California Knife Laws

Summary

I’m going to come out and say it: California is a weird state, legally speaking.  Sure, it’s got Hollywood, ocean beaches, and fun stuff like that, but it’s also got nutty laws.  When it comes to knives, California is a little bit paranoid about them.

Concealed carry is a problem with certain knives, the definition of dirk or dagger is extremely broad, and there are many restricted knives.  Specifically, if the knife can be disguised as something else (think cane knives or lipstick knives), you can’t own it.  Also, if your knife can evade metal detectors, you can’t legally own it.  Ballistic knives are also forbidden.

You should also check your city for information on local ordinances, as several cities have their own special bans and regulations.

That being said, the laws regarding knives can be vague in California.  Kamala Harris, for example, was overruled by higher courts on at least one of her convictions regarding someone charged with carrying a knife.

What Kinds of Knives are Legal in California?

Despite the many restrictions on knives in California, there are quite a few that are still legal to own and carry.

  • All pocket knives and multitool knives
  • Bowie knives and other large knives
  • Switchblade knives with blades less than 2″

What Kinds of Knives are Illegal in California?

There are many knives and ways of carrying them that are illegal in California.  The strangest being that concealed carrying of dirks and daggers is illegal, but walking about with them displayed (but not brandished) is totally fine.

Note on Dirks and Daggers: Dirks and daggers are defined in California as fixed-blade knives without a folding mechanism or as blades that can be locked into place.  This doesn’t include kitchen knives, but it means that many knives that other states wouldn’t consider to be dirks or daggers are included in California’s definition.  This is likely because these knives are often concealed in boots, belts, and other places, and California hates anything concealed.

  • Concealed dirks and daggers
  • Disguised knives (think cane knives and the like)
  • Undetectable knives
  • Ballistic knives
  • Switchblade knives longer than 2″
  • Metal knuckles

Relevant Statutes

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