Colorado Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

Legal to Carry Openly

  • Any knife except a ballistic knife

Legal to Carry Concealed

  • Any knife except a ballistic knife that has a blade of 3 ½” or shorter

Illegal to Own

  • Ballistic knife
  • Throwing Stars (possessed in public place)
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Colorado Knife Law Overview

Colorado is another fairly restrictive state for knife carry. While Colorado has made a few inroads into loosening their restrictions in the past few years, removing automatic and/or switchblade knives along with gravity knives from their rolls of illegal weapons, they have done nothing to ease restrictions on carry knives.

In Colorado, it is illegal to carry any knife with a blade longer than 3 ½” unless you are travelling in your vehicle, at your home, or are hunting or fishing and concealing a “hunting or fishing” knife.

Colorado is fast turning into a liberal nanny-state paradise far removed from its rugged frontier roots, and their knife laws reflect that. It does little good to be allowed to own a knife if you cannot carry it or otherwise make use of it.

We’ll crack open Colorado’s state laws on knives in this article.

Relevant Colorado State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • 18-12-101
  • 18-12-102
  • 18-12-105
  • 18-12-105.5
  • 18-12-105.6

Definitions for common terms in Colorado State Statutes are as follows, according to 18-12-101:

18-12-101. Definitions – peace officer affirmative defense

(1) As used in this article 12, unless the context otherwise requires:

(a.3) “Ballistic knife” means any knife that has a blade which is forcefully projected from the handle by means of a spring-loaded device or explosive charge.

(a.5) “Blackjack” includes any billy, sand club, sandbag, or other hand-operated striking weapon consisting, at the striking end, of an encased piece of lead or other heavy substance and, at the handle end, a strap or springy shaft which increases the force of impact.

(d) “Gas gun” means a device designed for projecting gas-filled projectiles which release their contents after having been projected from the device and includes projectiles designed for use in such a device.

(e) Repealed.

(e.5) “Handgun” means a pistol, revolver, or other firearm of any description, loaded or unloaded, from which any shot, bullet, or other missile can be discharged, the length of the barrel of which, not including any revolving, detachable, or magazine breech, does not exceed twelve inches.

(e.7) “Juvenile” means any person under the age of eighteen years.

(f) “Knife” means any dagger, dirk, knife, or stiletto with a blade over three and one-half inches in length, or any other dangerous instrument capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds, but does not include a hunting or fishing knife carried for sports use. The issue that a knife is a hunting or fishing knife must be raised as an affirmative defense.

(g) “Machine gun” means any firearm, whatever its size and usual designation, that shoots automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.

(h) “Short rifle” means a rifle having a barrel less than sixteen inches long or an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.

(i) “Short shotgun” means a shotgun having a barrel or barrels less than eighteen inches long or an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.

(i.5) “Stun gun” means a device capable of temporarily immobilizing a person by the infliction of an electrical charge.

In this section we can read that a knife is any bladed implement, really, since the inclusion of the descriptor “capable of inflicting cutting, stabbing, or tearing wounds” can apply to, quite literally, any sharpened or pointed knife or spike.

You can trust that Colorado is not the most “defense positive” state, and any knife that can be used against you legally will be.

The statutes that define the offense and penalties of possessing a dangerous weapon are laid out in the very next section, 18-12-102:

18-12-102. Possessing a dangerous or illegal weapon – affirmative defense – definition

(1) As used in this section, the term “dangerous weapon” means a firearm silencer, machine gun, short shotgun, short rifle, or ballistic knife.

(2) As used in this section, the term “illegal weapon” means a blackjack, a gas gun, or metallic knuckles.

(3) A person who knowingly possesses a dangerous weapon commits a class 5 felony. Each subsequent violation of this subsection (3) by the same person shall be a class 4 felony.

(4) A person who knowingly possesses an illegal weapon commits a class 1 misdemeanor.

(5) It shall be an affirmative defense to the charge of possessing a dangerous weapon, or to the charge of possessing an illegal weapon, that the person so accused was a peace officer or member of the armed forces of the United States or Colorado National Guard acting in the lawful discharge of his duties, or that said person has a valid permit and license for possession of such weapon.

Note that since the recent revisions of the law in Colorado, butterfly and automatic knives are no longer included among the list of illegal weapons, meaning you can carry them so long as their blades are no longer than 3 ½”. (5) says that possessing a permit is an affirmative defense to carrying dangerous or illegal weapon, but note that knives as defined by the statute is not included among those listed items.

Ergo, you cannot assume that possessing a Colorado concealed weapons permit allows you to carry a knife with a blade longer than 3 ½”.

More information on unlawful carry is found in 18-12-105:

18-12-105. Unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon – unlawful possession of weapons

(1) A person commits a class 2 misdemeanor if such person knowingly and unlawfully:

(a) Carries a knife concealed on or about his or her person; or

(b) Carries a firearm concealed on or about his or her person; or

(c) Without legal authority, carries, brings, or has in such person’s possession a firearm or any explosive, incendiary, or other dangerous device on the property of or within any building in which the chambers, galleries, or offices of the general assembly, or either house thereof, are located, or in which a legislative hearing or meeting is being or is to be conducted, or in which the official office of any member, officer, or employee of the general assembly is located.

(2) It shall not be an offense if the defendant was:

(a) A person in his or her own dwelling or place of business or on property owned or under his or her control at the time of the act of carrying; or

(b) A person in a private automobile or other private means of conveyance who carries a weapon for lawful protection of such person’s or another’s person or property while traveling; or

(c) A person who, at the time of carrying a concealed weapon, held a valid written permit to carry a concealed weapon issued pursuant to section 18-12-105.1, as it existed prior to its repeal, or, if the weapon involved was a handgun, held a valid permit to carry a concealed handgun or a temporary emergency permit issued pursuant to part 2 of this article; except that it shall be an offense under this section if the person was carrying a concealed handgun in violation of the provisions of section 18-12-214; or

(d) A peace officer, as described in section 16-2.5-101, C.R.S., when carrying a weapon in conformance with the policy of the employing agency as provided in section 16-2.5-101 (2), C.R.S.; or

(f) A United States probation officer or a United States pretrial services officer while on duty and serving in the state of Colorado under the authority of rules and regulations promulgated by the judicial conference of the United States.

This section spells out plainly that the concealed carry of a knife (remember, a blade 3 ½” or longer is a “knife” in Colorado) is a misdemeanor unless you are carrying it at your home, place of business or in your vehicle while travelling. 2(c) states that it is a not an offense if you obtained and have a permit according to the standards of the now repealed section 18-12-105.1, but clarifies that only handguns are permitted under the new statute.

Section 18-12-106 seems to contain a proscription against the reckless use and possession of throwing stars in a public place, which are otherwise okay to own:

18-12-106. Prohibited use of weapons

(e) He knowingly aims, swings, or throws a throwing star or nunchaku as defined in this paragraph (e) at another person, or he knowingly possesses a throwing star or nunchaku in a public place except for the purpose of presenting an authorized public demonstration or exhibition or pursuant to instruction in conjunction with an organized school or class.

When transporting throwing stars or nunchaku for a public demonstration or exhibition or for a school or class, they shall be transported in a closed, nonaccessible container.

For purposes of this paragraph (e), “nunchaku” means an instrument consisting of two sticks, clubs, bars, or rods to be used as handles, connected by a rope, cord, wire, or chain, which is in the design of a weapon used in connection with the practice of a system of self-defense, and “throwing star” means a disk having sharp radiating points or any disk-shaped bladed object which is hand-held and thrown and which is in the design of a weapon used in connection with the practice of a system of self-defense.

I know it seems like a throwaway inclusion, along with nunchaku, but I guess a glut of bad 1970’s ninja flicks instilled a lasting fear of primitive East Asian weaponry upon lawmakers.

No-Go Zones

Schools, universities and government buildings. You can however keep the knife in your car secured, or travel across or over university grounds with it in your car while travelling to and fro. The only other exemptions are for police officers and school resource officers:

18-12-105.5. Unlawfully carrying a weapon – unlawful possession of weapons – school, college, or university grounds

(1) A person commits a class 6 felony if such person knowingly and unlawfully and without legal authority carries, brings, or has in such person’s possession a deadly weapon as defined in section 18-1-901 (3)(e) in or on the real estate and all improvements erected thereon of any public or private elementary, middle, junior high, high, or vocational school or any public or private college, university, or seminary, except for the purpose of presenting an authorized public demonstration or exhibition pursuant to instruction in conjunction with an organized school or class, for the purpose of carrying out the necessary duties and functions of an employee of an educational institution that require the use of a deadly weapon, or for the purpose of participation in an authorized extracurricular activity or on an athletic team.

(3) It shall not be an offense under this section if:

(a) The weapon is unloaded and remains inside a motor vehicle while upon the real estate of any public or private college, university, or seminary; or

(b) The person is in that person’s own dwelling or place of business or on property owned or under that person’s control at the time of the act of carrying; or

(c) The person is in a private automobile or other private means of conveyance and is carrying a weapon for lawful protection of that person’s or another’s person or property while traveling; or

(d) The person, at the time of carrying a concealed weapon, held a valid written permit to carry a concealed weapon issued pursuant to section 18-12-105.1, as said section existed prior to its repeal; except that it shall be an offense under this section if the person was carrying a concealed handgun in violation of the provisions of section 18-12-214 (3); or

(d.5) The weapon involved was a handgun and the person held a valid permit to carry a concealed handgun or a temporary emergency permit issued pursuant to part 2 of this article; except that it shall be an offense under this section if the person was carrying a concealed handgun in violation of the provisions of section 18-12-214 (3); or

(e) The person is a school resource officer, as defined in section 22-32-109.1 (1)(g.5), C.R.S., or a peace officer, as described in section 16-2.5-101, C.R.S., when carrying a weapon in conformance with the policy of the employing agency as provided in section 16-2.5-101 (2), C.R.S.; or

(h) The person has possession of the weapon for use in an educational program approved by a school which program includes, but shall not be limited to, any course designed for the repair or maintenance of weapons.

Preemption

Colorado sort of has preemption, but it is very limited in its scope compared to other states that feature it, only covering citizens who carry a knife in their vehicle while travelling from place to place. If you have business in or about town, you cannot take your knife with you; it has to stay in the car. See 18-12-105.6:

18-12-105.6. Limitation on local ordinances regarding firearms in private vehicles

(1) The general assembly hereby finds that:

(a) A person carrying a weapon in a private automobile or other private means of conveyance for hunting or for lawful protection of such person’s or another’s person or property, as permitted in sections 18-12-105 (2)(b) and 18-12-105.5 (3)(c), may tend to travel within a county, city and county, or municipal jurisdiction or in or through different county, city and county, and municipal jurisdictions, en route to the person’s destination;

(b) Inconsistent laws exist in local jurisdictions with regard to the circumstances under which weapons may be carried in automobiles and other private means of conveyance;

(c) This inconsistency creates a confusing patchwork of laws that unfairly subjects a person who lawfully travels with a weapon to criminal penalties because he or she travels within a jurisdiction or into or through another jurisdiction;

(d) This inconsistency places citizens in the position of not knowing when they may be violating local laws while traveling within a jurisdiction or in, through, or between different jurisdictions, and therefore being unable to avoid committing a crime.

(2) (a) Based on the findings specified in subsection (1) of this section, the general assembly concludes that the carrying of weapons in private automobiles or other private means of conveyance for hunting or for lawful protection of a person’s or another’s person or property while traveling into, through, or within, a municipal, county, or city and county jurisdiction, regardless of the number of times the person stops in a jurisdiction, is a matter of statewide concern and is not an offense.

(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no municipality, county, or city and county shall have the authority to enact or enforce any ordinance or resolution that would restrict a person’s ability to travel with a weapon in a private automobile or other private means of conveyance for hunting or for lawful protection of a person’s or another’s person or property while traveling into, through, or within, a municipal, county, or city and county jurisdiction, regardless of the number of times the person stops in a jurisdiction.

While not proper preemption, it is nice to know you can keep your knife handy while on the road within the State of Colorado, and even stop in a town with otherwise restrictive ordinances with no fear of prosecution so long as you don’t bring the knife outside the car.

Bottom Line

Colorado is a fairly restrictive state when it comes to the carry of knives.

The statutes specifically forbid everything with a blade over 3 ½” in length, but make no other explicit allowance for the concealed carry of knives under 3 ½” in length in the statutes, since broad “any dangerous weapon” language is present.

Combined with flimsy “car carry only” preemption Colorado comes up decidedly “meh” on the Knife Law Report Card.

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