EDC Update: Tennessee Likely To Ease Knife Restrictions

Image courtesy Benchmade

A Tennessee CCW permit lets you carry a full-size 1911, an automatic pistol with a 5-inch barrel. So far so good, but if you carry an automatic knife like this Benchmade Adamas you’re probably breaking the law. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but fortunately the Tennessee legislature is in the process of fixing it.


Under current state law, switchblades are a criminal no-no of the PITA misdemeanor variety, and so are knives (like this Cold Steel Espada) with blades longer than 4 inches, if they are carried ‘for the purpose of going armed.’ The rule of thumb seems to be that if you’re carrying a big knife as a tool (i.e., for hunting or fishing or chopping through the brush on your back 40) rather than as a weapon, then you’re not carrying it ‘for the purpose of going armed’ and it’s all good. But good luck convincing the police of that distinction.

Volunteer State law currently allows carry of sub-4″ knives, including assisted openers. Schools and courthouses are no-knife zones just like they are almost everywhere else, but county and local ordinances also impose a patchwork of additional restrictions on what blades a law-abiding Tennessean can carry and where.

These knife laws may be similar to those of other states, but they’re still confusing and silly and they don’t protect anyone from anything. The national lobbying group Knife Rights has undertaken to repeal them, and the Tennessee legislature seems to agree.

Tennessee SB1015 would repeal the antiquated ban on switchblades and automatic knives, and would also repeal the prohibition on carrying knives with blades longer than four inches. Just as importantly, it will preempt local knife laws and eliminate the patchwork of confusing and contradictory knife regulations.

SB1015 passed the state Senate last week by an overwhelming margin (27-3), and the companion bill HB0581 has cleared a House subcommittee. It’s expected to sail through committee and reach a full House floor vote in the near future.

Go Vols!


  1. Pascal says:

    Specific to this topic, are there any website that are good resources regarding knife laws? My understanding is knife laws are just as screwed up as gun laws and there are state and county laws.

    1. Don says:

      Knife laws are far worse than gun laws in most places. It’s astounding.

      1. Pat says:

        Less than 3″ blade here, 3 1/2″ there, under 4″ over yonder hill……bat poop crazy. Locking mechanisms are another arguement for those with more time on their hands than they should have.

  2. 2hotel9 says:

    Check with these guys, gunlawsbystate.com , Pascal. A lot of these laws overlap, most likely.

    Now, to the real question! How much is that Benchmade?!?

  3. Pat Carver says:

    handgunlaw.us has links to sites with knife law information on it’s homepage. Find the “Knife Law Links” button at the top of the page.

  4. DJC1012 says:

    I live in TN. Personally, I don’t carry ‘automatic’ knives or even one of any type over 4″. It’s not because I don’t like them, some of those you link to seem pretty cool. But, I just don’t have need for them. I do carry a knife(of sorts) … 99% of the time I have my Leatherman on my belt.
    It’s simply part of suiting up everyday: wallet? cell phone? sun glasses? car keys? Leatherman? … CHECK!

    “So this new law to get rid of an old law doesn’t affect me” … WRONG! I’m jazzed about it. The more ridiculous and meaningless laws we can clean off the books the freer we will be. I hope we can get people excited about cleaning up the garbage pile of laws our govts. have accumulated.

    Every “prohibition” law should have a SHORT sunset clause to force it to be reconsidered … often. (how’s that workin’ for ya’ Mr. Legislator?)

    “Prohibition… goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.” — Abraham Lincoln, December 1840″

    “Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.” — Ronald Reagan

    1. Michael C says:

      The new law sounds great for you guys. DJC1012 you’re right about needing to get ridiculous and meaningless laws off the books and have short sunset clauses on all prohibition laws, but I say we need to completely dump our current codes of law at all levels and start over requiring legislators to listen to the opinions of their constituents when writing and considering bills. I would enforce that requirement by having a dedicated phone line and email address for constituents to express their opinions that is monitored by an independent group who periodically tallies opinions for and against each bill that legislator voted on and shows how they voted.

      1. DJC1012 says:

        Hey Michael C,
        Great thinking!
        We write, email and call our legislators (county, state and national) frequently. I recommend that everyone do it. Have list of the contact info handy and fire away. You may not hear back from them but be assured that a politicians main focus is on being reelected. They all have staffers that tally constituents comments to get an idea of how many for/how many against, etc.
        Anytime a representative holds a meeting near you it pays huge dividends to get off the couch and attend. Talk to them personally. Be polite and civil but take their hand, look them in eye and tell them what you want … then ask how can you help and be prepared to follow through.
        My dad told me when I was a young man looking for a job that 90% of success is just showing up. It’s true.
        “It does not take a majority to prevail … but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”
        ― Samuel Adams

  5. Derek says:

    I wish Ohio would jump on this bandwagon. I can carry, literally, as many handguns and as much ammo as I can strap to my body, tuck it all under an ankle length trench coat and be perfectly legal. If my pocket knife is a little too long, then I could face jail time… makes sense to me.

  6. Kaliope says:

    That’s kind of funny, considering the only automatic knife I’ve ever owned was bought in Tennessee…

    Now if only Indiana can get on that as well and remove our restrictions on automatic knives and, quote: “Chinese throwing stars”

  7. Don says:

    I’ve always thought laws based on fixed threshold, like “length” were conceptually ridiculous. For example, if the length limit for a knife is 4″, and you are carrying a 4″ knife, you will lead a perfectly normal life. If you carry a 4.125″ knife you are a criminal and your life can be changed forever in some ways. The transition from 4 to 4.125 is functionally insignificant, but the change in state of your life is immense. That’s an unstable system.

  8. janitor says:

    i have yet to find a cop that was anal retentive enough to bust a ruler out on me. as long as it wasnt a “sword” and an auto, ive been left alone….it helps that one of my carry kershaw blurs says SNAP ON in big letters on the blade……its a tool officer

    1. Steve says:

      Believe me friend. Anal Retentive cops actually exist. I’ve worked with a few of them whil I was with Fish and Game in another state. So far in Tennessee, I haven’t run into any.

  9. Eddie S. says:

    I’m from Tennessee too. About time we came into the 21st century! I never understood switchblade bans anyway. You can open a thump flicker just as fast. Must have been those James Dean movies back in the 50’s that tainted the well! Anyway, nice to see we have some sane Reps in Tennessee’s House and Senate!

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EDC Update: Tennessee Likely To Ease Knife Restrictions

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