Arkansas Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

  • Legal to Carry Openly or Concealed, No Permit Needed
    • Dirk
    • Bowie knife
    • Butterfly knife
    • Ballistic knife
    • Razor
    • Dagger
    • Push Dagger
    • Gravity knife
  • Caution Advised
    • Any knife with blade over 3”. See below.
flag of Arkansas

Arkansas Knife Law Overview

Arkansas is, happily, a mostly permissive state for carry and ownership of knives having the right to keep and bear arms enshrined in the State Constitution, and also in the statutes since a long overdue overhaul of the state’s knife legislation in 2011.

You can carry pretty much any kind of knife you want, but with one catch, well, not so much a catch as a strong dose of caution, since the Arkansas state statutes seem to clearly indicate one thing, but several court cases and resulting precedent seem to indicate another.

The item of concern is the length of your knife’s blade; 3” or under, and you should be fine. Over 3” in length and you could maybe, possibly, be carrying a weapon with “unlawful intent.”

There’s a lot to unpack from just this one line of text. Also, AR has some stiff regulations against carrying a weapon in any publicly owned building or facility of any kind, including parks and sports fields! Geeze, Arkansas! Why’d you have to muddy up a good thing with that?!

Relevant Virginia State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • AR State Constitution, Article 2, Section 2
  • AR State Constitution, Article 2, Section 5
  • AR State Code 5-73-109
  • AR State Code 5-73-120
  • AR State Code 5-73-122
  • AR State Code 14-54-1411

The Arkansas State Constitution rightfully, thankfully recognizes the innate right of the citizenry to keep and bear arms, and acknowledges freedom, independence and unalienable rights. Article 2 Section 2 states:

“Freedom and Independence: All men are created equally free and independent, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights; amongst which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and reputation; and of pursuing their own happiness.

To secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Why, yes, that is a bald eagle cry you hear. Article 2 Section 5 plainly codifies the right to bear arms, and makes absolutely no bones about it:

“Right to Bear Arms: The citizens of this State shall have the right to keep and bear arms, for their common defense.”

The End! Alright, that part, at least, does not get any clearer, but unfortunately I know, and you should know by now, that the words of a Constitution at the Federal or State levels are not the whole sum of law.

The laws we need to concern ourselves with are found in Title 5 Chapter 73, and the bulk of what we need to know is found in Section 120 which states:

5-73-120. Carrying a weapon.

(a) A person commits the offense of carrying a weapon if he or she possesses a handgun, knife, or club on or about his or her person, in a vehicle occupied by him or her, or otherwise readily available for use with a purpose to attempt to unlawfully employ the handgun, knife, or club as a weapon against a person.

(b) As used in this section:

(1) “Club” means any instrument that is specially designed, made, or adapted for
the purpose of inflicting serious physical injury or death by striking, including a
blackjack, billie, and sap;

(2) “Handgun” means any firearm with a barrel length of less than twelve inches
(12″) that is designed, made, or adapted to be fired with one (1) hand;

(3) “Journey” means travel beyond the county in which a person lives; and

(4) “Knife” means any bladed hand instrument three inches (3″) or longer that is
capable of inflicting serious physical injury or death by cutting or stabbing,
including a dirk, a sword or spear in a cane, a razor, an ice pick, a throwing star, a
switchblade, and a butterfly knife.

(c) It is permissible to carry a weapon under this section if at the time of the act of
carrying the weapon:

(1) The person is in his or her own dwelling or place of business or on property in
which he or she has a possessory or proprietary interest;

(4) The person is carrying a weapon when upon a journey, unless the journey is
through a commercial airport when presenting at the security checkpoint in the
airport or is in the person’s checked baggage and is not a lawfully declared

(8) The person is in possession of a concealed handgun and has a valid license to
carry a concealed handgun under § 5-73-301 et seq., or recognized under § 5-73-
321 and is not in a prohibited place as defined by § 5-73-306;

(d) Carrying a weapon is a Class A misdemeanor.

Let us get through this carefully together. A person only commits the offense of carrying a weapon if the implement both meets the requirement of “weapon”, and is carrying it in with the unlawful intent of using against a person.

Literally, if you are carrying a weapon, but have no unlawful intent, then you aren’t guilty of the offense of carrying a weapon. Splitting hairs? You betcha, but that is what it says.

Drop down a little farther to the definition of knife. It reads “any bladed hand instrument three inches (3″) or longer that is capable of inflicting serious physical injury or death by cutting or stabbing, including a dirk, a sword or spear in a cane, a razor, an ice pick, a throwing star, a switchblade, and a butterfly knife.”

Right up front, if you are carrying any knife with a blade under 3” in length then it is not a weapon (though any implement used as a weapon will, of course, qualify as one in court). The point being merely possessing a small knife, regardless of type or style would not make you in “possession of a weapon.”

You’ll also note that you are good to carry any kind of knife of any length if you are at your home or place of business (assuming you own a stake in the business) or if you are on a journey, a trip beyond the borders of the county you live in.

Note also that a concealed handgun license is only good for handguns, nothing else.

This is where the rubber meets the road: nominally, the sole factor in determining whether or not a knife is legal or not is if you have “unlawful intent.” Carrying a weapon with “unlawful intent” is the offense.

The law further makes clear that you must also be intending to use it “against a person.” So, you should be able to carry whatever you want, right? You would never plan to use a knife unlawfully, and especially against another person, right? Right.

Right… Except there have already been a handful of cases in Arkansas where the courts ruled, in essence that intended to use and could be used are synonymous. My recommendation is you choose a knife accordingly. If I were you, and I’m not, I’d pick something with a 3” blade or shorter.

If this seems hellishly unclear, like a mistake, make it a point to call your legislators and other elected representatives at local and state levels, and rally them good and hard to dispense with this ridiculously worded piece of legislation.

No-Go Zones

The State of Arkansas forbids the carry a deadly weapon on the grounds of any publicly owned building or facility, or on the grounds of the State Capitol. 5-73-122 expands on this in detail:

5-73-122. Carrying a firearm in publicly owned buildings or facilities.

(a) (1) It is unlawful for any person other than a law enforcement officer or a security guard in the employ of the state or an agency of the state, or any city or county, or any state or federal military personnel, to knowingly carry or possess a loaded firearm or other deadly weapon in any publicly owned building or facility or on the State Capitol grounds.

(4) As used in this section, “facility” means a municipally owned or maintained park, football field, baseball field, soccer field, or another similar municipally owned or maintained recreational structure or property.

(b) (1) Any person other than a law enforcement officer, officer of the court, or bailiff, acting in the line of duty, or any other person authorized by the court, who possesses a handgun in the courtroom of any court of this state is guilty of a Class D felony.

(a) As used in this subdivision (a)(3)(C), “parking lot” means a designated area or structure or part of a structure intended for the parking of motor vehicles or a designated drop-off zone for children at school.

(b) “Parking lot” does not include a parking lot owned, maintained, or otherwise controlled by the Department of Correction or the Department of Community Correction;

That’s pretty heavy duty: any publicly owned facility, including parks and sports fields. Depending on where you go regularly and what you like to do, this can effectively restrict you from carrying your knife.


Arkansas does have a preemption statute for firearms, but, sadly, not for knives and other bladed weapons, and no one knows why. 14-54-1411; read it and weep:

Subchapter 14 – Miscellaneous Regulations § 14-54-1411 – Firearms and ammunition.

(a) As used in this section, “local unit of government” means a city, town, or county.

(b) (1) (A) A local unit of government shall not enact any ordinance or regulation pertaining to, or regulate in any other manner, the ownership, transfer, transportation, carrying, or possession of firearms, ammunition for firearms, or components of firearms, except as otherwise provided in state or federal law.

(B) This shall not prevent the enactment of an ordinance regulating or forbidding the unsafe discharge of a firearm.

(2) (A) A local unit of government shall have no authority to bring suit and shall have no right to recover against any firearm or ammunition manufacturer, trade association, or dealer for damages, abatement, or injunctive relief resulting from or relating to the lawful design, manufacture, marketing, or sale of firearms or ammunition to the public.

(B) The authority to bring any suit and the right to recover against any firearm or ammunition manufacturer, trade association, or dealer for damages, abatement, or injunctive relief shall be reserved exclusively to the State of Arkansas.

(c) (1) Notwithstanding subsection (b) of this section, the governing body of a local unit of government, following the proclamation by the Governor of a state of emergency, may enact an emergency ordinance regulating the transfer, transportation, or carrying of firearms or components of firearms.

The statutes above are quite clear: the State will preclude a local government body from enacting any laws of their own restricting the rights of citizens to carry and use guns that are more restrictive than the State’s own law, but nowhere in the above passage is there any mention of knives.

Again, if you are a resident of Arkansas, it is up to you to lobby and pressure your elected representatives in order to overturn these laws, and shore up your rights.

Bottom Line

Arkansas is certainly a knife-friendly state, but one with s few troubling warts. You would be justifiably cautious if you chose not to carry any knife with a blade over 3”, and the ban on carry of weapons into publicly owned buildings actually results in far more no-go zones than the now-typical ban on schools and government buildings alone.

The sheer variety of knives you are permitted to carry is nice, but is chafed by odious restrictions and one ill-worded but nonetheless crucial passage of law.

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