable if they are incidental to other activities such as outdoor recreation (backpacking knives).

    Fixed blades and folding knives are both acceptable.

    Switchblade knives are illegal to carry unless you are qualified law enforcement or EMS.

    Note that knives like the Kershaw Speedsafe are not considered switchblade knives even though they are spring assisted since you have to actually press on a portion of the blade (not a button) to open the blade.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014
  2. Brandon Burroughs

    Brandon Burroughs Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    I would love to own a true stiletto switchblade!
    perkins likes this.
  3. Jessi

    Jessi Member

    So "open assist" knives in general are allowed, so long as they're under the 4 inch mark? Do you know what the penalty is if you're caught with one larger?
  4. Brandon Burroughs

    Brandon Burroughs Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Not sure about the penalty but let me ask you a question. Why would you want one larger? Any folder with a blade over 4" is just not comfortable to carry and really does not give you any added real benefit that a 4" knife blade would not. The only thing is if you were doing something that called for a larger blade (Hike, Camp, Backpack, Hunt etc) then a longer blade is legal anyway and you could just pack your large fixed blades.
  5. Jessi

    Jessi Member

    Oh I don't want one larger than that. I'm quite content with the 3.5 options that I use (which was the legal length in previous states I lived). I'm just curious what happens if you bend the rule too far and get caught. :)
  6. Jeff

    Jeff TOF Admin Staff Member Administrator

    It's a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500 or 30 days in jail.

    Actually, the statute reads that knives over 4" are not allowed if carried with "the intent to go armed." If the knife is to be used as a tool, then strictly speaking the 4" limit does not apply. This is why large fixed blade knives are OK while outdoors.

    Stepping away from the letter of the law for a second... Realistically speaking, you should never have a problem in TN with a knife exceeding 4" unless it was just an add-on charge to existing criminal charges. Such as if you had a large knife on you while you were robbing the local Stop-N-Rob (er, gas station).

    People carry all sorts of knives in public around here..many of which obviously exceed the 4" limit in the "intent to go armed" knife statute. Why, you ask? "Why are you carrying such a large knife, sir?" -- "I have to open a lot of large boxes." err..whatever. It's all about intent and that would make it very hard to stick a knife charge by itself without it being an add-on to existing criminal charges.
    firelily99 likes this.
  7. I like to carry a folding machete with me everywhere I go. I never know when I am going to get picked up by aliens and accidentally dropped into the jungle:D
    firelily99 likes this.
  8. Jeff

    Jeff TOF Admin Staff Member Administrator

    I like your style. :D
  9. Brandon Burroughs

    Brandon Burroughs Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Thats the way to roll!
  10. Isabellas2007

    Isabellas2007 Member

    I would hate to see what they would say about some of my knives. I have quite a few of them which are over the 4 inch mark.
  11. Brandon Burroughs

    Brandon Burroughs Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    As long as you have a legit use to be carrying or have the blade in your possession you are fine.
  12. Jeff

    Jeff TOF Admin Staff Member Administrator

    It's all about intent. You have a legit use for it and you're good as far as the law is concerned.
  13. UncleJak

    UncleJak Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    I have carried quite large blades for years, and have interacted with several LEOS and never had a problem. Once they know I'm not trying to stab people, they are pretty cool.
  14. I've heard that most knife laws are there just to give something else for prosecutors to pin on perps picked up for other issues and that if you're a law-abiding citizen, most cops aren't going to care what you've got as long as you're not waving it around to cause a panic or something.

    That does leave me with another question, though. Butterfly knives are not flip open, spring assisted, switch-, or fixed-blade, and there seems to be a big stigma about them, as well as a following. Aside from being >4", they're not any quicker or more lethal than anything else, even if they look cool to open. Why do they sometimes get special treatment in law books and such?
  15. UncleJak

    UncleJak Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    As I understand it, it has to do with the ability to open it one-handed. Which is stupid because I can open almost every knife one-handed. I guess it is the flash and dazzle shown when opening.
  16. acska83

    acska83 New Member

    I always thought 3" and smaller was the limit. Been here a week and already have learned something! :) Good to know about the 4" or less. Thanks.
  17. Broomhead

    Broomhead Member

    Balisongs/butterfly knives are considered gravity knives. The fact that you can quickly, one-handedly, and with very little effort, open it and put it into use makes it "more dangerous".
  18. twiz1

    twiz1 New Member

    Actually from what I have always heard and read, albeit on message boards, is that balisong/butterfly knives were outlawed mostly in the 50's and 60's...when all the gang members carried them (think west side story and the switchblade). It would be like banning the 9mm today because rappers sing about them...or like the ban on absinthe that has now been repealed most places. As with most of the other people here I could open most of my knives with such a small movement of my thumb that it would be imperceptible and likely less energy than pushing a button and definitely less than a balisong. Of course there are too many websites to bother trying to name them that have law after law of the most ridiculous things you will ever read...but they are still laws on the books and in effect because its too much trouble to go back and fix them. Thats why I suspect these 2 knife types are still illegal in most one has them and no one really cares enough to complain about not being able to have one because there are so many alternatives...many better than the switchblade or balisong. Thats just my opinion of course...I would guess there are many who want one just because they can't...or rather shouldn't have one.
    firelily99 likes this.
  19. E. W. Sumner

    E. W. Sumner New Member

    I have both a KaBar and a Gerber Mk 2 SEAL fighting knife (and a Ranger Tomahawk) and I'd like to carry the KaBar for self-protection. What are the laws regarding military knives?
  20. Jeff

    Jeff TOF Admin Staff Member Administrator

    There are no specific laws regarding military style knives or fixed blades. TCA is based entirely on blade length. Blades less than or equal to 4" are okay, blades over 4" are not. This all, of course, assumes the 'intent' of carrying the weapon is go 'go armed' (ie: self-defense). Switchblades are, unfortunately, forbidden for carry state-wide. Hoping that will change next year!

    Certain local municipalities had further restrictions beyond the state law, but this year legislation was passed to make the 4" limit state-wide. The pre-emption law will take effect in July.

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