During the 1800s, it was common for people, especially men, to settle disputes with duels. In these duels, they would use large knives to fight each other leading to numerous deaths and severe injuries. To curb this menace, the state of Alabama decided to enforce laws banning the use of bowies and other large knives.
Besides that, the state created other laws on the ownership and carrying of knives within the state. Regardless of the rules and regulations, Alabama is still considered a knife-friendly state. However, there are some dilemmas within the law that, hopefully, this article can help clarify.
Does Alabama Have Statewide Preemption Knife Laws?
Alabama does not have statewide preemption knife laws, meaning local municipalities can have other ordinances restricting knives’ use, ownership, and carrying.
For example, Alabama has no state statute limiting knife blade length. However, it is illegal in Montgomery to carry any knife, regardless of type or form, with a blade length longer than three inches.
Although Montgomery is the most notable city with additional knife ordinances, others like Fairhope, Midfield, Mountain Brook, Tuscumbia, and Vestavia Hills have followed suit. These counties also have a three-inch limit on knife blades.
Note that in Alabama, citizens have the right to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state. With regards to this statute, there is statewide preemption regarding firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories.
As you continue to read this article, you will see that there are no knives that are explicitly illegal in the state.
Alabama Knife Definitions
The law does not often operate using the standard definition of terms. Therefore, to understand the law better, you must know how specific terms are defined.
This section will teach you all relevant definitions under Alabama knife laws:
- Deadly weapon – a firearm or anything made, designed, or adapted to inflict death or serious physical injury, and includes but is not limited to, switchblade knife, gravity knife, stiletto, sword, dagger, blackjack, bludgeon, metal knuckles, hand grenade, bazooka, missile, explosive or incendiary device, pistol, rifle, or shotgun.
- Bowie knife* – According to state precedence, Smelley vs. State, a bowie knife is a long knife shaped like a dagger but only has one edge and does not include a knife that opens and shuts and is not too big to fit in trouser pockets like a pocket knife.
- Public school – a school comprised of grades K-12.
* In another case, Brewer vs. State, a knife with a similar shape as a butcher’s knife, 11 inches in length inclusive of the blade and handle, old and worn out in the middle of the blade on the sharp side and coming to a sharp point can be classified as a bowie knife or knife of a similar kind.
With the above definitions in mind, it will be easier to understand the different statutes in the context in which they are mentioned in the law.
Legal Knives in Alabama
The following knives are legal to own in Alabama:
- Balisongs or butterfly knives
- Switchblades, gravity knives, and other automatic and assisted opening knives
- Folding knives
- Stabbing knives like dirks, daggers, stilettos
- Bowie knives (there are only carrying restrictions on bowies and any knives of similar kind)
- Double-edged knives
- Pocket knives
- Out the front (OTF) knives
Illegal Knives in Alabama
You can own or possess any knife regardless of size in Alabama. However, there are carrying restrictions on bowie knives and other deadly weapons in certain locations and by certain people.
Alabama Knife Carry Laws
Carry laws determine how and where you can carry your knives within the state. Here are the most notable Alabama knife carry laws:
- It is illegal to conceal-carry a bowie knife or knife (or similar), an air gun, or firearm of any other kind.
- It is illegal to knowingly carry or possess with intent to harm on public school grounds.
- It is illegal to sell/give/lend a minor a bowie/similar knives or pistol.
- It is illegal to open carry or conceal-carry a bowie knife in your vehicle as it is considered “concealed”.
- You can conceal-carry a bowie knife only within your property.
- It is illegal to conceal-carry any type of knife with a blade in excess of three inches in Montgomery and several other counties in Alabama.
- You can open or conceal-carry all legal knives in Alabama.
The following is a list of persons who are exempt from Alabama knife laws:
- Qualified school security personnel and school resource officers employed and authorized by the local board of education to carry a deadly weapon while on duty.
- Law enforcement officers
- Persons with pistol permits
- Minors attending hunter education courses, firearm practice or target shooting, organized competitions, on real property using a firearm or knife under the supervision of a parent, guardian, or trained educator.
- Minors traveling with written permission from their parents or legal guardian with an unloaded pistol locked in a container to a location where said activities are happening.
- Minors who are members of the armed services or National Guard acting in the line of duty.
Alabama Knife Length Laws
There is no state statute restricting knife blade length in Alabama. However, since there is no statewide preemption on knife laws, several counties within the state have ordinances restricting knife blade length to three and four inches. These counties include;
- Vestavia Hills
- Mountain Brook
Note that according to case precedence, a knife of 11 inches, including blade and handle, can be considered similar to a bowie knife, making it illegal. Therefore, be careful when carrying your machete or other large knives longer than 11 inches.
Alabama Knife Laws by Demographic
Who can Carry and Buy Knives in Alabama?
Anybody can carry a legal knife in Alabama. The only knife illegal to carry concealed is a bowie and any other knife similar to it.
Additionally, it is unlawful for anyone to bring a dangerous weapon (as defined under the law) onto school premises unless you are authorized by the law or are a member of law enforcement acting in the line of duty.
Regarding sale and transfer, the law puts an age cap on minors and anybody under 18. The law prohibits selling, giving, or lending a bowie knife or other knife.
How Old do You Have to be to Carry a Knife in Alabama?
It is illegal for anybody, regardless of age, to conceal a bowie knife, knife, or instrument of a similar kind.
This means that other knives like machetes can fall under the grey area of knives of a similar kind. However, the burden of proof is on the court.
Other legal knives are legal to carry except on public school premises.
Can a Felon Carry a Knife in Alabama?
There is a statute prohibiting convicted felons from owning, possessing, or having under their control a firearm.
However, no specific law says criminals cannot carry knives in Alabama. Therefore, the state law regarding conceal carrying bowie knives or any similar instrument applies to all, including felons.
Remember, carrying a bowie knife in your vehicle is also considered to be concealed and is, therefore, illegal.
Alabama Concealed Carry Knife Laws
Can You Open Carry a Knife in Alabama?
You can open carry all legal knives, including bowies, in Alabama. The only place this is prohibited is on school premises.
Can you Conceal Carry a Knife in Alabama?
You can conceal carry all knives except bowies and other knives of similar nature. However, you cannot conceal carry any dangerous weapon (dirks, daggers, bowies, stilettos, etc.) on school premises.
In Montgomery, Alabama, it is unlawful to conceal-carry a knife having a blade length longer than 3 inches.
Are OTF Knives Legal in Alabama?
OTF, or Out The Front knives, are legal to own and carry in Alabama.
What are Alabama’s Bowie Knife Laws?
Alabama Bowie Knife laws are as follows:
- It is illegal to conceal carry (including in your vehicle) a bowie knife or any knife or instrument of a similar kind.
- It is illegal to sell, give or lend a bowie knife or knife or instrument of a similar kind to a minor in Alabama.
- You can open carry a bowie knife on a belt on your hip or wherever it is visible.
Are Fixed Blade Knives Legal in Alabama?
As long your fixed blade knife is not similar to a bowie (as defined by the law), it is legal to own and carry a fixed blade knife in Alabama.
Assuming you aren’t planning on dueling anyone anytime soon you’ll find that Alabama is quite friendly to blades.
Lenient knife laws notwithstanding you can still get into serious trouble if you’re not away of what you can carry and where.
Hopefully, I was able to clear a few things up and give you some more direct answers on what, exactly, you are allowed to do.