- Legal to Carry Openly: Any knife that is legal to own, including bowies, ballistic knives, dirks, daggers, butterfly knives, etc.
- Legal to Carry Concealed Without Permit: Any ordinary pocketknife with a blade of 4” or less.
- Legal to Carry Concealed With Permit: Any knife that is legal to own.
- Dodgy Ownership/Carry Status: Switchblades, includes gravity knives and potentially assisted opening knives. See below.
Missouri Knife Law Overview
Missouri is a messy state for knife ownership, owing to awkwardly written and seemingly contradictory legal statutes and on-again, off-again laws that only make certain acts of possession or ownership crimes if you violate Federal statutes governing law and ownership.
Those federal statutes are themselves so oblique and confusing that you are probably better off not carrying or possessing the restricted types of knives at all.
Even so, the Missouri State Constitution makes clear its citizens’ right to keep and bear arms, and the law is clear enough that you can legally carry a knife openly, and you can carry some knives concealed with no permit, although here we run afoul of the tired, old catchall term “ordinary pocketknife” and this time with a blade restriction of 4” or less.
They sure didn’t try too hard to make the law amenable to the common man. Additionally it is shorter to list the places you can carry a knife instead of the places you can’t if you don’t have a permit.
I’ll try to help you make sense of these messy laws in the sections below.
Relevant Missouri State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives
- 571.101 thru 571.121
Section 23 of the Missouri State Constitution declares the rights of its citizens to keep and bear arms unalienable, and further proclaims that any restriction on those rights shall be subject to the strictest scrutiny. It reads in full:
Right to Keep and Bear Arms–Exception
“That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms, ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms, in defense of his home, person, family and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned. The rights guaranteed by this section shall be unalienable. Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny and the state of Missouri shall be obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the general assembly from enacting general laws which limit the rights of convicted violent felons or those duly adjudged mentally infirm by a court of competent jurisdiction.”
Arms necessarily includes knives, case closed. In 571.010 we get the definition of both “knife” and the standout type “switchblade knife”:
Chapter 571 – Weapons Offenses Section 571.010 Definitions.
571.010. Definitions. — As used in this chapter, the following terms shall mean:
(12) “Knife”, any dagger, dirk, stiletto, or bladed hand instrument that is readily capable of inflicting serious physical injury or death by cutting or stabbing a person. For purposes of this chapter, “knife” does not include any ordinary pocketknife with no blade more than four inches in length;
(15) “Projectile weapon”, any bow, crossbow, pellet gun, slingshot or other weapon that is not a firearm, which is capable of expelling a projectile that could inflict serious physical injury or death by striking or piercing a person;
(20) “Switchblade knife”, any knife which has a blade that folds or closes into the handle or sheath, and:
(a) That opens automatically by pressure applied to a button or other device located on the handle; or
(b) That opens or releases from the handle or sheath by the force of gravity or by the application of centrifugal force.
Reading the definitions above tell us several things. A “knife” is any kind of bladed implement that is not an “ordinary pocketknife.” That includes all kinds of knives you can imagine with blade lengths over 4”, and an awful lot of styles with blades under 4”.
Double edge 3 ½” Fairbairn-Sykes folder? Knife. 4 ½” fixed blade Buck knife? Duh, knife. Buck 112 Ranger folder. Hmm… Not sure.
Could be an ordinary pocketknife, it should be, being one of the most popular in the country, but depending on who is looking at it, it could be a folding bowie knife! Gasp!
This is the problem with so much of the ordinary pocketknife, common folding knife and similar boojum: it is mostly up to lawyers and judges if you are in trouble or not depending on how your knife looks more or less, and not based on its salient features like blade length and mechanism.
Speaking of mechanisms, (15) shows us that ballistic knives in all likelihood fall into the category of projectile weaponry, not knives as is usual in the states they are legal in, and (20) gives us the definition of switchblade knives which, sad to say, sure seems to specifically include gravity knives and inertial-open knives as well.
Assisted opening knives should be safe, since one must apply pressure to the blade and not the handle, but you heard it here first it won’t take a thing for some liberal judge to go four-legs to the sky when some equally liberal prosecutor suggests that the flipper becomes part of the handle when the knife is closed. In the immortal words of Scooby Doo, “Rut ro.”
571.020 has this to say about the possession of weapons. Pay close attention to exactly what the statute says; I have omitted weapons entirely from this section that do not relate to knives:
571.020. Possession–manufacture–transport–repair–sale of certain weapons a crime—exceptions–penalties.
1. A person commits an offense if such person knowingly possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs, or sells:
(6) Any of the following in violation of federal law:
(d) A switchblade knife.
If the state of Missouri is relying on Federal law to dictate its own laws, you will need to refer to the Federal Switchblade Act of 1958. According to that act, it is no crime to merely possess or carry a switchblade. Case closed. But, and I mean but with a capital ‘B’, reader, you are a fool to carry a switchblade in the state of Missouri, and I’d be very cautious about owning one.
Concealed carry of other knives is covered in section 571.030, and states that knives may carried concealed without a permit so long as they meet the criteria of “ordinary pocketknife.” Any other knife is verboten unless you have a permit. The statute reads:
571.030. Unlawful use of weapons — exceptions — penalties.
1. A person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons, except as otherwise provided by sections 571.101 to 571.121, if he or she knowingly:
(1) Carries concealed upon or about his or her person a knife, a firearm, a blackjack or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use into any area where firearms are restricted under section 571.107; or
(4) Exhibits, in the presence of one or more persons, any weapon readily capable of lethal use in an angry or threatening manner; or
2. Subdivisions (1), (8), and (10) of subsection 1 of this section shall not apply to the persons described in this subsection, regardless of whether such uses are reasonably associated with or are necessary to the fulfillment of such person’s official duties except as otherwise provided in this subsection. Subdivisions (3), (4), (6), (7), and (9) of subsection 1 of this section shall not apply to or affect any of the following persons, when such uses are reasonably associated with or are necessary to the fulfillment of such person’s official duties, except as otherwise provided in this subsection:
4. Subdivisions (1), (8), and (10) of subsection 1 of this section shall not apply to any person who has a valid concealed carry permit issued pursuant to sections 571.101 to 571.121, a valid concealed carry endorsement issued before August 28, 2013, or a valid permit or endorsement to carry concealed firearms issued by another state or political subdivision of another state.
* The above statutes spell out that you, in fact, may carry a knife concealed so long as you have a valid permit, but without one you may carry no knife concealed that falls outside the definition of ordinary pocketknife and further cannot carry any bladed implement into a place where firearms are forbidden without a permit. In essence, if you have a permit in MO, your knives can go where your guns go.*
You may not carry your knife without a permit into any of the following locations pursuant to 571.107. Even with a permit, if discovered carrying your knife legally in any of the following places you might be subject to ejection from the premises:
571.107. Permit does not authorize concealed firearms, where — penalty for violation.
1. A concealed carry permit issued pursuant to sections 571.101 to 571.121, a valid concealed carry endorsement issued prior to August 28, 2013, or a concealed carry endorsement or permit issued by another state or political subdivision of another state shall authorize the person in whose name the permit or endorsement is issued to carry concealed firearms on or about his or her person or vehicle throughout the state. No concealed carry permit issued pursuant to sections 571.101 to 571.121, valid concealed carry endorsement issued prior to August 28, 2013, or a concealed carry endorsement or permit issued by another state or political subdivision of another state shall authorize any person to carry concealed firearms into:
(1) Any police, sheriff, or highway patrol office or station without the consent of the chief law enforcement officer in charge of that office or station. Possession of a firearm in a vehicle on the premises of the office or station shall not be a criminal offense so long as the firearm is not removed from the vehicle or brandished while the vehicle is on the premises;
(2) Within twenty-five feet of any polling place on any election day. Possession of a firearm in a vehicle on the premises of the polling place shall not be a criminal offense so long as the firearm is not removed from the vehicle or brandished while the vehicle is on the premises;
(3) The facility of any adult or juvenile detention or correctional institution, prison or jail. Possession of a firearm in a vehicle on the premises of any adult, juvenile detention, or correctional institution, prison or jail shall not be a criminal offense so long as the firearm is not removed from the vehicle or brandished while the vehicle is on the premises;
(4) Any courthouse solely occupied by the circuit, appellate or supreme court, or any courtrooms, administrative offices, libraries or other rooms of any such court whether or not such court solely occupies the building in question. This subdivision shall also include, but not be limited to, any juvenile, family, drug, or other court offices, any room or office wherein any of the courts or offices listed in this subdivision are temporarily conducting any business within the jurisdiction of such courts or offices, and such other locations in such manner as may be specified by supreme court rule pursuant to subdivision (6) of this subsection. (…)
(5) Any meeting of the governing body of a unit of local government; or any meeting of the general assembly or a committee of the general assembly, except that nothing in this subdivision shall preclude a member of the body holding a valid concealed carry permit or endorsement from carrying a concealed firearm at a meeting of the body which he or she is a member.(…)
(7) Any establishment licensed to dispense intoxicating liquor for consumption on the premises, which portion is primarily devoted to that purpose, without the consent of the owner or manager.
(9) Any place where the carrying of a firearm is prohibited by federal law;
(10) Any higher education institution or elementary or secondary school facility without the consent of the governing body of the higher education institution or a school official or the district school board, (…)
(11) Any portion of a building used as a child care facility without the consent of the manager. (…)
(12) Any riverboat gambling operation accessible by the public without the consent of the owner or manager (…)
(13) Any gated area of an amusement park. Possession of a firearm in a vehicle on the premises of the amusement park shall not be a criminal offense so long as the firearm is not removed from the vehicle or brandished while the vehicle is on the premises;
(14) Any church or other place of religious worship without the consent of the minister or person or persons representing the religious organization that exercises control over the place of religious worship. Possession of a firearm in a vehicle on the premises shall not be a criminal offense so long as the firearm is not removed from the vehicle or brandished while the vehicle is on the premises;
(15) Any private property whose owner has posted the premises as being off-limits to concealed firearms by means of one or more signs displayed in a conspicuous place (…)
(16) Any sports arena or stadium with a seating capacity of five thousand or more. Possession of a firearm in a vehicle on the premises shall not be a criminal offense so long as the firearm is not removed from the vehicle or brandished while the vehicle is on the premises;
(17) Any hospital accessible by the public. Possession of a firearm in a vehicle on the premises of a hospital shall not be a criminal offense so long as the firearm is not removed from the vehicle or brandished while the vehicle is on the premises.
Missouri is an alright state for knife ownership, but has highly dodgy rules on switchblades, and employs liberal use of the “ordinary pocketknife” verbiage that is easy to warp into whatever a law enforcement official wants it to mean when it is convenient.
Lots of options and knives open up for you to carry concealed if you get your permit however, and this is almost mandatory for any measure of peace of mind in the state.
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.