Legal to Carry Openly
- Any kind of knife
Legal to Carry Concealed
- Any pocket knife, see discussion below
Arizona Knife Law Overview
Arizona appears to be one of the least restrictive states in the Union when it comes to the carry of knives, the only question mark being their abstaining from defining the word “pocketknife”; see, in Arizona, the only knife that you can legally carry concealed is a pocketknife.
That means fixed blades are assuredly out, even though you can carry them openly with no issue.
Other than that, strong statewide preemption and absolutely open-season on all kinds of styles, types, blade lengths and more makes Arizona very libertarian on ownership of knives.
Unfortunately, the devil is in the legal print in this case; lacking a definition always makes room for abuse of interpretations if push comes to litigious shove.
The good news-bad news is that Arizona does not have hardly anything in the way of test cases or precedent on the subject of citizens’ carry rights. That means that most folks will never see the inside of a courtroom over it. It also means if you roll snake eyes when carrying a knife in The Copper State you will be in genuinely unknown legal territory.
Let’s look at the relevant statutes below.
Relevant Arizona State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives
- Arizona State Constitution, Article 2 Section 26
- ARS 13-901.03
- ARS 13-3101
- ARS 13-3102
- ARS 13-3112
- ARS 13-3120
The State of Arizona codifies its citizens’ rights to keep in bear arms in Article 2, Section 26 of the State Constitution. The passage reads:
“The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the state shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain, or employ an armed body of men.”
Off to a good start, though the latter part of the text might read like anti-militia sentiment. As always, we begin with the definitions commonly found throughout the Title 13 statutes governing weapons and weapons offenses. See 13-3101 for the important bits:
A. In this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:
” Deadly weapon” means anything that is designed for lethal use. The term includes a firearm.
(a) Includes the following:
(i) An item that is a bomb, grenade, rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces or mine and that is explosive, incendiary or poison gas.
(ii) A device that is designed, made or adapted to muffle the report of a firearm.
(iii) A firearm that is capable of shooting more than one shot automatically, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.
(iv) A rifle with a barrel length of less than sixteen inches, or shotgun with a barrel length of less than eighteen inches, or any firearm that is made from a rifle or shotgun and that, as modified, has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.
(v) An instrument, including a nunchaku, that consists of two or more sticks, clubs, bars or rods to be used as handles, connected by a rope, cord, wire or chain, in the design of a weapon used in connection with the practice of a system of self-defense.
(vi) A breakable container that contains a flammable liquid with a flash point of one hundred fifty degrees Fahrenheit or less and that has a wick or similar device capable of being ignited.
(vii) A chemical or combination of chemicals, compounds or materials, including dry ice, that is possessed or manufactured for the purpose of generating a gas to cause a mechanical failure, rupture or bursting or an explosion or detonation of the chemical or combination of chemicals, compounds or materials.
(viii) An improvised explosive device.
(ix) Any combination of parts or materials that is designed and intended for use in making or converting a device into an item set forth in item (i), (vi) or (viii) of this subdivision.
(b) Does not include:
(i) Any fireworks that are imported, distributed or used in compliance with state laws or local ordinances.
(ii) Any propellant, propellant actuated devices or propellant actuated industrial tools that are manufactured, imported or distributed for their intended purposes.
(iii) A device that is commercially manufactured primarily for the purpose of illumination.
Compared to other states, Arizona wastes no ink on definitions that are not strictly necessary. “Deadly Weapon” as defined in A. 1. is “anything designed for lethal use.”
No knives are mentioned explicitly by characteristic, attribute or design. On the surface, this seems like a good thing, but once again we can get in to trouble without further definition.
What constitutes “designed” for lethal use? A scout knife is not designed for anything more than light camp chores, but could not any of its several blades inflict a lethal wound? Of course.
Nonetheless, it was not designed for lethal use. Do you want to take the chance on that? It is not a great idea. Without explicit permission in the statutes, you are one bad turn away from test case territory.
We can read more about mishap and misbehavior with knives and other weapons in the very next section, 13-3102:
13-3102 Misconduct involving weapons; defenses; classification; definitions
A. A person commits misconduct involving weapons by knowingly:
Carrying a deadly weapon except a pocket knife concealed on his person or within his immediate control in or on a means of transportation:
(a) In the furtherance of a serious offense as defined in section 13-706, a violent crime as defined in section 13-901.03 or any other felony offense; or
(b) When contacted by a law enforcement officer and failing to accurately answer the officer if the officer asks whether the person is carrying a concealed deadly weapon; or
2. Carrying a deadly weapon except a pocket knife concealed on his person or concealed within his immediate control in or on a means of transportation if the person is under twenty-one years of age; or
3. Manufacturing, possessing, transporting, selling or transferring a prohibited weapon, except that if the violation involves dry ice, a person commits misconduct involving weapons by knowingly possessing the dry ice with the intent to cause injury to or death of another person or to cause damage to the property of another person; or
4. Possessing a deadly weapon or prohibited weapon if such person is a prohibited possessor; or
5. Selling or transferring a deadly weapon to a prohibited possessor; or
6. Defacing a deadly weapon; or
7. Possessing a defaced deadly weapon knowing the deadly weapon was defaced; or
8. Using or possessing a deadly weapon during the commission of any felony offense included in chapter 34 of this title; or
9. Discharging a firearm at an occupied structure in order to assist, promote or further the interests of a criminal street gang, a criminal syndicate or a racketeering enterprise; or
C. Subsection A, paragraphs 2, 3, 7, 10, 11, 12 and 13 of this section shall not apply to:
1. A peace officer or any person summoned by any peace officer to assist and while actually assisting in the performance of official duties; or
2. A member of the military forces of the United States or of any state of the United States in the performance of official duties; or
3. A warden, deputy warden, community correctional officer, detention officer, special investigator or correctional officer of the state department of corrections or the department of juvenile corrections; or
4. A person specifically licensed, authorized or permitted pursuant to a statute of this state or of the United States.
This section explicitly states at the very top that carrying a deadly weapon, e.g. a knife, concealed on or about your person including in a vehicle is a violation, the exemption being a “pocket knife”. No other information is given in this section or elsewhere as to what defines a pocketknife.
And here we are, one again, left playing a dangerous game of chicken where one has to begin at the broadest possible definition of pocketknife and work backwards on features and characteristics, the whole time not knowing if your chosen blade will land you in hot water with a cop or with a judge based on their interpretation of pocketknife.
“Oh, a locking blade and finger choils? That’s a folding combat knife, son. *handcuffs click”. Blade too long for some dusty ol’ judge who lived his whole life in Mayberry? Trouble.
Cop think your blacked-out tanto with integrated crossguard is too aggressive looking? Trouble. Maybe. Who can say?
That’s why, as bad as longwinded legalese is, it is almost always better to spell out precisely what is okay, and what is not okay, unless your laws are worded so broadly and strongly affirmative on behalf of the citizenry there can be no doubt that one is on the right side of law and order.
Note that C. does not make any exception to Subsection A Paragraph 1 even if you do have a permit to carry.
Moving along we come to one interesting statute at least, one that harkens back to older times where cowpokes and wanderers alike would turn in their guns while in the saloon or hotel, to be picked up when they left. 13-3102.01 reads:
13-3102.01 Storage of deadly weapons; definitions
A. If an operator of a public establishment or a sponsor of a public event requests that a person carrying a deadly weapon remove the weapon, the operator or sponsor shall provide temporary and secure storage.
The storage shall be readily accessible on entry into the establishment or event and allow for the immediate retrieval of the weapon on exit from the establishment or event.
B. This section does not apply to the licensed premises of any public establishment or public event with a license issued pursuant to title 4.
C. The operator of the establishment or the sponsor of the event or the employee of the operator or sponsor or the agent of the sponsor, including a public entity or public employee, is not liable for acts or omissions pursuant to this section unless the operator, sponsor, employee or agent intended to cause injury or was grossly negligent.
D. For the purposes of this section, “public establishment” and ” public event” have the same meanings prescribed in section 13-3102.
Schools and school grounds, polling places on election day and nuclear or hydroelectric power plants. Section 13-3102 has a list of the prohibited places near the top of the statute:
13-3102 Misconduct involving weapons; defenses; classification; definitions
10. Unless specifically authorized by law, entering any public establishment or attending any public event and carrying a deadly weapon on his person after a reasonable request by the operator of the establishment or the sponsor of the event or the sponsor’s agent to remove his weapon and place it in the custody of the operator of the establishment or the sponsor of the event for temporary and secure storage of the weapon pursuant to section 13-3102.01; or
11. Unless specifically authorized by law, entering an election polling place on the day of any election carrying a deadly weapon; or
12. Possessing a deadly weapon on school grounds; or
13. Unless specifically authorized by law, entering a nuclear or hydroelectric generating station carrying a deadly weapon on his person or within the immediate control of any person; or
2. ” Public establishment” means a structure, vehicle or craft that is owned, leased or operated by this state or a political subdivision of this state.
3. “Public event” means a specifically named or sponsored event of limited duration that is either conducted by a public entity or conducted by a private entity with a permit or license granted by a public entity. Public event does not include an unsponsored gathering of people in a public place.
4. “School” means a public or nonpublic kindergarten program, common school or high school.
5. “School grounds” means in, or on the grounds of, a school.
So you can carry an otherwise legal knife on the grounds of a university or technical school, just not your typical “grade” schools or school grounds.
Quibbles on definitions aside, Arizona makes it clear to all cities and other municipalities in the body politic that they will not tolerate any infringement of the resident citizens’ rights to carry arms. 13-3120 lays it out in black and white for all to read:
13-3120 Knives regulated by state; state preemption; definitions
A. Except as provided in subsections C and D, a political subdivision of this state shall not enact any ordinance, rule or tax relating to the transportation, possession, carrying, sale, transfer, purchase, gift, devise, licensing, registration or use of a knife or knife making components in this state.
B. A political subdivision of this state shall not enact any rule or ordinance that relates to the manufacture of a knife and that is more prohibitive than or that has a penalty that is greater than any rule or ordinance that is related to the manufacture of any other commercial goods.
C. This section does not prohibit a political subdivision of this state from enacting and enforcing any ordinance or rule pursuant to state law, to implement or enforce state law or relating to imposing any privilege or use tax on the retail sale, lease or rental of, or the gross proceeds or gross income from the sale, lease or rental of, a knife or any knife components at a rate that applies generally to other items of tangible personal property.
D. This section does not prohibit a political subdivision of this state from regulating employees or independent contractors of the political subdivision who are acting within the course and scope of their employment or contract.
E. A political subdivision’s rule or ordinance that relates to knives and that is inconsistent with or more restrictive than state law, whether enacted before or after the effective date of this amendment to this section, is null and void.
F. For the purposes of this section:
1. “Knife” means a cutting instrument and includes a sharpened or pointed blade.
2. “Political subdivision” includes any county, city, including a charter city, town, municipal corporation or special district, any board, commission or agency of a county, city, including a charter city, town, municipal corporation or special district or any other local public agency.
This should be the model of preemption by which all the other states are judged. Great job on this one, Arizona!
Arizona could not be properly called anything but pro-2A when it comes to knives and other weapons, but the fuzzy, imprecise language they use in the statutes is anything but stalwart reassurance that one can carry what knife they wish concealed.
I would advocate a modicum of caution when carrying a knife concealed in AZ, and you should make sure it is a bit more on the “tame” side if you’d wish to be cautious.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.