Tennessee Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

Legal to Carry Concealed with no Permit:

  • Any knife of any kind
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Tennessee Knife Law Overview

Tennessee is now the gold standard for ownership and carry of knives, with every kind of knife imaginable legal to carry openly or concealed with no permit required.

The law is actually written in such a way that no distinction is made between open or concealed carry. For a long time, there was a restriction on automatic knives, aka switchblades, but a 2014 repeal of that law put an end to that.

Even better, statewide preemption appears to be standing in force since its adoption into law, with no jurisdiction beneath the state government able to regulate the sale, use ownership of possession of any kind of knife whatsoever. Huzzah!

That being said, specific language in the pertinent laws governing knives do focus specifically on carry with intent to commit a crime that you should be familiar with.

I am not implying that any of our stalwart readers are anything other than upstanding Good Guys and Good Gals, but any law you don’t know the ins and outs of is the one that will surely snare you. We’ll investigate those clauses tomorrow.

Relevant State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • §39-17-1307(d)
  • §39-17-1308
  • §39-17-1309
  • §39-17-1314
  • §39-17-1324

We’ll look at all of the pertinent sections in each of these statutes according to their relevancy to the carry of knives in Tennessee.

Broadly, Tennessee law states that any person who possesses a deadly weapon other than a firearm with the intent to employ it during the commission of a dangerous offense or non-dangerous offense is committing a crime, emphasis mine. The crime is classed a felony. If the knife you are carrying is an automatic, you’ll get an even worse sentence and a big fine to boot.

What is a dangerous offense? Glad you asked: § 39-17-1307(d) defines a dangerous offense as any of the following:

  • Making drugs
  • Selling drugs
  • Burglary or Robbery
  • Stalking
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder

So in essence, don’t do crime or think about committing crime if you carry a knife in Tennessee. Not rocket science, but some folks just cannot seem to figure it out! Besides that, any knife you can think of is okay in TN. Dirks, daggers, karambits, bowies, cleavers, stilettos, butterfly knives, gravity knives, anything with a blade is A-OK.

More good news, thought: §39-17-1308 spells out even greater legal protection coming down on the side of reason and prudence if you are carrying a knife while hunting, fishing, plinking, or engaging in other activities in the great outdoors with a firearm. Specifically:

39-17-1308 – Defenses to unlawful possession or carrying of a weapon.

(a) It is a defense to the application of § 39-17-1307 if the possession or carrying was:

(1) Of an unloaded rifle, shotgun or handgun not concealed on or about the person and the ammunition for the weapon was not in the immediate vicinity of the person or weapon;

(2) By a person authorized to possess or carry a firearm pursuant to § 39-17-1315 or § 39-17-1351;

(3) At the person’s:

  • (A) Place of residence;
  • (B) Place of business; or
  • (C) Premises;

(4) Incident to lawful hunting, trapping, fishing, camping, sport shooting or other lawful activity;

(5) By a person possessing a rifle or shotgun while engaged in the lawful protection of livestock from predatory animals;

There is more to that section, but the important ones are highlighted above. If you are authorized to carry a firearm in Tennessee you enjoy even more legal protection while carrying a knife.

Preemption Law

Tennesee makes no bones about their citizens rights to carry blades of all kinds and has spelled out in unambiguous language what the law of the land is in that regard.

The specific language of the statute reads as follows:

39-17-1314 – Preemption of local regulation of firearms, ammunition, and knives — Actions against firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association, or dealer — Party adversely affected by local regulation.

(f) It is the intent of the general assembly that this part is preemptive with respect to the transfer, ownership, possession or transportation of knives and no city, county, or metropolitan government shall occupy any part of the field of regulation of the transfer, ownership, possession or transportation of knives.

(g) (1) Notwithstanding title 29, chapter 20, a party who is adversely affected by an ordinance, resolution, policy, rule, or other enactment that is adopted or enforced by a county, city, town, municipality, or metropolitan government or any local agency, department, or official that violates this section may file an action in a court of competent jurisdiction against the county, city, town, municipality, or metropolitan government for:

(A) Declaratory and injunctive relief; and

(B) Damages, as provided in subsection (i).

(2) This subsection (g) shall apply to any ordinance, resolution, policy, rule, or other enactment that is adopted or enforced on or after July 1, 2017.

(h) As used in subsection (g), a party is “adversely affected” if:

(1) The party is an individual who:

(A) Lawfully resides within the United States;

(B) May legally possess a firearm under Tennessee law; and

(C) Is or was subject to the ordinance, resolution, policy, rule, or other enactment that is the subject of an action filed under subsection (g). An individual is or was subject to the ordinance, resolution, policy, rule, or other enactment if the individual is or was physically present within the boundaries of the political subdivision for any reason; or

So if any local city or county government decides to try and undercut (sorry) your rights to carry knives against the laws of the state, you have the legal ground to sue and win. It is awfully rare, readers, but when it happens it is nice when the laws of the land backup the individual citizen and not those who would mistreat us.

No-Go Zones

It isn’t duels at dawn and go where ye may in Tennessee. There are still places you cannot take your weapons, including knives, and especially naming certain kinds of knives as “not okay” for certain areas.

Your major off-limits area is, predictably, schools, be they private or public. The law specifically includes the campus and other grounds, any buildings or vehicles included therein, recreational areas, sports fields, arenas, remotely owned or leased school property, or any property in use by the boards of education, trustees or directors of any administration or educational institution.

Whew! That is an expansive list. Keep that in mind if you plan to watch a college or high school ball game. The only saving grace is that schools are required by law to post a sign saying as much about the doing so being a felony with a hefty fine and imprisonment.

Section 39-17-1309 has the following to say about what you cannot carry on those grounds. Pay attention to the highlighted text in particular:

It is an offense for any person to possess or carry, whether openly or concealed, with the intent to go armed, any firearm, explosive, explosive weapon, bowie knife, hawk bill knife, ice pick, dagger, slingshot, leaded cane, switchblade knife, blackjack, knuckles or any other weapon of like kind, not used solely for instructional or school-sanctioned ceremonial purposes, in any public or private school building or bus, on any public or private school campus, grounds, recreation area, athletic field or any other property owned, operated, or while in use by any board of education, school, college or university board of trustees, regents or directors for the administration of any public or private educational institution.

The bold part is the one that will get well-meaning and otherwise law-abiding citizens in trouble, readers. It would be nothing at all for some of you to, reasonably I might add, declare your knife okay and good-to-go since it is not a bowie knife, hawk bill knife, ice pick, dagger, switchblade, etc.. Since you carry a good, old fashioned and humble clip-point, lockback Uncle Henry, you aren’t worried.

That is where I fear you’d be wrong, readers. Should you be caught, or someone want to make an issue of it, it would be nothing at all for an unscrupulous prosecutor to say your knife is “of like kind” since it has both an edge and a point, just like the forbidden types.

In case you are still thinking about taking your chances, the section above spells out a possible six year prison stint and a $3,000 fine for violating the law. Think twice.

Just One Minor Thing…

There is one, tiny thing that pesters me about Tennessee’s constitution. Perhaps it is chalked up to my rebellious nature, but Article 1 Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution states that while citizens of the state have a right to keep and bear arms for common defense, the state shall also preserve the right by law to restrict the wearing of arms for… crime prevention. Womp, womp, wooommmppp.

Not my favorite, but I can live with it. For now.

Bottom Line

Tennessee is one of the very best states for knife carry and ownership, with hardly any types of knives being off limits. So long as you steer clear of school properties of all kinds, you can carry almost anywhere.

Strong preemption and protection laws in the favor of citizen’s rights to own and carry make Tennessee a tough act to follow for other states, and they have set the standard for pro-carry knife laws.

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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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