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People sometimes ask, what kind of knife can I legally own or carry in Los Angeles? There are 4 sets of laws that apply to this question. They are federal, state of California, Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles.
There’s only one federal law that applies to knives, and that’s the 1958 Federal Switchblade Act. This act forbids the manufacture, sale or possession of a switchblade knife. A switchblade knife is defined as “any knife having a blade which opens automatically – (1) by hand pressure applied to a button or other device in the handle of the knife, or (2) by operation of inertia, gravity, or both.” This law covers the whole United States, so of course a switchblade knife is illegal in Los Angeles.
The following are illegal under state of California law:
1. “Any knife with a blade of 2 inches or longer, that can be opened with a button or the flick of your wrist.” (This would be a switchblade knife).
2. “Concealed possession of any ‘dirk’ or ‘dagger,’ i.e., any stabbing device with a fixed blade, regardless of blade length.”
3. “Possession or sale of any disguised blades, i.e., cane swords, writing pen knives, lipstick knives, etc., or any knife that is undetectable to metal detectors.”
4. “Possession of a knife with a blade longer than 2 1/2 inches on any school grounds.”
5. “Possession of a fixed-blade knife with a blade longer than 2 1/2 inches on any college or university grounds.”
So, under California law regarding where a knife can be taken, sometimes the circumstances make a difference. You can collect antique knives or swords that meet the definition of “dirk” or “dagger,” but you can’t carry them around in concealment. If you bought a 6″ carving knife for the kitchen, it would be fine to bring it home and use it, but you could never have it on any school or college grounds.
Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles have laws that are almost identical. The city of Los Angeles laws regarding knives read as follows:
“The terms ‘knives and daggers’ shall include any knife having a blade of three inches or more in length; any spring-blade, switch-blade or snap-blade knife…any ice pick or similar sharp stabbing tool; any straight-edge razor or any razor blade fitted to a handle.”
“It is unlawful for any person to carry on his person, in plain view, any knife or dagger.”
“The foregoing restrictions shall not be deemed to prohibit the carrying of ordinary tools or equipment for use in a lawful occupation or for the purpose of lawful recreation, or where the carrying of a knife or dagger is a recognized religious practice.”
Laws are supposed to clarify what we can do. However, these knife laws can actually be confusing. For example, California law forbids concealed carry, and Los Angeles law forbids open carry. Also, laws at all levels forbid switchblades. But the definition of switchblade has become vague, as manufacturers have designed knives very much like switchblades to get around the laws. Another question is, what comprises “ordinary tools and equipment”?
The penalty for knife violations in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County can be a $500 fine or 6 months in jail. If you have questions or find yourself in legal trouble because of a knife-related issue, be sure to contact our office. You’ll need professionals to deal with the intricacies of the laws. We’ll be glad to help, so you can enjoy knife ownership safely and legally.