Kentucky, which is known for its scenic hills and handcrafted bourbons, is also known for being one of the more friendlier knife owning states located in America. As a 19th-century pioneer who fought at the Alamo, Jim Bowie played an integral role in pushing for Texas independence. Bowie received a custom-made knife designed and constructed by a Kentucky native. The knife later became known as the Bowie Knife.
Because of the rich heritage of individual freedoms found in The Bluegrass State, Kentucky has historically featured favorable knife ownership laws that included ambiguously worded statutes in reference to concealed carry restrictions.
Overview of Kentucky Knife Laws
In 2013, the Kentucky legislature enacted a preemption knife law that unified state knife laws by eliminating conflicting municipal ordinances, such as the knife restrictions implemented by cities such as Louisville. The different local ordinances made knife ownership difficult, as anyone who moved around the state had to comply with different knife statutes. Five years after knife law reform, Kentucky is a pro knife ownership state that clearly promotes open and concealed carry ownership rights.
Kentucky Constitution and State Knife Laws
The Kentucky Constitution sets the legal framework for laws addressing knife ownership issues. With clear intent to preserve the right to bear arms and the right to defend family and property, Section 1 of the Kentucky Constitution has been cited numerous times in cases involving the legality of knife ownership.
Section 1 reads “All men are, by nature, free and equal, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned.” Kentucky citizens enjoy “the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties,” as well as “the right of seeking and pursuing their safety and happiness.” The 7th clause of Section 1 grants the right to bear arms, which most court decisions have ruled pertains to knives.
Knife Ownership in Kentucky
Knife ownership in Kentucky can be boiled down to one sentence. Residents are allowed to buy, sell, carry, and display any type of knife on private property. Kentucky law first defines the “regular” types of knives covered under the law to include clasp, pocket, hunting, and Bowie knives. Once banned for private ownership, knife enthusiasts in Kentucky are allowed to own daggers, stilettos, bayonets, and KA-BAR blades
Here are some of the “exotic” knives that are legal to own in The Bluegrass State:
- Comb Dirks
- Dagger Necklaces
- Disguised Knives
- Throwing Knives
- Balisong Knives
- Martial Arts Throwing Stars
Knives made illegal by other American states are not considered unlawful to own when brought to Kentucky. The Bluegrass State does not prohibit knives based on the methods of opening, the technique used, or any other standard.
Open Carry in Kentucky
Open carry in Kentucky is much more lenient than concealed carry for knife owners. Knife owners are permitted to open virtually any type of knife, with the exception being Civil War relic knives that belong in museums and at historical landmarks. Kentucky law does not restrict the length of knives for open carry.
Concealed Carry in Kentucky
The Kentucky legislature has passed more restrictive statutes for regulating concealed carry knives. You must apply for a license to conceal carry a knife in The Bluegrass State. Section 527.020 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons of any type, without presenting a license granting concealed carry for a weapon. KRS 500.080 exempts only a few types of knives from concealed carry law, including common hunting and pocket knives. Concealed carry implies a maximum knife length, but no law specifically defines the maximum length. Vague legal wording has led to several lawsuits filed by Kentucky residents fighting for the right to conceal carry long-bladed knives outside of the hunting and pocket knife categories.
Kentucky Miscellaneous Knife Laws
Kentucky law forbids knives on the grounds and within the buildings of schools, prisons, and courthouses. The prison ban includes makeshift knives inmates use for committing violent acts. However, some cities have added more restrictions. For example, Queensboro prohibits any type of knife carrying in municipal parks. State open carry laws remain the same for every municipality operating in The Bluegrass State.
KRS 237.110 spells out the procedure required to apply for a concealed carry license. Kentucky approves concealed carry license applications on a “shall issue” basis, which means applicants 21 years of age or older that have clean criminal records should receive automatic approval of applications. You also have to be a citizen of the United States to receive a concealed carry knife license.
Kentucky Knife Laws Moving Forward
Nothing on the Kentucky legislative docket in 2018 suggests current knife laws will change for at least one year. However, there is momentum in the state to loosen the restrictions on concealed carry knife laws.
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.