- Legal to Carry Openly: Any knife, some length restrictions by location
- Legal to Carry Concealed: Any knife, some length restrictions by location
Texas is an extremely friendly state for knife owners, especially in light of some legislation that passed with the purpose of streamlining existing knife laws and loosening other restrictions on bladed weapons.
By and large, Texas’ laws and fines are easily understood, easy to comply with and follow far more reasonable penalty schedules than other states, especially ones in New England and the West Coast.
The central tenet in the restriction of carried knives revolves around the concept of blade length, which is thankfully precisely defined in the statutes, and places where it is illegal to carry a knife with a blade over a certain length.
Mercifully this proscription for “location restricted knives” sets the maximum allowable blade length at a generous 5 ½”.
It is not as odious as it sounds. In the sections below we’ll break down all the relevant knife laws.
Relevant Texas State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives:
- Chapter 46.01 – Definitions
- Chapter 46.02 – Unlawful carry
- Chapter 46.03 – Prohibited places
- Chapter 46.05 – Forbidden weapons
- Chapter 46.06 – Transfer of Weapons
- Chapter 46.15 – Non-applicability
- Chapter 229.001 –(Preemption laws)
Immediately we can find the definitions for the rest of the Chapter 46 codes in section one, which helpfully tells us what the difference is between a “location-restricted knife” and a mere “knife.” Insert your Crocodile Dundee joke here:
Sec. 46.01. DEFINITIONS.
(1) “Club” means an instrument that is specially designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by striking a person with the instrument, and includes but is not limited to the following:
(6) “Location-restricted knife” means a knife with a blade over five and one-half inches.
(7) “Knife” means any bladed hand instrument that is capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by cutting or stabbing a person with the instrument.
Above, we can see quite clearly what a knife is, and a location-restricted knife, which is the solely regulated class of knife in Texas, is just any knife with a blade length over 5 ½”.
For completeness, I included subsection (1) above since a tomahawk is defined as a club. For any of you cats out there who carry compact ‘hawks or hatchets that may become important as they are not knives under Texas law.
The section governing the carry and possession of all of the weapons defined in Section 1 is just next door in 46.02:
Sec. 46.02. UNLAWFUL CARRYING WEAPONS.
(a-4) A person commits an offense if the person:
(1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a location-restricted knife;
(2) is younger than 18 years of age at the time of the offense; and
(3) is not:
(A) on the person’s own premises or premises under the person’s control;
(B) inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person’s control; or
(C) under the direct supervision of a parent or legal guardian of the person.
(b) Except as provided by Subsection (c) or (d), an offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.
(c) An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree if the offense is committed on any premises licensed or issued a permit by this state for the sale of alcoholic beverages.
(d) An offense under Subsection (a-4) is a Class C misdemeanor.
This section makes clear that it is only a crime to possess a location-restricted knife writ large if you are under 18 years of age and not under the direct supervision of an adult guardian.
Violation of this statute is a misdemeanor unless you do it at any place that is licensed to sell alcoholic beverages, in which case the charges are upgraded to felony status. Again, this entire passage only refers to knives with blades over 5 ½” in length. Shorter blades are alright.
For the rest of us, what locations are the location-restricted locations that we can’t take our location-restricted knives to? Glad you asked, in typically direct Texas fashion, the subsequent section, 46.03 provides a list:
Sec. 46.03. PLACES WEAPONS PROHIBITED.
(a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a firearm, location-restricted knife, club, or prohibited weapon listed in Section 46.05(a):
(1) on the physical premises of a school or educational institution, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by a school or educational institution is being conducted, or a passenger transportation vehicle of a school or educational institution, whether the school or educational institution is public or private, unless:
(A) pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the institution; or
(B) the person possesses or goes with a concealed handgun that the person is licensed to carry under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, and no other weapon to which this section applies, on the premises of an institution of higher education or private or independent institution of higher education, on any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by the institution is being conducted, or in a passenger transportation vehicle of the institution;
(2) on the premises of a polling place on the day of an election or while early voting is in progress;
(3) on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court, unless pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the court;
(4) on the premises of a racetrack;
(5) in or into a secured area of an airport; or
(6) within 1,000 feet of premises the location of which is designated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as a place of execution under Article 43.19, Code of Criminal Procedure, on a day that a sentence of death is set to be imposed on the designated premises and the person received notice that:
(A) going within 1,000 feet of the premises with a weapon listed under this subsection was prohibited; or
(B) possessing a weapon listed under this subsection within 1,000 feet of the premises was prohibited.
(a-1) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a location-restricted knife:
(1) on the premises of a business that has a permit or license issued under Chapter 25, 28, 32, 69, or 74, Alcoholic Beverage Code, if the business derives 51 percent or more of its income from the sale or service of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption, as determined by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission under Section 104.06, Alcoholic Beverage Code;
(2) on the premises where a high school, collegiate, or professional sporting event or interscholastic event is taking place, unless the person is a participant in the event and a location-restricted knife is used in the event;
(3) on the premises of a correctional facility;
(4) on the premises of a hospital licensed under Chapter 241, Health and Safety Code, or on the premises of a nursing facility licensed under Chapter 242, Health and Safety Code, unless the person has written authorization of the hospital or nursing facility administration, as appropriate;
(5) on the premises of a mental hospital, as defined by Section 571.003, Health and Safety Code, unless the person has written authorization of the mental hospital administration;
(6) in an amusement park; or
(7) on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established place of religious worship.
(b) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsections (a)(1)-(4) that the actor possessed a firearm while in the actual discharge of his official duties as a member of the armed forces or national guard or a guard employed by a penal institution, or an officer of the court.
The list of locations above are places where you cannot carry your location-restricted knife, not a “normal” knife; normal knife in this case being any knife with a blade less than 5 ½” in length.
That’s the whole enchilada. Knives over 5 ½” in length are location-restricted and cannot go into any of the above zones. Knives beneath that standard are not.
Now is a good time to talk about blade length. Texas has as mentioned done away with any laws and restrictions on blades based on blade shape or style and migrated to restrictions based solely on length of the blade.
How, precisely, does Texas measure blade length on a given knife? This is not splitting hairs (heh), as the precise process and dictum on measurements state to state can affect your knife’s legality or lack thereof.
Are you willing to cheat or take 1/8” if that eighth could mean the difference between a charge or not? I hope not. You want to stay solidly within the law no matter where you are carrying, especially if you depend on a knife for self-defense.
Thankfully, Texas remains a bastion of sanity in this regard, and one prominent appellate level court case to mean measured from the flat edge of the knife, sharpened or not, from the tip up to the handle, but not including the handle.
Now, even this may be subject to some finagling one way or the other depending on who is doing the measuring. In short, think carefully before you want to max out your regular knife at 5 3/8” to get as much blade as you can because reasons.
My druthers would be to max out my own “frequent flyer” knife at 5” on the large side, that way the vagaries of different measuring devices or methods would not completely screw me over.
There is a precedent established also for measuring the entirety of the blade, not just the edge proper. A knife with a sharpened edge of only 5 ¼” would be over 5 ½” in length if you counted the 3/8” that is unsharpened just ahead of the guard or handle. Take care that you do not get too “greedy” with your length if you want to remain able to go anywhere with your knife.
The only other major restrictions governing knives in Texas regard the sale or giving of a location restricted knife to a minor, and even that has a written, codified defense if you have permission from their parent, in writing, that is okay or the minor is engaged in “outdoor pursuits,” both of which are defined in 46.06(a2) and 46.15:
Sec. 46.06. UNLAWFUL TRANSFER OF CERTAIN WEAPONS.
(2) intentionally or knowingly sells, rents, leases, or gives or offers to sell, rent, lease, or give to any child younger than 18 years of age any firearm, club, or location-restricted knife;
(c) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that the transfer was to a minor whose parent or the person having legal custody of the minor had given written permission for the sale or, if the transfer was other than a sale, the parent or person having legal custody had given effective consent.
(a) Sections 46.02 and 46.03 do not apply to:
(3) is engaging in lawful hunting, fishing, or other sporting activity on the immediate premises where the activity is conducted, or is en route between the premises and the actor’s residence, motor vehicle, or watercraft, if the weapon is a type commonly used in the activity;
Summarized from the restricted locations above. Please see that section for full details.
- Polling place
- Airport past the security checkpoint
- Penal institute or place of execution, or within 1,000 feet
- Anywhere alcohol is sold for consumption on premises
- School or Professional sporting event
- Hospital or nursing facility
- Amusement park
- Churches or Temples
Texas has strong preemption laws for knives specifically, and prevents any municipality from instituting their own prohibitions on the sale, ownership, carry or selling of knives, even in otherwise “sacrosanct” local events like parades, meetings and such.
Texas does though allow for localities to regulate weaponry in a state of emergency, like a natural or man-made disaster, so long as it is necessary for the public good and safety.
Texas is a great state for knife owners. What regulations they do have on knives are not outright bans, and still allow one to carry the named class of knife openly or concealed so long as you do not carry it into a list of prohibited places.
One may go armed with a shorter knife and take it nearly anywhere you please. Combined with strong statewide preemption and mild punishments for most offenses, and you have a state where you can carry almost any knife with confidence. It is friendlier in Texas indeed.
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.