While there are many restrictions and rules on carrying knives in California, knife laws are considered to be quite modern in the Golden State compared to the other 49 states in the US.
However, the exact knife regulations can get quite convoluted since many cities and towns enact their own set of rules that go further than the restrictions the state government imposes.
The knife laws in California can be classified into two categories: Knives eligible for concealed or open carry and knives that are illegal under all circumstances.
California state law allows for concealed carry of folding knives that cannot be opened instantly such as pocket knives. There is no length limit on folding blades, but many counties restrict carrying knives of more than 3 inches in length. Furthermore, no knives exceeding 2.5 inches can be carried on K-12 school premises, and college and university campuses in the state.
Other types of knives that are categorized as dirks and daggers must be openly carried, with the handle fully exposed. These knives include blades that are easily capable of being used as a stabbing weapon, and also potentially dangerous blades such as metal knitting needles and ice picks.
A whole other category of California knife laws includes blades that are completely banned. Such knives include ballistic knives, balisong knives and spring-loaded knives. Knives that are similar to and resemble common objects such as lipstick knives, sword canes, knife pens and belt buckle knives, are prohibited altogether. Similarly, knives that are created from material purposely undetectable by metal detectors are also banned.
There is no statewide restriction on the length of most knives, but most counties in the state have their own regulations. Most of these local regions limit knife length to 3 inches, but for other counties such as Pasadena, the limit is 5 inches. In fact, Costa Mesa or Morro Bay counties, there are only restrictions on knife length in state parks or during times of emergency, respectively.
There is, however, a limit on the length of more dangerous knives, like switchblades. These knives, along with similar blades like Balisong knives, cannot exceed 2 inches in length. Switchblades and similar knives are defined by California law as “Any knife that can be opened with a button or the flick of the wrist.” In fact, even possession in an open public space or sale of such a knife more than 2 inches long is a misdemeanor and is punishable by probation, fine, and/or county jail time.
The laws in California only allow concealed carry for folding knives. These types of knives include pocket knives and other knives that don’t have a detent towards closure or mechanical switches for deployment. Folding knives must be in the folded position in order to be carried in a concealed manner.
Other Knife Laws in California
The Golden State has a unique open carry law, which requires dirks and daggers to be openly carried. Otherwise, it is against the law to conceal carry these types of knives.
Overall, it’s important to consider not just the overall state laws in California, but the local regulations as well. As a good rule of thumb, since most counties in the state ban knives over 3 inches long, it’s best to carry a knife shorter than that throughout California to avoid any confusion with law enforcement. It’s also crucial to keep in mind the distinction between the knives that require concealed carry and those that require open carry.