Kentucky Knife Laws: Here’s What You Need to Know

The Essentials

Legal to Carry Concealed with no Permit

  • “ Ordinary pocket knife ”
  • “ Hunting knife”

Legal to Carry Openly

  • Any knife

Legal to Carry Concealed with Permit

  • Any knife that is not a “ordinary pocket knife” or “hunting knife” with a concealed carry deadly weapons permit.*** (see below)
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Kentucky Knife Law Overview

Kentucky is a good state for owning and carrying pretty much any kind of knife you want, but you should be aware that, thanks to some policy cleanup initiatives resulting from the passing of so called “constitutional carry” in June of 2019, so long as someone is over the age of 21 you can carry pretty much any knife you want.

However, some local and city laws and ordinances do run counter to the state laws. While there have been no major shakedowns resulting from this in court, you don’t want to be a test case.

If you are carrying any kind of exotic knife or something really big, check local ordinances in the city you’ll be staying in.

Relevant Kentucky State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • KRS 500.080. Definitions for Kentucky Penal Code
  • KRS 65.870. Local firearms control ordinances prohibited; exemption from immunity; declaratory and injunctive relief
  • KRS 82.082. Power for public purpose only and not in conflict with Constitution or statutes
  • KRS 237.104. Rights to acquire, carry, and use deadly weapons not to be impaired; Seizure of deadly weapons prohibited; Application of section
  • KRS 237.109. Authorization to carry concealed deadly weapons without a license
  • KRS 237.110. License to carry concealed deadly weapon
  • KRS 527.020. Carrying concealed deadly weapon
  • KRS 527.060. Forfeiture
  • KRS 527.070. Unlawful possession of a weapon on school property; posting of sign; exemptions

Right out of the gate, KY sets no limits on open carry of blades, or length. You can own or carry damn near anything you want, including the perennially popular and legally ill-defined Bowie knife, butterfly knives, push daggers, ballistic knives, automatics and gravity knives. So pretty much anything goes.

Concealed carry and open carry of knives in KY is also legal. So if you want to keep a tiny letter opener on you in a pocket, you’re good. If you want to get your Jason Vorhees on and open carry a frickin’ machete, you can.

Be sure to get your head checked if you feel like doing the latter for anything but clearing brush.

That being said, in light of the legal kerfuffle on clearing up some disjointed and conflicting laws about knives and “deadly weapons” other than “ordinary hunting and pocket knives” being carried concealed without a permit, be conservative if you decide to carry concealed without a permit; there is no comprehensive statewide knife preemption law in Kentucky, specifically the cities of Lexington and Lousiville.

This means you might still run into trouble if a locality has strict laws concerning carry or use of certain kinds of knives FYI, guns do have statewide preemption coverage, but knives do not.

Perhaps choose something more mundane in design though length should not be an issue almost anywhere.

That being said, knives do enjoy some special legal protections in the state of Kentucky, specifically under KRS 237.104 and KRS 527.020. I will quote the text of both below and then explain what this may mean to you as a knife-carrying individual.

KRS 237.104 says:

(1) No person, unit of government, or governmental organization shall, during a period of disaster or emergency as specified in KRS Chapter 39A or at any other time, have the right to revoke, suspend, limit the use of, or otherwise impair the validity of the right of any person to purchase, transfer, loan, own, possess, carry, or use a firearm, firearm part, ammunition, ammunition component, or any deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

(2) No person, unit of government, or governmental organization shall, during a period of disaster or emergency as specified in KRS Chapter 39A or at any other time, take, seize, confiscate, or impound a firearm, firearm part, ammunition, ammunition component, or any deadly weapon or dangerous instrument from any person. Local governments may establish reasonable restrictions limiting weapons in government offices and facilities.

The first section means that no official, badged or otherwise, has the right or authority to confiscate your guns or knives during any period of emergency, duress or general SHTF situation. The second section states that local governments may however still restrict the carry of such into government installations and buildings.

KRS 527.020 says:

Persons carrying concealed weapons in accordance with KRS 237.109 or licensed to carry a concealed deadly weapon pursuant to KRS 237.110 may carry a concealed firearm or other concealed deadly weapon on or about their persons at all times within the Commonwealth of Kentucky, if the firearm or concealed deadly weapon is carried in conformity with the requirements of KRS 237.109 or 237.110.

Unless otherwise specifically provided by the Kentucky Revised Statutes or applicable federal law, no criminal penalty shall attach to carrying a concealed firearm or other deadly weapon at any location at which an unconcealed firearm or other deadly weapon may be constitutionally carried.

No person or organization, public or private, shall prohibit a person from possessing a firearm, ammunition, or both, or other deadly weapon in his or her vehicle in compliance with the provisions of KRS 237.109, 237.110, and 237.115.

Any attempt by a person or organization, public or private, to violate the provisions of this subsection may be the subject of an action for appropriate relief or for damages in a Circuit Court or District Court of competent jurisdiction.

The above means that you cannot be penalized for carrying concealed any deadly weapon (i.e. your knife) where you have a constitutionally protected right to carry it openly.

Furthermore no organization or agency (governmental or otherwise) can prohibit you from keeping a gun or other deadly weapon in your car pursuant to KRS 237.109, 237.110, and 237.115, and that anyone who attempts to do so is breaking the law!

This is a big deal for preppers and travelers especially as you can keep your guns and/or knives in your car with no fear of reprisal so long as you follow the exceptions outlined in the sections above!

No-Go Zones

KY does not allow anyone, permitted or not, outside of duly authorized law enforcement, certain military personnel, and other similarly badged personnel to carry a knife or other deadly weapon in a school of any kind (including the grounds and rest of the property!), prison, court house or government building.

Bottom Line

Kentucky is a broadly permissive state when it comes to carry of knives, and so long as you are okay with open carrying it outside of major cities like Lexington or Louisville you will draw no heat.

Concealed carry of knives is a bit of a wild card presently, thanks to the elimination of the need to obtain a concealed weapons permit for carry of deadly weapons, but the failure of the state some years prior to rectify the janky verbiage governing them in some localities.

If in doubt, carry a milder, more traditional looking knife concealed, or anything you want openly. Don’t forget to check the local, county and city laws to be double sure!

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About Tom Marlowe

Tom Marlowe
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.

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