Tennessee’s knife laws are changing so quickly (and for the better) that writing about them is like snapping a picture of a waterfall. Suffice to say that they’re generally knife-friendly, and that the state legislature seems receptive to making them even more so. Make the jump for the details.
First I have to give the typical disclaimer: I am a lawyer by trade, but I’m not trained or licensed to practice law in Tennessee. Everything I write here is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you need to know which of your knives you will be allowed to carry (or how, or where) in Tennessee next summer, you’ll have to contact a Tennessee attorney. Now that that’s out of the way…
Basically, this. Unless and until Knife Rights’ newest legislation is signed into law, automatic knives are completely prohibited in Tennessee. No Benchmade Auto-Spikes for you, Clay. (Editor: I can now! – heh.)-And no balisongs either: they’re probably lumped in with spring-opening autos, because they operate ‘by gravity or inertia.’
Except for the continuing paranoia over ‘switchblades’ you can own any other kind of knife you want, including assisted openers. A spring-opening knife is only a ‘switchblade’ if it opens with a button or lever in the handle, and assisted openers have their openers on the blade.
So you can own anything except automatics. Can you carry them?
Deadly weapons are governed by Tennessee Code ch. 39-17-1301 et. seq., which prohibits open carry or concealed carry ‘with the intent to go armed’ of any knife with a blade longer than four inches. This doesn’t effect the EDC crowd much, because most folders and assisted openers are under four inches. (Not that this makes the law any less stupid.)
The blade length limit doesn’t apply when you are engaging in the outdoors activities of hunting, trapping, camping, fishing or sport shooting. This is all nice, but keep in mind that wearing Gore-Tex and putting a collapsing fishing rod in your briefcase does not transform your Nashville commute to work into a fishing trip.
As in most states, knives are prohibited in schools and courthouses.
Local Restrictions? We Don’t Need No Stinking Local Restrictions!
Tennessee used to be a patchwork of contradictory local knife laws, but these were repealed last year with the passage of Knife Rights’ pre-emption bill. We love those guys, and you should too.
At press time (February 2014) even more Knife Rights-sponsored changes are working their way through the Tennessee state house. SB 1438 would repeal the automatic knife ban and allow the open and concealed carry of any size knife you want. Similar provisions failed last year, but Knife Rights has done a lot of lobbying of the law enforcement groups which helped kill them last time around.
If you live or work in Tennessee, you should contact the legislature and urge them to pass these bills. With their passage Tennessee would become a Promised Land of rational (meaning: nonexistent) knife restrictions.
The Volunteer State’s knife laws are only a little bit silly right now, and they’re on the verge of perfection.
Update 7-4-14: (HCA)
SB 1438 was signed into law in April and went into effect on July 1, 2014. Or as we like to call it “Tennessee Knife Freedom Day“.