Missouri knife laws are fairly unrestrictive but can be vague and confusing, as one must look at several statutes and some case law in order to determine exactly what the law is. The following article pieces it all together, so you know what Missouri knife laws really say.
What is Legal to Own
- It is legal to own dirks, stilettos, and other slim knives.
- It is legal to own boot knives and other daggers
- It is legal to own Balisong knives, sometimes called butterfly knives.
- It is legal to own undetectable knives–knives that will not set off metal detectors.
- It is legal to own throwing stars and throwing knives and even throwing axes.
- It is legal to own Bowie knives and other large knives.
- It is legal to own and carry a switchblade
What is Illegal to Own
Up until 2012, it WAS against state law to carry a switchblade. Since that time, the law was amended to remove switchblade from its list of prohibited weapons. The law basically states it’s legal to have a switchblade insofar as it does not violate any Federal laws. The federal law, which governs possession of switchblades, is 15 USC Chapter 29. The law allows a person to possess and/or carry a switchblade on or about his person if the blade is less than three inches long and the person has only one arm, or the knife contains a spring or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade. Essentially, it is not a violation of law to simply carry a switchblade. The only catch is that “in certain Federal jurisdictions” it is in fact, illegal to possess a switchblade.
What the Law States
*571.030. Unlawful use of weapons — exceptions — penalties. — 1. A person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons, except as otherwise provided by sections 571.101 to 571.121, if he or she knowingly:
(1) Carries concealed upon or about his or her person a knife, a firearm, a blackjack or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use into any area where firearms are restricted under section 571.107
§ 571.030 was revised in 2017 from item (1) above (plain text) to the entire statement including the bold, italicized section. So, what once was illegal to carry concealed anywhere, appears to be only illegal to carry into areas where firearms are restricted. Practically, that means you can carry a concealed knife most anywhere other than obvious locations like schools, public courthouses, police stations, etc. You can research the details on restricted locations at THIS LINK. However, in order to find out what a “knife” is, and what “conceal” means, one must look to other sections of the code, as well as case law.
Definition of Various Knives
§ 571.010 defines a “knife” as any dagger, dirk, stiletto, or bladed hand instrument that is readily capable of inflicting serious physical injury or death by cutting or stabbing a person, unless it is an ordinary pocket knife, with a blade no more than four inches long. According to the Court in the State of Missouri v. Weir, a knife must also contain a folding blade that is not double-edged, in order to be considered a pocketknife.
A switchblade is defined by statute as any knife with a blade that folds or closes into the handle and that opens automatically or by the force of gravity.
A dagger was defined by the Missouri Supreme Court, in State v. Martin, as “a short weapon with a sharp point, used for stabbing”.
Limits on Carry
- You may conceal carry any pocketknife with a folding blade less than four inches
- You may not conceal carry any other knife in Missouri, on your person or in your vehicle
- You may open carry any knife that is legal own
In the case of State v. Dowdy, the Court found that a paring knife, concealed on Dowdy’s person, was a knife under Missouri law, and could not be conceal carried.
Definition of Concealed
A knife is considered concealed in Missouri if it is not readily and practically visible to approaching persons under ordinary circumstances. In the case of State v. Rowe, Thomas Rowe was charged with unlawful use of a weapon, when a search of his pickup truck revealed a knife with a six-inch blade hidden in the pocket of the driver’s side door. The Missouri Court of appeals found that even though the handle of the knife was visible, the weapon was considered concealed because the handle was not easily recognizable as part of a weapon. The Rowe Court also concluded that in order to convict a person for conceal carrying a knife, the knife must be in easy reach of that person.
Exceptions to the Concealed Carry Law
Missouri concealed carry laws do not apply to certain government employees and process servers who are carrying a concealed weapon while doing their job, members of the armed forces, hunters who are also legally carrying an exposed firearm or bow, or to those who are ‘peaceably’ and continuously traveling through the state.
Several defendants have challenged the phrase “peaceably traveling” and “continuous journey” and the Missouri Courts have made some decisions about what peaceably traveling and continuous journey mean and do not mean.
In 1978, the Court found in State v, Mason that a traveler did not have to be traveling to or from a point outside of the state to be excluded from the concealed carry law under its peaceable traveler clause.
In 1990, in the case of State v. Wilkerson, the Supreme Court found that transporting a ‘considerable quantity’ of illegal narcotics through the state did not qualify as peaceable travel.
In 1992, in the Missouri Supreme Court held, in State v. Purlee, that the travelers’ exemption did not apply to defendants traveling through the state during the commission of a felony, or for any unlawful purpose.
In 2001, the Missouri Appellate Court found, in State v. White, that possession of a small amount of marijuana, which was a misdemeanor, did not exempt a defendant from the peaceably travelers defense to carrying a concealed weapon.
Conclusion on Missouri Knife Law
Missouri is fairly relaxed about its knife ownership laws. It is legal to own any type of knife in Missouri.
Knife laws in Missouri allow for the open carry of any legal knife, but do not allow residents to conceal carry any type of knife, either on their person or in their vehicle.
There are a few exceptions to the conceal carry law, which allow some government employees and private citizens with certain jobs, as well as persons simply traveling through the state, to carry a concealed knife on their person or in their vehicle.
§ 571.020 R.S.Mo. (2017)
§ 571.010 R.S.Mo. (2017)
§ 571.030 R.S.Mo. (2017)
15 USC Chapter 29
State v. Rowe, 67 S.W.3d 649 (Mo. Ct. App. 2002)
State v. Weir, 752 S.W.2d 461 (Mo. Ct. App. 1988)
State v. Dowdy, 724 S.W.2d 250 (Mo. Ct. App. 1986)
State v. Wilkerson, 796 S.W.2d 388 (Mo. App. 1990)
State v. Purlee, 839 S.W.2d 584 (Mo. banc 1992)
State v White, 58 S.W.3d 627 (Mo. Ct. App. 2001)
State v. Martin, 633 S.W.2d 80, 81 (Mo. 1982)
*Article updated July 3, 2018
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