Kentucky Knife Law – The Complete Guide (In Plain English)

Last updated on October 20th, 2023 at 09:12 pm

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Are you a pocket knife enthusiast who is curious about the laws regarding owning and carrying knives in Kentucky?

Well, you’re in luck! This blog post will provide an overview of Kentucky knife law, including what types of knives are allowed to be owned, how they can legally be carried or concealed, age restrictions for ownership, as well as local ordinances that may affect possession.

Furthermore, we’ll cover preemption laws which determine whether or not local regulations take precedence over state ones when it comes to possessing blades. Lastly, this article looks at potential penalties for violating Kentucky’s blade statutes.

So if you want all the facts on knives and their legal status in KY then read on.

Our Top Rated “50-State-Legal” Knives

*These knives are listed based on their broad legality across states, but always consult your local laws before making a purchase.

Preemption Knife Laws In Kentucky

Preemption law is a legal concept that prevents local governments from passing laws or ordinances that are more restrictive than state laws. In Kentucky, some protection against local ordinances exists, but it’s not a complete preemption, meaning cities and counties may have their own restrictions regarding knives.

Types of Knives Allowed in Kentucky

Pocket Knives

Pocket knives, small, easily carried folding knives, are commonly allowed in Kentucky. Generally, pocket knives with blades under four inches long are legal for ownership and carry in the state. Examples include Swiss Army Knives, multi-tools, and traditional slip joints.


Switchblades, or automatic knives, are also allowed in Kentucky with no restrictions on blade length. They automatically open when a button on the handle is pressed or an external force like gravity or inertia is applied. Popular switchblade varieties include OTF (out-the-front) switchblades, butterfly switchblades, stilettos, and spring-assisted folders.

Butterfly Knives

Balisongs, or “butterfly” knives, are also permitted in Kentucky, with no specific limitations on blade length. These unique folding blades, featuring two handles that counter-rotate around the tang, appear like a solid piece when closed, but with a hand motion, they open to reveal a sharpened blade.

Prohibited Knives in Kentucky

Kentucky does not prohibit any specific type of knife, which means switchblades, ballistic knives, and gravity knives (including butterfly knives) are all legal to own and carry in the state. However, using any knife in a manner that causes fear in another person could result in charges of menacing or terroristic threatening.

Carrying and Concealing Knives in Kentucky

Open Carry Laws

In Kentucky, open carry of a knife is legal, with no restrictions on the types of knives allowed and the places where they can be carried, except for school properties where knives are not allowed.

Concealed Carry Laws

Kentucky law permits the concealed carry of any kind of knife for individuals who are 21 years or older without the need for a concealed weapons permit. For those under 21, the law allows the concealed carry of an ‘ordinary pocket knife’ or ‘hunting knife’​.

Age Restrictions for Knife Ownership in Kentucky

Kentucky law does not state a specific age requirement for purchasing or owning a knife. Therefore, minors can technically own a knife, but it’s recommended that minors should have permission from an adult or guardian to carry a knife, especially in public areas.

Local Ordinances Regarding Knife Possession in Kentucky Cities and Counties

Local ordinances across Kentucky cities and counties regarding knife possession can vary. For example, in Louisville and Lexington, there may be specific ordinances related to knife possession. It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with local laws in your area before carrying a pocket knife.

Penalties for Violating Knife Laws in Kentucky

Kentucky’s knife laws are quite lenient, with no specific types of knives prohibited. However, using any knife in a way that could cause alarm to others may lead to charges such as menacing or terroristic threatening. Penalties for such offenses depend on the severity of the act and the resultant charges.

FAQs in Relation to Kentucky Knife Law

Can I carry a knife for self-defense in Kentucky?

You can carry a knife for self-defense in Kentucky. However, it’s important to note that the force used in self-defense should be proportional to the perceived threat.

Can felons carry a knife in Kentucky?

Kentucky law does not specifically prohibit felons from owning or carrying knives. However, individual circumstances can vary, and felons are generally advised to consult with a legal professional before carrying a knife or any other potential weapon.

Does Kentucky have knife length laws?

Kentucky law does not specify a maximum limit for the length of a knife blade that can be carried. However, using any knife in a way that could cause fear or alarm to others can lead to criminal charges.

Can a minor carry a knife in Kentucky?

While there is no explicit age limit mentioned in Kentucky’s laws for knife ownership or carrying, it’s recommended that minors have permission from an adult or guardian to carry a knife, particularly in public areas.

Are switchblades legal in Kentucky?

Switchblades, including automatic knives, are legal in Kentucky with no specific restrictions on blade length.

Are butterfly knives illegal in Kentucky?

Butterfly knives, also known as balisongs, are not illegal in Kentucky. They are legal to own, carry, buy, sell, or manufacture within the state.

Are gravity knives legal in Kentucky?

Gravity knives are legal in Kentucky. The state law does not prohibit any specific type of knife.

Are automatic knives legal in Kentucky?

Automatic knives are legal in Kentucky. The state’s laws do not impose restrictions on the ownership or carrying of automatic knives, including switchblades.

Kentucky State Knife Law References

Official Sources of Kentucky’s Knife Laws

Kentucky’s knife laws and definitions can be found in the Kentucky Penal Code and other relevant statutes. Here are some key references:

  • KRS 500.080: Definitions for the Kentucky Penal Code. It defines “deadly weapon” to include certain types of knives, excluding ordinary pocket or hunting knives.
  • KRS 527.020: This code discusses carrying concealed deadly weapons, which include knives.
  • KRS 237.109: Authorization to carry concealed deadly weapons without a license, effective as of June 27, 2019, permitting persons aged 21 or older to carry concealed deadly weapons, including knives, without a license.

Significant Court Cases

Case TitleSummary
Bliss v. CommonwealthThis case reversed a conviction under an act about concealed carry of weapons including large knives, marking a significant moment in Kentucky’s history concerning concealed carry laws.
Morris v. CommonwealthA murder case involving a “bowie knife” that reflects the implications of knife possession and use in criminal activities in Kentucky.
Ricks v. CommonwealthThis case, mentioned alongside Morris v. Commonwealth, is likely another significant case involving knives, though the summary of the case was not available.

Timeline of Major Changes

  • 2013: The Kentucky Legislature enacted a preemption knife law, unifying state knife laws by eliminating conflicting municipal ordinances, and thus mitigating knife restrictions implemented by cities like Louisville.
  • 2016: A Knife Ban Repeal Bill was introduced on January 24, aimed at ensuring consistent enforcement of state knife laws throughout Kentucky.
  • 2019: Kentucky adopted a “Constitutional Carry” statute effective June 27, allowing anyone aged 21 or older to carry any type of knife openly or concealed, eliminating most possession and carry restrictions for those individuals.


In conclusion, it is important to be aware of the laws and regulations regarding knife possession in Kentucky. Knowing what types of knives are allowed, how they can be carried and concealed, as well as any age restrictions or local ordinances that may apply is essential for staying within the boundaries of Kentucky knife law.

It’s also important to understand preemption law and its effects on local ordinances so you don’t find yourself facing penalties for violating knife laws in Kentucky. With this knowledge, you can enjoy owning pocket knives without worrying about running afoul of the law.

By taking an active role in educating ourselves on these laws, we can help ensure our safety while still enjoying our rights and freedoms. Let’s work together to create solutions that protect us all!

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