With the Gulf of Mexico at the southern edge of the state and the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains rolling near the Georgia and Tennessee borders, Alabama is a state rich with recreational opportunities. Hunting, fishing, cycling, and backpacking all require the use of a knife. However, Alabama knife laws take root in the state’s Constitution, which residents recently amended to bolster the right to bear arms.
Section 26 of the Alabama Constitution reads “Every citizen has a fundamental right to bear arms in defense of himself or herself and the state.” Several court decisions have ruled on the legality of owning and carrying different styles of knives in the State of Alabama.
An Overview of Alabama Knife Laws
Alabama has one of the most streamlined set of knife laws in the United States. The state imposes legal restrictions on only one type of knife. Residents and visitors to Alabama enjoy the legal right to own and carry any other type of knife. Most of the court decisions pertaining to knife ownership have addressed weapons issues, such as carrying knives in public places that include airports and bus terminals. Alabama is one of the rare southern states that allow municipalities to pass unique knife laws that implement stricter ownership and carrying conditions.
The following is the list of knives that are legal to own in Alabama:
- Pocket Knife
- Butterfly Knife
- Ballistic Knife
- Misleading Knife
Alabama permits machete and Bowie knife ownership, with a couple of legal restrictions. The legalization of ballistic knives contrasts with how some other states in the region deal with the self-propelled knife. For example, Florida forbids ownership of ballistic knives for all purposes.
How Alabama Regulates Knife Length
Alabama does not have a statute on the books that regulates the length of knives residents and visitors are allowed to own. A handful of court decisions have addresses knife length issues, but the premise of the lawsuits dealt with local authority to regulate the size of knife blades. Until the state legislature passes a law that specifies knife length restrictions, residents and visitors can own knives of any length except in certain cities.
Knife Open Carry Law in Alabama
Alabama law permits knife owners to open carry any style of knife, except for the machete and Bowie knife. You cannot open or conceal carry either knife in a vehicle. The permissive open carry knife law in Alabama makes the state popular among outdoor enthusiasts that visit from nearby states.
Alabama and Conceal Carry
Section 13A sets the legal guidelines for Alabama concealed carry. “Except as otherwise provided in this Code, a person who carries concealed about his person a bowie knife or knife or instrument of like kind or description or a pistol or firearm of any other kind or an air gun shall, on conviction, be fined not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00, and may also be imprisoned in the county jail or sentenced to hard labor for the county for not more than six months.” A couple of court decisions have included machetes and butcher knives in the same knife classification as Bowie knives. The Bowie knife is mostly used as a hunting knife, although the straight section of blade works well as a knife used to cut meat.
Alabama Miscellaneous Knife Laws
Alabama law prohibits weapons on school property. Section 16 states “ Any person who sells, gives or lends to any minor any pistol, except under the circumstances provided in Section 13A-11-72, bowie knife, or other knife of like kind or description, shall, on conviction, be fined not less than fifty dollars ($50) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500).” State law does not include a preemption clause, which many other states use to prevent municipalities from placing stricter restrictions on knife ownership. For example, Montgomery, Alabama has passed an ordinance limiting knife blade length to a maximum of three inches.
Alabama Knife Laws Beyond 2018
Political momentum continues to grow for creating a preemption clause for Alabama knife laws. Many state legislators on both sides of the political aisle want to eliminate the inconsistent statutes that vary between Alabama municipalities. The goal is to prevent cities such as Montgomery from passing laws that place restrictions on the length of knife blades. Although there is not any legislation on the docket to address preemption in 2018, many political observers believe one or more bills might come to the House floor in 2019.
None of the material in this article should be interpreted as legal advice. I am not a lawyer. Never take any action with legal consequences without first consulting with a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. This article should not be relied upon for making legal decisions. This information is provided for scholarship and general information only.