North Carolina Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

Legal to Carry Concealed

  • ✅ Common pocketknife

Illegal to Carry Concealed

  • ❌ Dirk
  • ❌ Dagger
  • ❌ Butcher’s Knife
  • ❌ Gravity knife
  • ❌ Switchblade

Illegal to Own or Possess

  • ❌ Spring loaded projectile knife
  • ❌ Ballistic knife
  • ❌ Any knife with similar characteristics to ballistic or projectile knife
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North Carolina Knife Law Overview

North Carolina’s knife statutes are frankly a giant and scary mess, with confusingly vague and arbitrary legal language, stiff penalties for screw-ups, and no clear guidelines on many behaviors and situations that residents of other states take for granted.

Not even open carry of knives is safe based on past legal precedent, though it is nominally lawful for all legal knives.

Concealed carry is only legal for “common” pocketknives, which is a dangerously vague term when you are betting your freedom and welfare on what denotes common.

There is additionally a whole host of additional locations and situations that you cannot concealed carry otherwise legal knives at, and exceptions to otherwise illegal carry of knives is so situational and niche, it is damn near useless.

Rest stops?! Who cares if you actually, you know, live in the state!

Read on and I’ll do my level best to help you make sense of this miasma of legalism and bureaucracy run amok.

Relevant North Carolina State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

I hope you are ready for a furball.

  • 14-269. Carrying Concealed Weapons
  • 14-269.1 Confiscation and disposition of deadly weapons
  • 14-269.2 Weapons on campus and other educational property
  • 14-269.4 Weapons on certain State property and Courthouses
  • 14-269.6 Possession and sale of spring-loaded projectile knives prohibited
  • 14-277.2 Weapons at parades, etc., prohibited

Right up front, it is illegal in the entirety of the state to own, for any reason, spring-loaded projectile knives or ballistic knives. Even for cops, except under the strictest technical demonstration purposes. If you even dream about touching one you’d better wake and apologize.

Carry for all knives except “common pocketknives” is required to be done openly unless on your own premises, then you can conceal to your heart’s content. Smell the freedom! The aforementioned common pocketknives can be concealed, though. Hold your questions, I’ll try to get to them. Section 14-269 covers concealed weapons law to an extent:

14-269. Carrying concealed weapons.

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person willfully and intentionally to carry concealed about his or her person any bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slung shot, loaded cane, metallic knuckles, razor, shuriken, stun gun, or other deadly weapon of like kind, except when the person is on the person’s own premises.

(a1) It shall be unlawful for any person willfully and intentionally to carry concealed about his or her person any pistol or gun except in the following circumstances:

(1) The person is on the person’s own premises.

(2) The deadly weapon is a handgun, the person has a concealed handgun permit issued in accordance with Article 54B of this Chapter or considered valid under G.S. 14-415.24, and the person is carrying the concealed handgun in accordance with the scope of the concealed handgun permit as set out in G.S. 14-415.11(c).

(a2) This prohibition does not apply to a person who has a concealed handgun permit issued in accordance with Article 54B of this Chapter, has a concealed handgun permit considered valid under G.S. 14-415.24, or is exempt from obtaining a permit pursuant to G.S. 14-415.25, provided the weapon is a handgun, is in a closed compartment or container within the person’s locked vehicle, and the vehicle is in a parking area that is owned or leased by State government. A person may unlock the vehicle to enter or exit the vehicle, provided the handgun remains in the closed compartment at all times and the vehicle is locked immediately following the entrance or exit.


That section runs on basically forever and gets increasingly dense and obtuse. Before you get after me for wasting your time on gun law, go back and re-read the bolded sections, especially (a2).

A concealed weapons permit only gives you permission to carry a handgun concealed, not any other knives or weapons! The only way you are concealing a knife, legally, certainly, in this state is if it is a tiny, bland, simple pocket knife and you are at home.

It should not be lost on you that the entirety of this article is beached under “Subchapter 9: Offenses Against the Public Peace.” North Carolina is so ass-backwards they think carrying a knife and minding your own business is an active assault on the peace of the land.

There are a few, scant few, exceptions to the above, and you can read and wonder at them in Section 14-269.4:

14-269.4. Weapons on certain State property and in courthouses.

It shall be unlawful for any person to possess, or carry, whether openly or concealed, any deadly weapon, not used solely for instructional or officially sanctioned ceremonial purposes in the State Capitol Building, the Executive Mansion, the Western Residence of the Governor, or on the grounds of any of these buildings, and in any building housing any court of the General Court of Justice.

If a court is housed in a building containing nonpublic uses in addition to the court, then this prohibition shall apply only to that portion of the building used for court purposes while the building is being used for court purposes.

This section shall not apply to any of the following:

(5) State-owned rest areas, rest stops along the highways, and State-owned hunting and fishing reservations.

(6) A person with a permit issued in accordance with Article 54B of this Chapter, with a permit considered valid under G.S. 14-415.24, or who is exempt from obtaining a permit pursuant to G.S. 14-415.25, who has a firearm in a closed compartment or container within the person’s locked vehicle or in a locked container securely affixed to the person’s vehicle. A person may unlock the vehicle to enter or exit the vehicle provided the firearm remains in the closed compartment at all times and the vehicle is locked immediately following the entrance or exit.

(7) Any person who carries or possesses an ordinary pocket knife, as defined in G.S. 14-269(d), carried in a closed position into the State Capitol Building or on the grounds of the State Capitol Building.


Ugh. So you can carry at rest stops or leave it locked up tight as a drum in your car if travelling to any of the above locations. It says you can carry your “ordinary pocketknife” into the State Capitol Building, but you’d be a fool to try your luck with that.

We have come this far, we must go on. 14-277.2 makes it illegal to possess any weapon (save the mythical “ordinary” pocketknife at a demonstration, parade, or even a daggone funeral procession. No joke. Read it for yourself:

14-277.2. Weapons at parades, etc., prohibited.

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person participating in, affiliated with, or present as a spectator at any parade, funeral procession, picket line, or demonstration upon any private health care facility or upon any public place owned or under the control of the State or any of its political subdivisions to willfully or intentionally possess or have immediate access to any dangerous weapon. Violation of this subsection shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor. It shall be presumed that any rifle or gun carried on a rack in a pickup truck at a holiday parade or in a funeral procession does not violate the terms of this act.

(c) The provisions of this section shall not apply to a person exempted by the provisions of G.S. 14-269(b) or to persons authorized by State or federal law to carry dangerous weapons in the performance of their duties or to any person who obtains a permit to carry a dangerous weapon at a parade, funeral procession, picket line, or demonstration from the sheriff or police chief, whichever is appropriate, of the locality where such parade, funeral procession, picket line, or demonstration is to take place.

(d) The provisions of this section shall not apply to concealed carry of a handgun at a parade or funeral procession by a person with a valid permit issued in accordance with Article 54B of this Chapter, with a permit considered valid under G.S. 14-415.24, or who is exempt from obtaining a permit pursuant to G.S. 14-415.25. …


So now, if you are a spectator at a parade you cannot have a knife on you. If you are in a funeral procession, no weapons, unless you kiss the ring and get special permission from the local chief of law enforcement.

You’ll note that (d) specifies that you can carry your handgun at either of these events if you have a concealed weapons permit, but once again it is consistent in allowing only a firearm, no knives, to be carried.

What on earth is an “ordinary” pocketknife?!

Good question, reader. Though it is referenced all over in the text of the law, the definition is not quantified. After some test cases where the court was able to flop its greasy, stupid legal belly on it, we now have the equally nebulous definition of “carried” in a closed position.

As used in this section, “ordinary pocket knife” means a small knife, designed for carrying in a pocket or purse, that has its cutting edge and point entirely enclosed by its handle, and that may not be opened by a throwing, explosive, or spring action.”

Well, right up front you know that nixes all assisted opening, flipper actuated and automatic knives entirely, so your popular Leek and Carson knives are out.

“Opened by a throwing action.” What does that mean? Like thrown and it opens in flight to the target? Flipped open by a flick of the wrist? What?!

“Explosive” action is even worse: do they mean a pronounced and sharply executed movement of hand, wrist or arm? Do they mean an actually propellant charge like some ballistic knives? We don’t know.

Lest you think I am being spiteful, understand me very well that these words mean things, things that will cost you terribly if you ever have the rotten luck to see the inside of a court room.

I cannot in any way determine anything other than switchblade, assisted opening, inertia opening, and even loosely secured, manually opening knives are verboten in North Carolina.

No-Go Zones

Schools are heavily regulated as you might well have guessed.

14-269.2. Weapons on campus or other educational property.

(a) The following definitions apply to this section:

(1) Educational property. – Any school building or bus, school campus, grounds, recreational area, athletic field, or other property owned, used, or operated by any board of education or school board of trustees, or directors for the administration of any school.

(1a) Employee. – A person employed by a local board of education or school whether the person is an adult or a minor.

(1b) School. – A public or private school, community college, college, or university.

(2) Student. – A person enrolled in a school or a person who has been suspended or expelled within the last five years from a school, whether the person is an adult or a minor.

(3) Switchblade knife. – A knife containing a blade that opens automatically by the release of a spring or a similar contrivance.

(3a) Volunteer school safety resource officer. – A person who volunteers as a school safety resource officer as provided by G.S. 162-26 or G.S. 160A-288.4.

(4) Weapon. – Any device enumerated in subsection (b), (b1), or (d) of this section.

(d) It shall be a Class 1 misdemeanor for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, any BB gun, stun gun, air rifle, air pistol, bowie knife, dirk, dagger, slungshot, leaded cane, switchblade knife, blackjack, metallic knuckles, razors and razor blades (except solely for personal shaving), firework, or any sharp-pointed or edged instrument except instructional supplies, unaltered nail files and clips and tools used solely for preparation of food, instruction, and maintenance, on educational property.


So any public or private school of any grade or education status, any building owned, leased or occupied by the school or school board and any properties therein are strictly off limits for you and your awful knife.

All of the above is made so much worse by even so much as modest preemption laws. Any given place could be better, or it could be worse. Best not to chance it.

Bottom Line

North Carolina’s laws regarding the carry of knives are a complete and unmitigated mess: hazy, obtuse, nebulous. Areas in desperate need of clarification either have none ,or you’ll be risking the whirlwind of jury and judge opinion should you roll snake eyes.

If you are going to carry any knife in North Carolina it had better be as small, awkward and inoffensive a knife as possible, or else you run the very real risk of getting in legal trouble, especially if you wind up having to use it for self defense.

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