Missouri Knife Laws

missouriMissouri knife laws are fairly unrestrictive but can be vague and confusing, as one must look at several statutes and some case law in order to determine exactly what the law is. The following article pieces it all together, so you know what Missouri knife laws really say.

What is Legal to Own

What is Illegal to Own

It is a Class C Felony to own a switchblade knife in Missouri, unless the person possessing the switchblade is in compliance with applicable federal law. The federal law, which governs possession of switchblades, is 15 USC Chapter 29. The law allows a person to possess and/or carry a switchblade on or about his person if the blade is less than three inches long and the person has only one arm, or the knife contains a spring or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade.

What the Law States

§ 571.030. Unlawful use of weapons — exceptions — penalties

1. A person commits the crime of unlawful use of weapons if he or she knowingly:

(1) Carries concealed upon or about his or her person a knife, a firearm, a blackjack or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use; or…..

§ 571.030 R.S.Mo. is pretty straightforward, making it illegal to knowingly conceal carry any knife. However, in order to find out what a “knife” is, and what “conceal” means, one must look to other sections of the code, as well as case law.

Definition of Various Knives

Missouri statute defines a “knife” as any dagger, dirk, stiletto, or bladed hand instrument that is readily capable of inflicting serious physical injury or death by cutting or stabbing a person, unless it is an ordinary pocket knife, with a blade no more than four inches long. According to the Court in the State of Missouri v. Weir, a knife must also contain a folding blade that is not double-edged, in order to be considered a pocketknife.

A switchblade is defined by statute as any knife with a blade that folds or closes into the handle and that opens automatically or by the force of gravity.

A dagger was defined by the Missouri Supreme Court, in State v. Martin, as “a short weapon with a sharp point, used for stabbing”.

Limits on Carry

  • You may conceal carry any pocketknife with a folding blade less than four inches
  • You may not conceal carry any other knife in Missouri, on your person or in your vehicle
  • You may open carry any knife that is legal own

In the case of State v. Dowdy, the Court found that a paring knife, concealed on Dowdy’s person, was a knife under Missouri law, and could not be conceal carried.

Definition of Concealed

A knife is considered concealed in Missouri if it is not readily and practically visible to approaching persons under ordinary circumstances. In the case of State v. Rowe, Thomas Rowe was charged with unlawful use of a weapon, when a search of his pickup truck revealed a knife with a six-inch blade hidden in the pocket of the driver’s side door. The Missouri Court of appeals found that even though the handle of the knife was visible, the weapon was considered concealed because the handle was not easily recognizable as part of a weapon. The Rowe Court also concluded that in order to convict a person for conceal carrying a knife, the knife must be in easy reach of that person.

Exceptions to the Concealed Carry Law

Missouri concealed carry laws do not apply to certain government employees and process servers who are carrying a concealed weapon while doing their job, members of the armed forces, hunters who are also legally carrying an exposed fire arm or bow, or to those who are ‘peaceably’ and continuously traveling through the state.

Several defendants have challenged the phrase “peaceably traveling” and “continuous journey” and the Missouri Courts have made some decisions about what peaceably traveling and continuous journey mean and do not mean.

In 1978, the Court found in State v, Mason that a traveler did not have to be traveling to or from a point outside of the state to be excluded from the concealed carry law under its peaceable traveler clause.

In 1990, in the case of State v. Wilkerson the Supreme Court found that transporting a ‘considerable quantity’ of illegal narcotics through the state did not qualify as peaceable travel.

In 1992, in the Missouri Supreme Court held, in State v. Purlee, that the travelers’ exemption did not apply to defendants traveling through the state during the commission of a felony, or for any unlawful purpose.

In 2001, the Missouri Appellate Court found, in State v. White, that possession of a small amount of marijuana, which was a misdemeanor, did not exempt a defendant from the peaceably travelers defense to carrying a concealed weapon.

Conclusion on Missouri Knife Law

Missouri is fairly relaxed about its knife ownership laws. It is legal to own any type of knife in Missouri, except for a switchblade, which you may own if the blade is less than three inches long and you only have one arm, or it has a mechanism to keep the blade closed.

Knife laws in Missouri allow for the open carry of any legal knife, but do not allow residents to conceal carry any type of knife, either on their person or in their vehicle.

There are a few exceptions to the conceal carry law, which allow some government employees and private citizens with certain jobs, as well as persons simply traveling through the state, to carry a concealed knife on their person or in their vehicle.

Sources

§ 571.020 R.S.Mo.  (2012)
§ 571.010 R.S.Mo.  (2012)
§ 571.030 R.S.Mo.  (2012)
15 USC Chapter 29
State v. Rowe, 67 S.W.3d 649 (Mo. Ct. App. 2002)
State v. Weir, 752 S.W.2d 461 (Mo. Ct. App. 1988)
State v. Dowdy, 724 S.W.2d 250 (Mo. Ct. App. 1986)
State v. Wilkerson, 796 S.W.2d 388 (Mo. App. 1990)
State v. Purlee, 839 S.W.2d 584 (Mo. banc 1992)
State v White, 58 S.W.3d 627 (Mo. Ct. App. 2001)
State v. Martin, 633 S.W.2d 80, 81 (Mo. 1982)

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9 comments on “Missouri Knife Laws
  1. Thomas Tvedten says:

    In light of Missouri’s recent law that a person’s vehicle is an extension of his/her home, may a person legally carry an actual knife (not a small pocket knife) such as a double-edged push dagger, throwing knives, or throwing-stars in his/her vehicle concealed or otherwise?

    If it is not concealed and is readily visible, such as hanging from a shoulder harness that is wrapped around the car seat, is it then legal? If it is not legal to be concealed in one’s vehicle, or readily visible in one’s vehicle, may it be locked up in a lock-box in the trunk?

    I study martial-arts and use real knives in my Kung Fu forms during practice at my cousin’s house, so it is necessary to transport the knives to and from my residence to my cousin’s house where I practice. This is why I ask such a question.

    I appreciate any insight into this matter as I have searched the laws extensively and have found no clear answer.

  2. Taylor says:

    I heard from other sources that they made auto knives legal in Missouri in 2012. Did they change their minds or something?

  3. Troop Rick says:

    You are right Taylor, switchblades are legal to own and legal to carry in Missouri as of July 2012. This site and the information is wrong concerning Missouri knife laws.

  4. Joe Allen says:

    Here is the text of SB489 which repealed the ban on possession, sale and manufacture of switchblade knives in Missouri: http://www.kniferights.org/MO_SB489.pdf

  5. Justin Fontaine says:

    I have a crky neck knife thats like 4inches in total length its all one soild piece its the dogfish knife. And iam wondering if its legal to carry in my pocket?

  6. Cathy says:

    I recently got my car towed/impounded because my insurance had lapsed. I had a knife double edged from a good friend of mine that passed. He used it for fishing and hunting in California and gave it to me to protect myself or use for fishing, he passed away and this is a dear gift to me. The police confiscated it and said it was illegal in the state of Missouri. However if this July 2012 exception is true. Do I have a leg to stand on if I ask for it back? Or are double edge (folds closed on each side) illegal no matter where you carry it in your vehicle?

  7. W. Allison says:

    So Missouri no longer has a limit on what blade length you can carry?

  8. Bob says:

    So am I legal to carry my 1972 8″ switchblade on my motorcycle rather than my Colt 380 auto. I brought this knife back from my military service in 1972 from Viet Nam.

  9. Bob says:

    So am I legal to carry my 1972 8″ switchblade on my motorcycle rather than my Colt 380 auto. I brought this knife back from my military service in 1972 from Viet Nam.

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