Self Defense Weapons: California Knife Laws

California has one of the more restrictive knife laws in the United States. If you are looking to carry in the state, you should be aware of the law and ensure that you are complying with it.

Disclaimer: This post is strictly informative and not to be taken as legal advice. If you want a lawyer’s opinion on the law, contact a lawyer!

The four main categories under the California knife laws:

In California, there are four main categories of rules about carrying knives. These are:

  1. Knives that you can carry concealed;
  2. Knives that you can carry openly, but not conceal;
  3. Knives that you cannot carry; and
  4. Places where you cannot carry a knife, regardless of the type.

Knives you can carry concealed:

Under California knife laws, you can carry a folding knife either concealed or openly. This category includes the following types of knives:

  • Box cutters;
  • Utility knives (like Swiss army knives);
  • Pocket folding knives that are closed.

If a folding knife is opened, it ceases to be lawful to carry that concealed. It then becomes part of the second category below.


Knives you can carry openly, but not conceal:

So-called “dirks” or “daggers” are illegal to carry concealed under California knife law. These include pretty much any blade that is ready to be used as a stabbing weapon, such as a chef’s knife, an open folder, or an ice pick.

However, these blades may be carried in a holster or sheath, provided that they are openly carried and not concealed. These knives cannot be carried in a purse or briefcase, either.

Knives you can never carry:

“Gravity” knives are illegal to be carried in California, along with bali-songs, switchblades and some other types of knives, like cane swords. Shuriken, lipstick-case knives and other novelty knives are also illegal to own or carry.

Places you cannot carry a knife into:

In California, there are certain places where carrying a knife is never allowed.

Certain knives are illegal to bring into public buildings, including switchblades and other generally illegal blades, as well as fixed and folding blades over four inches in length.

Carrying many knives onto a school, whether a K-12 school, a California public university or a community college, is also illegal.

Local ordinances may also prohibit certain types of blades and be more restrictive than the general California knife laws. Be sure to read up on the local law before carrying into a new place.


For those planning to carry a knife in California, it is helpful to brush up on the law. Certain knives cannot be carried at any time, and others have restrictions on the manner in which they are carried.

The laws are updated from time to time, so before you purchase and carry a knife, be sure to read the latest version of the California and local knife laws for the area where you plan to carry.

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