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Can A Minor Carry A Pocketknife?

Girl in purple coat sitting on log whittling a stick

Pocketknives are very handy, found everywhere, and even sometimes are illegal. They are small enough to carry around in a pocket or on a keychain and can be used for everyday tasks, but they do have some restrictions. So does that mean minors can or cannot legally carry a pocketknife?

While knife laws vary between states, it is not necessarily illegal for a minor to carry a pocketknife. Generally, there is no age restriction, but there are laws that govern carrying a knife. Most pocketknives, especially those under three inches, are legal to carry by anyone though there are exceptions.

Other laws apply to larger knives or ones with a fixed blade. These kinds of knives can be considered a concealed weapon.

Of course, the real answer is much more complicated. What laws pertain to carrying a knife? How do knife laws differ from state to state? Where can you go to find more information on all of this? Luckily we have you covered and will cover all this down below.

Is It Legal for a Minor to Carry a Pocketknife?

The answer is yes… but it depends on where you reside and how you define a “pocketknife.” There are actually no states that prohibit anybody, including minors, from carrying pocketknives and instead regulate the actual knives and how they can be carried.

All states have some sort of knife laws, but some of these knife laws by state are more modern than others, and many municipalities and cities will often pass their own knife laws as well. For example, if you live in Denver, Colorado, you must obey the knife laws of Colorado and the knife laws of Denver. If you travel to a neighboring city, you must abide by that city’s knife laws.

So as long as a minor is obeying all of the existing knife laws of their state and their municipality, then they can legally carry around a pocketknife. Knowing and abiding by all of these knife rules can be a bit tricky, however, as every state and city is different.

Knife Terms and Definitions

To know and understand the laws of carrying a knife, it is crucial to understand the terms and definitions that pertain to knives thoroughly. A few simple words and phrases that you might run across include:

Fixed Blade Knife – a knife that does not have a folding mechanism and cannot change its shape or form. These can be of any blade size or length. Your average kitchen knives are a great example of fixed blade knives.

Folding Knife – a knife that allows the blade to fold into its handle for storage. These are what most “pocketknives” will fall under when it comes to categories and will typically have a hinge at the bottom of the blade to allow it to “swing” into itself for safety and ease of carrying.

Folding pocket knife on wooden table

Switchblade Knife – the definition of this type of knife can get confusing, as most places that regulate them come up with their own definitions of them. The 1958 Federal Switchblade Act defines switchblades as being “any knife having a blade which opens automatically 1. By hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife, or 2. By operation of inertia, gravity, or both.”

Assisted Opening Knife – a folding knife that will require a user to exert some force on the blade in order to open it, but then will ‘assist’ the opening with either a spring or other mechanism once you have applied some force to the blade. These were specifically exempted from the Switchblade Act.

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General Guide to Knife Laws

There are generally two different types: carry laws and ownership laws when it comes to knife laws. Both of these refer to precisely what their name implies and dictate the type of knives that you can have ownership of and how you can carry them.

Ownership laws will forbid people from owning certain types of knives that might be considered “deadly weapons” or dangerous to the public. These are generally very large knives that have little utility use.

Carry laws will forbid people from carrying, whether it is open or concealed, specific knives. For example, some states prohibit an individual from conceal carry of knives over a certain length, but open carry of that same knife is legal. Other states forbid the carry, concealed and open, of specific knives.

If you want to carry a knife and avoid running into legal trouble in most places, try getting a knife that is clearly intended for utility use. Most pocketknives, Leathermen, and multi-tools will fall under this description and will generally be ok anywhere you go. Provided that the knife blade is less than three inches, you should be just fine. There are, however, a few places where this does not apply, such as airports, schools, courts, and other special places.

For more information on knives, read our post “Can You Carry A Knife While Camping? The Law Explained.”

Where Can’t You Carry a Pocketknife?

While pocketknives really aren’t considered a big deal across the majority of the country, there are a few different places that you DO NOT want to have one on your person. In many states, they will deem certain places where “weapons” are not allowed (including knives) to be carried.

Schools are one of the biggest examples of this. In some places, this will mean any educational institution, whether it is a kindergarten or a university. Other examples of prohibited places include (but are not limited to) polling locations, government buildings, courthouses, airports, power plants, financial institutions, and businesses that serve alcohol for consumption.

Of course, these are not the only places that prohibit anyone, not just minors, from carrying a knife. Other locations, such as private businesses, can easily prohibit anyone who enters from carrying a “weapon” on them, even a small and relatively harmless pocketknife.

It is your responsibility to learn what places do allow knives to be carried and which ones do not. The last thing you want to take place is to get into trouble by accidentally carrying a pocketknife into an area that does not allow it.

Can a Minor Legally Buy a Knife?

Legally, yes, they can. Will minors be able to? Probably not. While it may technically be legal in many states, especially when buying a utility knife or one with a blade under three inches, many businesses will have their own store policies of not selling to anybody under 18. Again, this policy will vary from state to state and largely will depend on the area that you are living in.

What Types of Knives Tend to be Illegal?

Throughout the country, specific knives are illegal to carry, especially if they are concealed or undetected and have a spring blade. In general, the knives that fall under more scrutiny are those that do not have any other uses, such as a tool or utility purpose. Some of these knives include (but are not limited to):

  • Cane Knives
  • Air Gauge Knives
  • Writing Pen Knives
  • Belt Buckle Knives
  • Ballistic Knives
  • Switchblades that have a blade longer than 2 inches
  • Lipstick Knives

Some states regulate the carry of knives much like they do their concealed firearms and often will allow certain privileges within the same license.

To learn more information about knife laws in different states, check the American Knife & Tool Institute website.

Final Thoughts

So can a minor legally carry a pocketknife? That question is hard to answer, as you can now see that there are so many different contributing factors to give a definite yes or no answer. For the most part, however, minors can carry around a simple pocketknife as long as it is not a type of illegal knife and they are not carrying it in a restricted area.

Boy whittling a stick

Pocket knives are some of the most helpful, handiest tools that you can have at your fingertips, and it makes total sense to want to have one with you at all times. These small, simple knives can be carried just about anywhere and just seem to make life so much easier when you have one nearby.

With minors, it can be a bit confusing with the pocketknife laws, so be sure to educate yourself on the laws where you intend to carry. After learning and understanding your state and local laws, abiding by them is much easier, and you will know where you can and cannot take your knife legally.

We have made every effort to provide the correct information in this post. However, this post is not intended to provide legal advice; it is your responsibility to verify the laws where you live or plan to carry your pocketknife.

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The western part of the country draws me with its mountains, deserts, and red rock vistas. Still, there are numerous other wonders I'm ready to explore., from Maine's rugged coast to California's Big Sur cliffs and everywhere between.