This article has been updated on June 8, 2021, to include the updated statutes in the Texas penal code included specifically in the September 2017 House Bill #01935
Texas knife laws are primarily found in the Court’s decisions, or case law, as the statutes are short and do not provide much information about the meaning of terms.
Under Article 1, Section 23 of the Texas State Constitution, Texans enjoy a broadly interpreted right to bear arms that include knives. However, Article 1, Section 23 also grants the Texas legislature the legal right to regulate weapons to prevent violent crimes.
Texas Knife Law Reform: Background
In 1871, the Texas Legislature adopted a bill barring Texans from carrying Bowie knives and other arms like slingshots, swords, canes, and brass knuckles. In 2017, these restrictions finally ended. Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 1935 changing the term “illegal knife” to “location-restricted knife.”
Now Texas defines an illegal knife as a knife with a blade longer than 5½ inches.
The 2017 bill removed all criminal penalties associated with carrying most knives in the state of Texas. Legislators removed legal language that restricted specific knife designs. However, at the last minute, an amendment to the bill was added barring the carrying of knives with blades longer than 5 and a half inches. This was due to a tragic and illegal knife attack on a college campus just blocks away from the capital.
This article summarizes the case law and the statutes so that anyone can understand what is legal and what is not when it comes to owning and carrying knives in the state of Texas.
What Is Legal To Own
- It is legal to own throwing stars or any type of throwing knife
- It is legal to own dirks, daggers, stilettos, and other stabbing knives
- It is legal to own a bowie knife
- It is legal to own a sword or spear
- It is legal to own a switchblade knife
- It is legal to own a pocket knife
- It is legal to own a Balisong, or butterfly knife
You don’t have to have a permit to carry knives in Texas.
What is Illegal
- It is illegal to carry a “location-restricted” knife to/near specific locations.
The Texas state legislature does not limit other knives.
What the Texas Knife Laws State
The state legislature is covered by the Unlawful Carrying Weapons law as well as some case precedents.
§ 46.02. Unlawful Carrying Weapons
(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on
or about his or her person a handgun, illegal knife, or club if the person is not:
(1) on the person’s own premises or premises under the person’s control; or
(2) inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person’s control.
Definitions of Various Types of Knives
An automatic switchblade knife, as defined by the Texas code, has a blade that folds, closes, or retracts into the handle, and opens automatically by applying pressure to a button on the handle, by gravity, or by centrifugal force (rotating the knife).
Knives described as switchblade knives do not include those that are kept closed by a spring, spring-like device, or other mechanism and that must be opened by exerting force on the blade with the hand, wrist, or arm. It is not necessary for a switchblade to be operable in its original condition to qualify as a switchblade under the law.
In Smith v. State, the Texas Court of Appeals affirmed Mr. Smith’s conviction for carrying a switchblade with a broken release mechanism, because Mr. Smith retained the blade with a rubber band, but had no difficulty using the knife as a switchblade. It was ruled that the knife did not have to operate in the originally intended manner for a conviction to be obtained under the statute.
Update – as of September 1, 2013, switchblades are no longer illegal in the state of Texas.
Prior to the passage of the new knife law in 2017, in Albert v. State, the defendant was charged with carrying a concealed deadly weapon, a charge he sought to dismiss on the grounds that the objects found by the arresting officer under a floor mat were not throwing stars and thus not illegal to carry. The court found the testimony of the arresting officer to be sufficient to support the finding that the objects were throwing stars and therefore illegal to carry.
However, with the passage of the new law in 2017, throwing stars (and any other type of throwing knife) are now legal.
Dagger and Bowie Knife
Former Texas Penal Code 1161, in connection with the law of assault with intent to murder, defined daggers and bowie knifes as any knife intended to be worn upon the person, which is capable of inflicting death, and is not commonly known as a pocket knife. In Armendariz v. State, the Court upheld Mr. Armendariz conviction for unlawfully carrying a dagger. It found that the weapon Mr. Armendariz carried, which was slightly over seven inches in length when open, equipped with a double guard, had a blade that locked in place when open and was sharpened on both edges for slightly more than an inch from the point, was a dagger, not a pocketknife.
With the passage of the new law in 2017, Bowie knives, swords, spears, daggers and machetes, all of which have been illegal to carry in Texas for years, became legal so long as the knife blade is no longer than 5 1/2 inches.
In 2005, in an unpublished decision, the Texas Court of Appeals found, in Cook v. State, that a butterfly knife is a prohibited weapon. The court explained that a butterfly knife is a “hand-operated knuckle knife that consists of two handles attached to opposing sides of a blade. However, because the law which made switchblade knives illegal was repealed in 2013, butterfly knives are now legal to own in Texas.
Knife Laws Relating to Minors
According to Chapter 46 of the Texas Penal Code, it is also forbidden for any person under the age of 18 to possess knives with blades longer than 5.5″ in length. It is a crime for a person under the age of 18 to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry on or about his or her person a location-restricted knife.
If the minor is under the direct supervision of their parent or legal guardian, they can use the knife on the person’s own property. Other exceptions include if the knife is being used for legal hunting or fishing, or if the person is under the direct supervision of their parent or legal guardian.
Restrictions on Carry
• See CONCLUSION below
Carry restrictions do not apply to a person’s own vehicle or a vehicle that is under their control, as long as the weapon is being carried for a lawful purpose.
Definition of Blade
In Rainer v. State, Mr. Rainer was charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon for having a large hunting knife concealed on his person when he was arrested at a lounge for failing to appear in Court the Texas Appellate Court held that blade as defined in the dictionary as the cutting part of a knife, not the sharpened part. Therefore, the blade of a knife was the part of the knife from the handle to tip and not just the sharpened portion.
Texas “Location Restricted” Knife Laws
§ 46.01. Definitions
In this chapter:
(6) “Location-restricted” means a knife with a blade over five and one-half inches.
(7) “Knife” means any bladed hand instrument that is capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by cutting or stabbing a person with the instrument.
Texas Penal Code § 46.03 entitled “Places Weapons Prohibited” regulates location restricted knives and provides in relevant part:
A person commits an offense if he intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a location restricted knife (on the premises of a business that has a permit or license issued under state law if
- the business derives 51 percent or more of its income from the sale or service of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
- on the premises where a high school, collegiate, or professional sporting event or interscholastic event is taking place unless the person is a participant in the event and a location-restricted knife is used in the event.
- On the premises of a correctional facility.
- On the premises of a hospital licensed under state law or nursing home licensed under state law unless the person has written authorization of the hospital or nursing facility administration, as appropriate.
- On the premises of a mental hospital as defined by state law, unless the person has written authorization of the mental hospital administration.
- in an amusement park.
- On the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established place of religious worship).
Under the literal language of the law, certain people are at risk of arrest for using ordinary implements of the job, such as gardeners at an educational institution or church or synagogue using knives to trim vegetation or cooks using knives to prepare food in locations where 51% of the income came from liquor sales, or on campus.
Brandishing or otherwise displaying a location-restricted knife in one of the restricted places listed above can result in a Class C misdemeanor (or a third-degree felony if carrying in a bar)
Interestingly, it is entirely possible for an individual to get arrested for a misdemeanor offense, forget that he has a weapon on his person, such as a knife, and, as soon as he crossed the threshold of the jail, be guilty of the offense of possession of a prohibited weapon in a penal institution.
Similarly, an individual serving a “work release” sentence could enter the jail with a knife used at his work and be guilty of possession of a weapon in jail or penal institution.
Another scenario to be aware of is you could be entering a courthouse for a court date with a knife with a blade of over five and one-half inches and you forgot you had the knife on you. You could then be arrested for possession of a weapon in a prohibited place. (Tx. Penal Code § 46.03 – – a crime to possess a weapon at school, polling place, government office, racetrack, or airport)).
A cleanup bill to remove these troublesome location restrictions passed the Senate in 2019. However, the bill ended up dying in the House when the session ended without a vote on Bill.
It passed the House this year (2021), but the bill is now stalled in the Senate State Affairs Committee. Hopefully, the bill will ultimately pass. See Important Knife Reform Bottled up by Texas Senate State Affairs Committee (HB 956), 2021 WLNR 16635956
Can Local Knife Ordinances Be More Strict Than Texas Law?
In 2015 Knife Law Preemption was enacted, invalidating all local knife ordinances more restrictive than Texas state law, Therefore, local knife ordinances are ineffective if they are more strict than state laws passed by the Texas Legislature.
Conclusion on Texas Knife Laws
Effective September 1, 2017, a House Bill (HB 1935) put forth by Rep. John Frullo has been enacted and it has significantly reduced restrictions on what was one of the toughest laws pertaining to knife use in the country. you can check out the entire bill here (which outlines in detail the places it is not legal to carry a location-restricted knife:
There is no “illegal knives” clause outlining daggers, stilettos, dirks, swords, spears and Bowie knives. It has been removed, though knives that include a set of knuckles in the handle will remain illegal – see Sec. 46.05(2) of the Penal Code.
To summarize (and save you the hassle of wading through tons of statues), here’s what you need to know in the big picture:
Knives with knuckles (see above) and tomahawks (see – Sec. 46.01 (1)) are not legal to carry in Texas. Anyone under the age of 18 (or over), can carry a knife less than 5.5 inches in length nearly anywhere. If you’re under 18, you can only carry a knife with a blade over 5.5 inches under certain conditions like for example, you’re accompanied by an adult or you’re at home or on your way home. However, any adult can carry any knife over 5.5 inches anywhere other than certain restricted locations (see above). There are some restrictions on locations (hence the term “location-restricted knives”). You can’t carry any “location-restricted” knife (blade over 5.5 inches in length) to the following locations:
• Schools and on any passenger transportation vehicle of a school
• Polling Places
• Airports past Security Screening (all knives are already prohibited by TSA)
• Within 1,000 feet of the premises where an Execution is being conducted, if posted
• Sporting Events (high school, collegiate or professional sporting event or interscholastic sporting event)
• Correctional Facilities
• Nursing Homes
• Mental Hospitals
• Amusement Parks
• Churches, Synagogues, and Established Places of Worship.
• Tex. Penal Code § 46.01 (2017)
• Tex. Penal Code § 46.02 (2017)
• Tex. Penal Code § 46.05 (2017)
• Rainer v. State, 763 S.W.2d 615 (Tex. App. 1989)
• Smith v. State, 1988 Tex. App. (Tex. App. 1988)
• Albert v. State, 659 S.W.2d 41 (Tex. App. 1983)
• Armendariz v. State, 396 S.W.2d 132 (Tex. Crim. App. 1965)
• Cook v. State, 2005 Tex. App. LEXIS 3053
• HB 01935 Tex. Penal Code