Michigan Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

Legal to Carry Openly

  • Any Knife

Illegal to Carry Concealed, including in vehicle

  • Fixed blade knives
  • Daggers
  • Dirks
  • Stilettos
  • Out-the-Front (OTF) double-edged automatics/switchblades

Michigan Knife Law Overview

Michigan is a fairly permissible state for knife owners, hampered only by a few odd discretionary laws restricting the concealed carry of the entire category of fixed blade knives (though they can be carried openly, if with caution) and by an odd turn of phrasing, out-the-front automatic knives.

The good news is concealed carry of all kinds of folding knives, including conventional switchblades is otherwise legal. Seems Michigan has been set a little queasy by the idea of a fixed blade knife of any length being kept hidden in the hands of the citizenry.

At any rate, knife laws have been steadily improving in favor of citizens in recent years, with the most recent bout of legislation being a 2017 bill signed into law that legalized the sale and ownership of assisted-opening knives operated by springs. Previously, these knives were banned as switchblades.

Michigan though makes very little in the way of allowances for fixed blades. And while their laws are tricky to look up, they are easy to understand. We’ll get into them below.

Relevant Michigan State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • MCL Section 750.222a
  • MCL Section 750.226
  • MCL Section 750.227
  • MCL Section 750.235b
  • MCL Section 750.237a

Section 750.226 states plainly for all to see the restriction on the carry of dangerous weapons with the intent to harm and the penalty for doing so:

750.226 Firearm or dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument; carrying with unlawful intent; violation as felony; penalty.

(1) A person shall not, with intent to use the same unlawfully against the person of another, go armed with a pistol or other firearm, or a pneumatic gun, dagger, dirk, razor, stiletto, or knife having a blade over 3 inches in length, or any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument. (2) A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than $2,500.00.

So, upfront this might seem like a blanket restriction on knives with blades over 3”, yes? Not so fast, read it again: the statute states “a person shall not, with the intent to use the same unlawfully against the person of another, go armed with a … knife having a blade over 3 inches in length.”

You may, in fact, go armed with that self-same knife if you go armed for any legal and law-abiding purpose.

Same for the other named types of knives, dirks, daggers and so forth. As you will see, MI does not take kindly to fixed knives but you can own and possess them. Section 750.227 goes into more detail about the carry of concealed weapons and the penalty for violating the terms of the statute:

750.227 Concealed weapons; carrying; penalty.

(1) A person shall not carry a dagger, dirk, stiletto, a double-edged nonfolding stabbing instrument of any length, or any other dangerous weapon, except a hunting knife adapted and carried as such, concealed on or about his or her person, or whether concealed or otherwise in any vehicle operated or occupied by the person, except in his or her dwelling house, place of business or on other land possessed by the person.

(2) A person shall not carry a pistol concealed on or about his or her person, or, whether concealed or otherwise, in a vehicle operated or occupied by the person, except in his or her dwelling house, place of business, or on other land possessed by the person, without a license to carry the pistol as provided by law and if licensed, shall not carry the pistol in a place or manner inconsistent with any restrictions upon such license.

(3) A person who violates this section is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or by a fine of not more than $2,500.00.

We can easily discern from the above text a few things. First, concealed carry of a prohibited weapon is cause for far greater fanfare in the criminal justice system, netting you a felony charge and up to 5 years in the pen or a steep fine of up to $2,500 bucks.

Second, the prohibition on fixed blades for concealed carry is on full display here, completely encompassed as a class with the terms “dagger,” “dirk” and “stiletto.”

How so? Here’s how, definitions provided from elsewhere but are commonly accepted terms that could definitely be applied to the law as written here:

  • Dagger – A knife with a sharp point, and usually two but sometimes a single edge; used for thrusting and stabbing.
  • Dirk – A long thrusting dagger.
  • Stiletto – A knife or dagger with a long and slender, often edgeless, blade tapering to a needle-like point.

So no matter how you try to square it, you really can’t escape the prohibitions of the concealed carry statute to make a fixed blade work. This goes for your vehicle also!

No concealed carry of a fixed blade in your vehicle; the only place you can concealed carry your fixed blade knives are your home and your place of business or any land that you own. That’s it.

You should take the preceding prohibitions as the strongest possible cautions against the carrying of any fixed blade knife, be it openly or concealed, since conflicting language in the statutes might make the mere carrying of the fixed blade knife, openly, a per se crime. Exercise caution, especially when folding knives are far more loosely regulated for concealed carry.

Section 750.235b quantifies the crime and punishment for any “reasonably interpreted threat” against the students or faculty of any school on school grounds or property. It also helpfully has some definitions that are important later so here it is:

750.235b Threatening to commit violence with firearm, explosive, or other dangerous weapon against students or employees on school property; specific intent or overt act; violation arising out of same transaction; definitions.

(1) A person who verbally, through the use of an electronic device or system, or through other means intentionally threatens to use a firearm, explosive, or other dangerous weapon to commit an act of violence against any students or school employees on school grounds or school property if the threat can be reasonably interpreted to be harmful or adverse to human life, or dangerous to human life as that term is defined in section 543b, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both.

(2) A person who violates subsection (1) and who in the course of violating subsection (1) had the specific intent to carry out the threat, or had undertaken an overt act toward carrying out the threat, is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $20,000.00, or both.

(3) This section does not prohibit a person from being charged with, convicted of, or punished for any other violation of law arising out of the same transaction as the violation of this section.

(4) As used in this section: (a) “Dangerous weapon” means a knife, stabbing instrument, brass knuckles, blackjack, club, or other object specifically designed or customarily carried or possessed for use as a weapon. (b) “School” means that term as defined in section 237a. (c) “School property” means that term as defined in section 237a.

No-Go Zones

All schools are weapons-free zones. Good grief, I don’t mean fire at will, I mean places where you’ll be staunchly punished or even incarcerated if you take your weapons, including knives. This is a length passage but describes in no uncertain detail the exact proscriptions of the statute:

750.237a Individual engaging in proscribed conduct in weapon free school zone; violation; penalties; definitions.

(1) An individual who engages in conduct proscribed under section 224, 224a, 224b, 224c, 224e, 226, 227, 227a, 227f, 234a, 234b, or 234c, or who engages in conduct proscribed under section 223(2) for a second or subsequent time, in a weapon free school zone is guilty of a felony punishable by 1 or more of the following: (a) Imprisonment for not more than the maximum term of imprisonment authorized for the section violated. (b) Community service for not more than 150 hours. (c) A fine of not more than 3 times the maximum fine authorized for the section violated.

(2) An individual who engages in conduct proscribed under section 223(1), 224d, 227c, 227d, 231c, 232a(1) or (4), 233, 234, 234e, 234f, 235, 236, or 237, or who engages in conduct proscribed under section 223(2) for the first time, in a weapon free school zone is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by 1 or more of the following: (a) Imprisonment for not more than the maximum term of imprisonment authorized for the section violated or 93 days, whichever is greater. (b) Community service for not more than 100 hours. (c) A fine of not more than $2,000.00 or the maximum fine authorized for the section violated, whichever is greater.

(3) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply to conduct proscribed under a section enumerated in those subsections to the extent that the proscribed conduct is otherwise exempted or authorized under this chapter.

(4) Except as provided in subsection (5), an individual who possesses a weapon in a weapon free school zone is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by 1 or more of the following: (a) Imprisonment for not more than 93 days. (b) Community service for not more than 100 hours. (c) A fine of not more than $2,000.00.

(5) Subsection (4) does not apply to any of the following:

(c) An individual licensed by this state or another state to carry a concealed weapon.

(e) An individual who possesses a firearm on school property if that possession is with the permission of the school’s principal or an agent of the school designated by the school’s principal or the school board.

(f) An individual who is 18 years of age or older who is not a student at the school and who possesses a firearm on school property while transporting a student to or from the school if any of the following apply:

(b) “School” means a public, private, denominational, or parochial school offering developmental kindergarten, kindergarten, or any grade from 1 through 12.

(c) “School property” means a building, playing field, or property used for school purposes to impart instruction to children or used for functions and events sponsored by a school, except a building used primarily for adult education or college extension courses.

(d) “Weapon” includes, but is not limited to, a pneumatic gun.

(e) “Weapon free school zone” means school property and a vehicle used by a school to transport students to or from school property.

So you can carry your knife in the school if it is otherwise legal and you have a legal concealed weapons permit, or if you have permission from the principal of the school or one of his/her designated agents.

I left in subsection (f) above for a reason: note how it says a person over 18 who is not a student may still possess a firearm if etc. etc. etc.. A gun, not a knife, in the car is okay under those conditions.

Some states make exceptions in the same circumstances for knives, but not Michigan. Plan accordingly.

Preemption

There is no statewide preemption statute in Michigan, so you’ll need to be on the bounce to stay ahead of county and city regs on knives. Detroit for instance has a city ordinance against the possession of any knife with a blade of 3” or longer.

Bottom Line

Michigan is a fairly permissible state for knife owners. The laws are straightforward, but biased against fixed blade knives carried concealed, and shaky statutes seem to contradict one another on the legality of openly carrying a long fixed-blade.

A lack of statewide preemption might mean local laws are a pain. Progress has been made as recently as 2017, so hopefully in the coming years the knife laws will continue to relax and be clarified.

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