At the end of the day, and even though this tool could be used to perform cool tricks, a butterfly knife is a weapon. And with owning and utilizing a weapon, the law is often involved. The laws vary from one state to another and differ slightly in specifics. So let’s dive deep and cover the topic of why are butterfly knives illegal, so you can be well aware of the ins and outs of the legal status of the balisong knife.
What is a butterfly knife and what is its significance?
This folding knife is one that has two handles that conceal a blade. It can be considered a utility knife with its common usage in environments like camping, but it can also be used to perform cool tricks. The other, more obvious, significance is that this knife can be used either as a threatening weapon or for self-defense.
What is the history of the butterfly knife?
It is said that this utility knife originated in the 1500s in the Philippines, where a broken horn of a stag was used to create it. The broken horn usage also relates to the naming of the balisong, as the phrase “Baling Sungay” directly translates to a folded horn in Tagalog. The balisong knife is rather sturdy and was mostly used for practical purposes in the Philippines. The purposes, however, changed a bit as the knife made its way to the United States, a discussion that will later be relevant.
In the 1980s, and as the balisong was becoming more and more popular in the crime scene in the United States, it was beginning to be viewed as an offensive weapon. The popularity of these types of pocket knives grew amongst gangs, and they were increasingly used for violent purposes.
Thus, and in an effort to counter these crimes, laws were put in place against the usage and possession of the balisong, and it became an illegal weapon.
Not all states, however, implemented such laws against the batanga knives, and these knives are of varying degrees of legality in each state.
To get into the specifics of the reasons why these knives are considered weapons, you have to understand their mechanics and how they are used.
The anatomy allows for concealment
Most obviously, the knife’s handles (the bite handle and the safe handle) pretty much entirely conceal the blade. The fact that this weapon can be easily concealed can be a dangerous and stealthy factor to its usage in a crime.
Stealth and speed
The immense speed with which the sharp edge can be exposed definitely adds to the surprise element and the intimidation factor when used in a threatening environment.
Self-inflicted injuries and accidents
With these properties in mind, it becomes rather obvious why these butterfly knives are illegal. But that’s not all, because these balisong knives have not only been popular for attacking purposes, but also for use in martial arts. And with such a use, the knives commonly cause harm to the carrier, and self-harm injuries from these fan knives became a rather regular occurrence. Serious injuries have been reported by those who regularly practice with the balisong knives. For that matter, we recommend learning how to use a butterfly knife and using a trainer knife with dull blades, knives with detachable blades, and other safety measures.
Not your ordinary knife
Nonetheless, this pocket knife is clearly not an ordinary knife, and although it is popular amongst many knife enthusiasts, its usage in crimes and the danger it poses to the carrier and those around them, contributed to the current legal status of the knives.
Are there any federal laws that cover butterfly knives?
There are most certainly federal laws that consider butterfly knives illegal. For starters, a butterfly knife is considered a switchblade knife, and federal laws exist against the possession of switchblades.
What exactly is considered a switchblade?
Switchblades, by definition, are automatic knives. What this basically mean is that they open automatically through the usage of gravity/inertia, or through a button or other device on the knife’s handle. Under this definition, the balisong knife is a gravity knife that is encompassed by the concept of being a switchblade.
The penal code sections of such offenses
The penal code includes a punishment of up to five years in prison and/or fines that can reach up to $2,000 in value.
What are the butterfly knife laws on owning and using it on federal property?
As discussed, these flick knives are under a strict penal code. The restrictions spread to their usage on federal property. Thus, they are prohibited from being used at the following areas:
- federal parks
- military bases
- Indian reservations
The federal switchblade law includes strict reservations against the usage of these knives on federal property, even in states where butterfly knives are legal.
Punishment under federal law may result from breaking such rules, and the only exceptions are for personnel who are federal agents, and switchblades that only have one handle, with a blade length of under three inches.
Butterfly knives’ legal status changes from one state to another, so let us dissect the laws in most of the states in which these gravity knives (and other knives) are illegal:
States with zero tolerance towards the weapon:
In the state of Hawaii, you cannot even carry butterfly knives. Carrying, selling, or manufacturing them is completely illegal, and perpetrators of the crimes can be sentenced to up to 3-5 years in prison.
In the state of New York, gravity blades are banned from usage and possession even. And as we mentioned earlier, butterfly knives are illegal due to their status as gravity knives.
In the state of California, the California penal code prohibits the carrying of pretty much any blade that is longer than two inches. This criterion is encompassing many knives, including some swiss army knives, and the balisong is thus prohibited under the California penal code.
In the state of Kansas, gravity blades are considered illegal with some restrictions on their possession and whatnot, hence why butterfly knives are illegal in the state.
In the state of Texas, the balisong is considered a switchblade, making it illegal in all senses.
States with more lenient laws:
In the state of Florida, the penal code stretches the requirement to four inches. In this case, whether your utility knife is legal or not depends on the length of its blade.
In the state of New Jersey, the law regarding butterfly knives is unclear and is subject to interpretation. The reason it was included in this list is that due to the vagueness of the existing law, the carrier of the knife is subject to the mercy of whoever finds them with it. For these reasons, we do not recommend carrying butterfly knives in the state.
In the state of Ohio, butterfly knives can be carried openly, but only with the blade exposed. In the state of concealment of the blade, legal restrictions apply.
In the state of Oregon, as with Ohio, butterfly knives’ legal status depends on whether they are in a state of concealment or not. They are only legal with an exposed blade.
In the state of Utah, it is punishable by State Law to have your balisong knife blade concealed. The law is similar to the one in the states of Ohio and Oregon.
In the state of Wisconsin, the legality of this knife is somewhat flexible, as it is legal to possess and use it on your own property, but it is illegal to carry it in any form (exposed or concealed), and it is illegal to possess it on property that is not your own.
Are there any specific restrictions to the use of the butterfly knife?
Even in states where the knife is legal, it may still be under certain restrictions of use, such as the need for a permit for the carrying and using of the knife for hunting and fishing purposes.
Additionally, those with criminal records may be prohibited from using, owning, or carrying such knives as butterfly knives. The most common restriction is that the knife NOT be in a state of concealment (with the blades hidden). Such is the case in states like Wyoming, North Dakota, and Oklahoma.
Are there any local laws that regulate the possession of gravity knives?
As with many things, the usage of balisong knives can be subject to not only legal state laws, but only specific, local county and city laws.
For instance, in Los Angeles, California, the city law specifically prohibits the carry of any blade longer than three inches and demands that no deadly weapons or knives be concealed or hidden at all.
Is it illegal to buy a butterfly knife online?
While knife possession is met with a lot of controversies, buying such knives as butterfly knives online is subject to just as much controversy.
This controversy has meant that most of the online butterfly knives on popular sites have been dulled.(Video) Prohibited Weapons
A real butterfly knife may be found at your local knife shops or even antique stores if the law allows it. Besides, butterfly knives are not allowed to be sold or shipped in some states.
What are some common offenses of knife laws and can a switchblade implicate other such laws?
Do not conceal:
Some general knife laws that are not specific to balisong knives but are definitely applicable to them include the restriction to conceal such a weapon. This basically prohibits concealed carry where only openly carrying the knife is legal.
Do not harm others:
Another common law relating to that is the restriction against harming someone with a deathly blow from a knife.
Learn the offenses to avoid them.
We mention these because sentencing can differ, and add up, based on the different crimes committed. In other words, since possessing an illegal tool and using it are completely different offenses, the punishment increases with each broken law.
And while laws and penalties offenses differ between states, the general knife laws against knife possession and their respective punishments remain somewhat similar.
If you’ve been charged with possession of a balisong knife but want to avoid being sent to state prison, the following are some helpful, legal defenses that work with and around knife laws:
Most evidently, the person being charged may claim innocence in that they were not aware of the state knife laws that prohibited butterfly knives. It becomes the job of the prosecutor to prove that the guilt of the person in question by proving that they were aware of the existing knife laws, which is rather difficult.
Do not conceal:
Secondly, if the person carrying the butterfly knife resides in a state that allows the knife to be openly carried, then the defense can include the lack of concealment of the weapon. Namely, a claim can be made that the knife was not a concealed knife, and thus abides by the open carry law.
Thirdly, it is also possible to drop the charges if the supposed deadly weapon was found in an illegal search.
Misconduct and harm:
Fourthly, if police misconduct can be proven to have occurred during the arrest or the interrogation that resulted in the person being charged with possession of the knife, then the knife charges may also be dropped.
And while most of the charges may lead to a fine of some sorts and/or a prison sentencing, they do often sometimes end up with just misdemeanor probation, or what is also known as summary probation.
It goes without saying that this is certainly not a comprehensive list, and if you are seeking legal advice, it is best to consult a professional on the matter.(Video) Pocket Knives: Do You Know the Rules? Will You Get Caught Out?
At least if you’re interested in buying a balisong knife take your time and make sure to surf for all legal information on a related topic in official legal sources. Pay attention, that regulations and laws can be revised and corrected.
It would also be of great benefit to you to brush up on your state’s knife laws (particularly looking for the possibility of an open carry law being in place) before deciding to acquire butterfly knives to better understand whether it is possible to do so, and if so, under which regulations to avoid any possible unwanted trouble with the law later.
Many of the states not mentioned in the above list consider butterfly knives to be legal.
A prime example of that would be the state of Michigan, where a butterfly knife is seen as a folding knife and not a deadly weapon. Thus, the knife holds a complete legal status, as do folding knives.
Similarly, in the state of New Hampshire, unless you are a convicted felon, then you may carry and possess a butterfly knife.
Other states that legalize butterfly knives are the states of Kentucky and Virginia.
However, it is important to note that in the latter, the legality of the knife may be questioned by the specific city and/or county that you reside in and the law may be flexible with that.
Are butterflies knives illegal in the US?
A butterfly knife is illegal in some states in the US, like California and Hawaii.
Laws are different in each state, and the ability to carry or possess a knife also differs. The best thing to do would be to check the knife laws of the state that interests you.
What is the point of butterfly knives?
The purposes of the balisong knife are many and they range from practical purposes, to self defense. Most commonly nowadays, they are used to perform cool tricks.
Is it illegal to make a butterfly knife?
As with possessing and distributing the knife, the laws on making one also differ between states.
For instance, in Wisconsin, you may only possess the knife on your own property and may not carry it around. In such a state, you may make your own knife.
In other states that have little to no tolerance to balisong knives, the making of one becomes illegal.
Why are butterfly knives illegal in some states? ›
Why Are Butterfly Knives Illegal? Butterfly knives are illegal in many places because of their potential for use as a threatening weapon. A person with extensive practice can deploy butterfly knives with immense speed, which may be the knife's most dangerous quality.Which states are butterfly knives illegal? ›
The states that ban butterfly knives include Hawaii, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Washington. Butterfly knives are not allowed to be owned or used at all in these three states. Carrying or even owning a butterfly knife in these states could lead to severe legal penalties.Are butterfly knives illegal in the USA? ›
As you can see, butterfly knives are perfectly legal to own and carry in the majority of US states. Still, it is important to be aware of any local restrictions on ownership or carry that might exist in your area.How illegal is owning a butterfly knife? ›
In California, butterfly knives are prohibited. Under California Penal Code 21510 PC, butterfly knives are classified as a form of switchblade. Carrying, possessing in public, selling, or otherwise transferring a butterfly knife is illegal under this legislation.Where are butterfly knives not illegal? ›
But in Maine, it is legal to purchase, sell, and carry balisongs/butterfly knives. The legality of butterfly knives tends to revolve around their designation as “gravity knives” or “switchblades.” Because balisongs don't possess much utility, it's easy to label them as weapons.Why are butterfly knives illegal in Texas? ›
Is a Butterfly Knife Illegal in Texas? In Texas, a butterfly knife is considered a type of switchblade, which is defined in the Penal Code as any knife that folds into the handle and opens automatically by a spring mechanism or the force of gravity.What's the point of a butterfly knife? ›
This style of knife could be opened quickly with one hand and easily used as a weapon. It proved a common choice for self-defense and utility uses.Are real butterfly knives legal? ›
Under Penal Code 21510 PC, butterfly knives are considered a form of a switchblade and are illegal in California. Specifically, it is a crime to carry, possess in public, sell, or otherwise transfer a butterfly knife.Can I keep a butterfly knife in my car? ›
Butterfly Knives are Illegal to carry in California. The laws concerning butterfly knives are not specifically detailed in the California Statutes. However, the California Courts have determined that butterfly knives fit within the definition of switchblades.Are butterfly knives illegal in Texas? ›
Under Tex. Penal Code § 46.01 (2012), it's legal to own and openly carry knives, along with throwing stars (and any other type of throwing knife), swords, spears, switchblade knives, pocket knives, and Balisongs (butterfly knives).
Is a butterfly knife an offensive weapon? ›
Offensive per se i.e. those items made for the use of causing injury to the person. Examples are a truncheon, a rice flail, a butterfly knife.Is a butterfly knife illegal in Florida? ›
Automatic knives, switchblades, and butterfly knives are legal to own in Florida. They can be legally carried in the open similar to other knives. If you want to concealed carry any automatic knife, regardless of the blade size, you must possess a concealed carry permit.How old do you have to be to have a butterfly knife? ›
It is unlawful for an individual under the age of 18 to “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry on or about his or her person a location-restricted knife.” It is also unlawful for an adult to intentionally or knowingly sell or give a location-restricted knife to any minor younger than eighteen.Is a butterfly knife a switchblade? ›
Although referred to as the Federal Switchblade Act, the Federal definition of a switchblade also includes gravity knives and butterfly (Bali-Song) knives.Why are gravity knives illegal? ›
A knife is not illegal because it is designed to open by the force of gravity and lock into place; the knife is illegal when it actually does open by the force of gravity and locks into place by means of a procedure used by the District Attorney's office to identify a gravity knife, called the “wrist flick test.”Why are switchblades illegal? ›
The law came in response to their perceived use by juvenile delinquents and gangs and associated media coverage, as well as by the 1958 passage of the Switchblade Knife Act in the United States.What is an OTF knife? ›
For the uninformed, OTF knives are a type of switchblade – that is, an automatic knife which deploys the blade 'automatically' on pressing a button or switch. Specifically, the OTF knife is a switchblade where the blade simply comes 'out the front'.Are stiletto knives illegal? ›
Remember though, the stiletto is only banned or restricted in 16 states and is legal in states from coast to coast, between the borders, and even in Alaska. It's just important to check your local knife laws to make sure they are allowed to be owned and carried.Are butterfly knives illegal in Georgia? ›
List Of Knives Legal to Own in Georgia. -Balisong knives or butterfly knives are legal. -Bowie knives, switchblades, and all other large knives are legal. -Throwing stars and throwing knives are legal.Are butterfly knives illegal in Arizona? ›
It is legal for anyone over the age of 21 to possess any of the following knives in any city in Arizona: Pocket/Folding Knife. Butterfly Knife. Switchblade.
Are butterfly knives illegal in Alabama? ›
Legal Knives in Alabama
A balisong, also known as a butterfly knife, is legal to own. Knives with automatic or assisted opening systems are legal, despite the common misconceptions about them. This includes gravity knives and switchblades. It is also legal to have a toothpick knife, a stiletto, or a dirk.
Every balisong has two handles: a safe handle and a bite handle. The safe handle is straightforward; holding this handle will protect your hand from the sharp edge of the blade. The bite handle is one the side of the sharpened edge.What's the difference between a balisong and a butterfly knife? ›
Balisongs, often referred to as butterfly knives, are typically recognized by their two-handle design. A balisong is defined as a knife with two folding handles that rotate on pivots to become a sheath. Despite its simple definition, there are many unique features that differ from one balisong to another.Can a butterfly knife break? ›
Also, since butterfly knives aren't fixed blades, they have more parts that can break than a fixed blade and are therefore (you guessed it) more susceptible to breaking when used for prying.Can you use a butterfly knife for self-defense? ›
The butterfly knife falls right in between empty hand self-defense techniques and a full weapon combat style. The sturdy blade is good enough for repelling attackers and you can use the knife as an impact weapon as well.Is a butterfly knife illegal in Tennessee? ›
It is legal to own any type of knife in Tennessee including automatic, ballistic, switchblade, butterfly and “assisted opening” knives. There are no restrictions on the blade length of any knife being carried. Further, Tennessee makes no distinction between open and concealed carry of knives.Are butterfly knives allowed in Boy Scouts? ›
Switchblades, Ballistic knives, Butterfly knives are not allowed. Any spring assisted opening technology knives are not allowed Large sheath knives are not allowed. Scout knife blade length can be no more than three inches. The Troop prefers locking blade knives to prevent folding incidents.What is a dirk knife? ›
A dirk or dagger is a knife or other instrument with or without a handguard that is capable of ready use as a stabbing weapon that may inflict great bodily injury or death. Most pocketknives and folding knives are not considered to be dirks or daggers unless the blade of the knife is exposed and locked into position.What is the German knife law? ›
German Knife law provides some funny details. It is illegal to carry a 5 inch kitchen knife but you can legally carry any bad-ass fighting knife as long as the blade length does not exceed the 12 cm (4.72 in.) limit (except Karambits!). There is no restriction on the blade length for most folding knives.How long can a knife be in Hawaii? ›
Knives Legal To Carry In Hawaii
Most single-edged pocket knives are legal with no length limitations imposed by statute. You can carry these knives. There is no restriction on concealment, it's not an issue.
Are butterfly knives illegal in NY? ›
If your knife has a fixed blade less than four inches long, it is perfectly legal to carry it in New York. However, if the knife is a folding knife, balisong or “butterfly knife,” a “gravity knife,” or any form of pilum ballistic, it is illegal to possess on your person in New York.Are butterfly knives illegal in Colorado? ›
State law prohibits knowingly possessing an illegal weapon, which includes gravity and switchblade knives. 1 Knowingly possessing an illegal weapon is a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by 6 to 18 months imprisonment, a $500 to $5,000 fine, or both imprisonment and a fine. Section 18-12-102, C.R.S.Are butterfly knives illegal in Virginia? ›
In the Commonwealth of Virginia: It is legal to own any type of knife. It is also legal to open carry any type of knife. The state restrictions deal with what you can and cannot conceal carry when moving about Virginia.Can you stab someone with a butterfly knife? ›
It can serve as non-lethal, blunt impact tool even when unopened. Before you even deploy the blade, the exposed back of the blade's tang (see photo below) or even the tips of the handle can be used to strike at an opponent's vital areas.What are the main causes of knife crime? ›
Evidence shows that those who carry knives for their own protection are more likely to become a victim as a result and the knife can be turned on them. However some experts argue that often it is a fear of gangs and crime that leads to young people carrying knives, because they believe it will help to keep them safe.What is a lock knife? ›
A lock knife has blades that can be locked and refolded only by pressing a button. A lock knife has a mechanism which locks the blade in position when fully extended, the blade cannot be closed without that mechanism being released.Are butterfly knives illegal in Pennsylvania? ›
Pocket knives, daggers, razors, box cutters, butterfly knives and Bowie knives are also legal in Pennsylvania. The state does not currently restrict knives over a certain blade length. Pennsylvania residents older than 21 can apply for a concealed carry permit.Are butterfly knives illegal in Nevada? ›
No, butterfly knives are generally legal under Nevada knife laws. However, people who take a butterfly knife with a blade of at least two (2) inches long to a school may face criminal charges if they are also trespassing, loitering, causing a nuisance, or defacing school property.Are butterfly knives legal in Minnesota? ›
Basically, it's legal to own just about any type of knife except for a switchblade. That includes balisong or butterfly knives. When it comes to carrying them outside of the home, however, there are a few more restrictions to be aware of. Generally speaking, state law says that knives of any length can be carried.Who invented butterfly knife? ›
The butterfly knife, sometimes referred to as Batangas blade, is a lethal weapon that in the hands of a skilled professional can be opened faster, than a western switchblade. Perfecto de Leon introduced the knife in 1905 where most of the butterfly knives originated from barrio Balisong Taal, Batangas.
Can a 11 year old have a knife? ›
Start with a butter knife, and move your way up. Then somewhere between 7 and 9 they might be ready to own their own knife. I really cannot emphasize enough that every child is different. Some may not be ready for unsupervised use until as late as 12, and sometimes even later than that.How much is a balisong? ›
Like the rest of Hom Design's balisongs, the Basilisk-R uses a high precision bushing pivot system. The Hom Design Basilisk-R comes in G10 or Carbon Fiber scale with titanium liners for around $370 and $400 respectively. It's also offered in a full titanium build known as the Basilisk-R Ti, starting at around $420.What is butterfly knife flipping called? ›
For enthusiasts of balisong—the art of manipulating butterfly knives in different tricks and combinations—however, they are key vocabulary. A butterfly knife, also known as a balisong or a Batangas knife, is a folding knife with two handles that can be rotated around to open and close.What brand of knife has a butterfly? ›
Benchmade, based in Oregan began in 1979 as the Pacific Cutlery Corporation. Founded by Les de Asis, the company mainly made balisong or “butterfly” knives. Today, the iconic butterfly logo which marks all of their blades is an homage to those early days of the company.What is the most illegal knife to carry? ›
The most banned knife in the country remains the ballistic knife. Here's a look at what ballistic knives are, how they became banned and why those bans should be repealed.What knife is illegal in the US? ›
Frequently Asked Questions About Knives
Possession of switchblades, pilum ballistic knives, metal knuckle knives, cane swords, and “Kung Fu stars” is prohibited. Some knives are not illegal, but become illegal based upon how they are used or possessed.
Whoever possesses or uses a ballistic knife in the commission of a Federal crime of violence shall be fined as provided in title 18, or imprisoned not less than five years and not more than ten years, or both.What is the point of a butterfly knife? ›
This style of knife could be opened quickly with one hand and easily used as a weapon. It proved a common choice for self-defense and utility uses.Why are gravity knives so illegal? ›
A knife is not illegal because it is designed to open by the force of gravity and lock into place; the knife is illegal when it actually does open by the force of gravity and locks into place by means of a procedure used by the District Attorney's office to identify a gravity knife, called the “wrist flick test.”Are butterfly knives still banned in Texas? ›
Under Tex. Penal Code § 46.01 (2012), it's legal to own and openly carry knives, along with throwing stars (and any other type of throwing knife), swords, spears, switchblade knives, pocket knives, and Balisongs (butterfly knives). Under Tex.
What is the difference between a balisong and a butterfly knife? ›
Balisongs, often referred to as butterfly knives, are typically recognized by their two-handle design. A balisong is defined as a knife with two folding handles that rotate on pivots to become a sheath.Are butterfly knives illegal in Florida? ›
Automatic knives, switchblades, and butterfly knives are legal to own in Florida. They can be legally carried in the open similar to other knives. If you want to concealed carry any automatic knife, regardless of the blade size, you must possess a concealed carry permit.