Iowa Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

Legal to Open Carry:

  • Any kind of knife except a “dangerous weapon” or “offensive weapon.” See definitions below.

Legal to Carry Concealed With or Without Permit:

  • Any kind of knife that is not a “dangerous weapon” or that has a knife blade that exceeds 5 inches in length.
  • Any knife that is not an “offensive weapon” with permit. Some restrictions. See below.
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Iowa Knife Law Overview

Iowa might be construed as a pro-knife state since one has a fair bit of choice and latitude when it comes to selecting a knife that you wish to carry openly or concealed, but nonetheless there are significant restrictions on the type, length and action of any allowed knives.

Iowa’s statutes also delve in nearly sadistic length into the details of penalties and sentences for every degree of violation that you may commit. This is further aggravated by Iowa’s verbose, redundant and meandering legal language found in many of the statutes.

For instance, they set apart two broad classes of restricted weapons: “dangerous weapons” and “offensive weapons.” Some knives may belong to neither category, others to one, and some to both. Confusing? Mostly.

Let’s try to cut through the screening tactics in the sections below.

Relevant Mississippi State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • Chapter 702.7 –Dangerous Weapons
  • Chapter 724.1 – Offensive Weapons
  • Chapter 724.3
  • Chapter 724.4
  • Chapter 724.4A

Of greatest initial concern is the difference between “offensive” weapons and merely “dangerous” weapons. Knives belong in either category depending on their features, and your knife’s status in one or the other will determine its legality and carry-ability. Chapter 702.7 defines dangerous weapons:

Section 702.7 – Dangerous weapon.

A “dangerous weapon” is any instrument or device designed primarily for use in inflicting death or injury upon a human being or animal, and which is capable of inflicting death upon a human being when used in the manner for which it was designed, except a bow and arrow when possessed and used for hunting or any other lawful purpose. Additionally, any instrument or device of any sort whatsoever which is actually used in such a manner as to indicate that the defendant intends to inflict death or serious injury upon the other, and which, when so used, is capable of inflicting death upon a human being, is a dangerous weapon. Dangerous weapons include but are not limited to any offensive weapon, pistol, revolver, or other firearm, dagger, razor, stiletto, switchblade knife, knife having a blade exceeding five inches in length, or any portable device or weapon directing an electric current, impulse, wave, or beam that produces a high-voltage pulse designed to immobilize a person.

Any knife that meets the criteria for inclusion into the category of dangerous weapon cannot be carried concealed at all in the state of Iowa. Daggers and other double-edge knives, razors, stilettos, switchblades and automatic knives, or any knife with a blade exceeding 5” in length is a non-starter.

Don’t push these definitions on technical grounds in Iowa; your long, thin, mini-rapier might not meet the strict connoisseur’s definition of “stiletto,” but that won’t stop Iowa from throwing you in the pokey for carrying it.

Also, recall that any knife with a blade longer than 5” is a dangerous weapon and cannot be carried concealed. Don’t push it; cheat that limit by no less than a quarter-inch on the shy side.

Now, offensive weapons are different. This includes things like machineguns, cannons and explosives, but also specifically mentions ballistic knives, which are knives that expel their blade as a projectile via some type of propulsive mechanism. You can read it yourself in Chapter 724.1:

Section 724.1 – Offensive weapons.

1. An offensive weapon is any device or instrumentality of the following types:

d. A ballistic knife. A ballistic knife is a knife with a detachable blade which is propelled by a spring-operated mechanism, elastic material, or compressed gas.

e. Any part or combination of parts either designed or intended to be used to convert any device into an offensive weapon as described in paragraphs “a” through “d”, or to assemble into such an offensive weapon, except magazines or other parts, ammunition, or ammunition components used in common with lawful sporting firearms or parts including but not limited to barrels suitable for refitting to sporting firearms.

Note too that any parts that could be assembled into an offensive weapon or convert a knife into an offensive weapon are forbidden; constructive possession will get you in trouble. Any unauthorized possession of those components or of an offensive weapon is a felony in Iowa. Article 724.3 says as much:

Section 724.3 – Unauthorized possession of offensive weapons.

Any person, other than a person authorized herein, who knowingly possesses an offensive weapon commits a class “D” felony.

There you have it. Take no chances with your chosen blade. The proscriptions for the carry of weapons can be found in Chapter 724.4:

Section 724.4 – Carrying weapons.

1. Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who goes armed with a dangerous weapon concealed on or about the person, or who, within the limits of any city, goes armed with a pistol or revolver, or any loaded firearm of any kind, whether concealed or not, or who knowingly carries or transports in a vehicle a pistol or revolver, commits an aggravated misdemeanor.

2. A person who goes armed with a knife concealed on or about the person, if the person uses the knife in the commission of a crime, commits an aggravated misdemeanor.

3. A person who goes armed with a knife concealed on or about the person, if the person does not use the knife in the commission of a crime:

a. If the knife has a blade exceeding eight inches in length, commits an aggravated misdemeanor.

b. If the knife has a blade exceeding five inches but not exceeding eight inches in length, commits a serious misdemeanor.

4. Subsections 1 through 3 do not apply to any of the following:

a. A person who goes armed with a dangerous weapon in the person’s own dwelling or place of business, or on land owned or possessed by the person

g. A person while the person is lawfully engaged in target practice on a range designed for that purpose or while actually engaged in lawful hunting.

h. A person who carries a knife used in hunting or fishing, while actually engaged in lawful hunting or fishing.

i. A person who has in the person’s possession and who displays to a peace officer on demand a valid permit to carry weapons which has been issued to the person, and whose conduct is within the limits of that permit. A person shall not be convicted of a violation of this section if the person produces at the person’s trial a permit to carry weapons which was valid at the time of the alleged offense and which would have brought the person’s conduct within this exception if the permit had been produced at the time of the alleged offense.

So to summarize, any knife whatsoever that you use to commit a crime is, duh, illegal, but you may carry a knife not belonging to the classes of dangerous or offensive weapons, concealed or not.

You may not carry concealed any knife with a blade longer than 5” (3.b), full stop. This is a serious misdemeanor. A knife with a blade longer than 8” (3.a) is an aggravated misdemeanor.

None of the above applies if you are in your home or place of business, or on any land you own. If you are hunting or fishing, or target shooting, you may also carry concealed whatever knife you please but only while actually engaged in the activity!

Some states will permit the carry of otherwise restricted arms while engaged in a like activity, or traveling to or from the activity. Not Iowa!

But, you can read in section 4.i that having a valid weapons permit on you and producing it on demand is a defense against all the above in subsections 1-3 and can, at your trial, be produced accordingly.

This is… not the strongest possible language making the carry of otherwise restricted knives permissible, but in essence reads that having a valid permit and producing it for an inquiring LE officer should get you off the hook. Ballistic knives are still not allowed, however.

No-Go Zones

Schools, again! Any public or private school, along with the area within 1,000 feet of any of the above. Also, public parks, except the areas of public parks designated as hunting areas.

Violating the terms of Chapter 724.4A will see you subjected to the appropriate felony or misdemeanor charge as well as a double-max rate fine:

Section 724.4A – Weapons free zones — enhanced penalties.

1. As used in this section, “weapons free zone” means the area in or on, or within one thousand feet of, the real property comprising a public or private elementary or secondary school, or in or on the real property comprising a public park. A weapons free zone shall not include that portion of a public park designated as a hunting area under section 461A.42.

2. Notwithstanding sections 902.9 and 903.1, a person who commits a public offense involving a firearm or offensive weapon, within a weapons free zone, in violation of this or any other chapter shall be subject to a fine of twice the maximum amount which may otherwise be imposed for the public offense.

The penalties according to 902.9:

Section 902.9 – Maximum sentence for felons.

1. The maximum sentence for any person convicted of a felony shall be that prescribed by statute or, if not prescribed by statute, if other than a class “A” felony shall be determined as follows:

a. A felon sentenced for a first conviction for a violation of section 124.401D, shall be confined for no more than ninety-nine years.

2. The surcharges required by sections 911.1, 911.2, 911.2A, and 911.3 shall be added to a fine imposed on a class “C” or class “D” felon, as provided by those sections, and are not a part of or subject to the maximums set in this section.

The penalties for misdemeanors, of which Iowa grades into a scale of severity on which many victimless weapons offenses qualify, are in 903.1:

Section 903.1 – Maximum sentence for misdemeanants.

1. If a person eighteen years of age or older is convicted of a simple or serious misdemeanor and a specific penalty is not provided for or if a person under eighteen years of age has been waived to adult court pursuant to section 232.45 on a felony charge and is subsequently convicted of a simple, serious, or aggravated misdemeanor, the court shall determine the sentence, and shall fix the period of confinement or the amount of fine, which fine shall not be suspended by the court, within the following limits:

a. For a simple misdemeanor, there shall be a fine of at least sixty-five dollars but not to exceed six hundred twenty-five dollars. The court may order imprisonment not to exceed thirty days in lieu of a fine or in addition to a fine.

b. For a serious misdemeanor, there shall be a fine of at least three hundred fifteen dollars but not to exceed one thousand eight hundred seventy-five dollars. In addition, the court may also order imprisonment not to exceed one year.

2. When a person is convicted of an aggravated misdemeanor, and a specific penalty is not provided for, the maximum penalty shall be imprisonment not to exceed two years. There shall be a fine of at least six hundred twenty-five dollars but not to exceed six thousand two hundred fifty dollars. When a judgment of conviction of an aggravated misdemeanor is entered against any person and the court imposes a sentence of confinement for a period of more than one year the term shall be an indeterminate term.

Iowa is not screwing around when it comes to punishing those who fail to abide by the law<, stoop and bow on the carry of knives. Again, aggravated misdemeanor charges may be incurred for carrying the wrong knife, not a gun!

Preemption

There is no statewide preemption in Iowa. This means, once again, you’ll need to bone up on your municipal and city laws in the places you travel to or otherwise frequent. Any given municipalities laws may be significantly more stringent than the already terse knife laws imposed by the state. Ignorance is never a defense in these cases; do your homework!

Bottom Line

Iowa is a nominally pro-knife state though the fair amount of restrictions on carrying certain classes or lengths of knife without a permit and tediously wordy and redundant legal language makes confidently navigating the legal landscape challenging.

You have somewhat more freedom if you obtain your permit, however. Take care to learn the ins and outs of Iowa state and local laws governing knives before you commit to carrying a blade there.

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