Know Your Knife Laws #13: Rhode Island

Image courtesy Wikipedia

Rhode Island used to be a stronghold of freedom, both religious and political. If this sounds a bit dubious considering its recent history of firearm laws, remember that Rhode Island was the first colony to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown in May of 1776.

It was also the last of the original colonies to ratify the new Constitution: it boycotted the Constitutional Convention because it failed to guarantee individual liberties, and it didn’t join the Union until May 29th, 1790, when the Bill Of Rights was being set in place to correct that oversight.

Is the Ocean State a stronghold of knife-law freedom? Not exactly.

 Image: Chris Dumm for TTAK

The short version of Rhode Island’s knife laws is actually pretty short. Three inches, to be exact. Within that modest blade length, you can carry just about any knife you want except for a double-edged ‘dagger.’ Not that a three-inch Sykes-Fairbairn would be very useful anyway.

It’s all set forth in Section 11-47-42, entitled ‘Weapons Other Than Firearms Prohibited:

(a) No person shall carry or possess or attempt to use against another any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a blackjack, slingshot, billy, sandclub, sandbag, metal knuckles, slap glove, bludgeon, stun-gun, or the so called “Kung-Fu” weapons.

Translation: we’re really afraid of ninjas and 1930’s mobsters.

   (2) No person shall with intent to use unlawfully against another, carry or possess a crossbow, dagger, dirk, stiletto, sword-in-cane, bowie knife, or other similar weapon designed to cut and stab another.

English version: no carrying of double-edged knives, concealed swords, or big Bowies. Or crossbows.

   (3) No person shall wear or carry concealed upon his person, any of the above-mentioned instruments or weapons, or any razor, or knife of any description having a blade of more than three (3) inches in length measuring from the end of the handle where the blade is attached to the end of the blade, or other weapon of like kind or description.

Translation: carry a knife under three inches and RI is cool with it, including fixed blades and autos. But remember that ‘three inches’ includes all of the blade forward of the handle, and not just the edged portion. Many ‘three-inch’ knives are actually a little bit longer than three inches when measured this way, so keep your ruler handy when you pick your EDC kit.

Rhode Island’s state motto is simply the word “Hope.” Their state knife motto is “Small Knives For A Small State.” Maybe they’re afraid that if you whip out anything longer than three inches (cough, cough) you’ll accidentally smack someone in Connecticut or Massachusetts with it.

I have to live with a stupid 3-inch blade limit, so RI would actually be an improvement for me in the edged EDC category. But RF ditched RI because their gun laws are all kinds of stupid, and he was about my only imaginable reason to even visit there.

Grade: B-


  1. I_Like_Pie says:

    Cold Steel needs to make some 8″ tactical scissors called the “Quilter’s Pal” just to show how stupid those laws really are.

    1. JoshtheViking says:

      Maybe these would work.

      1. Chris Dumm says:

        Awesome! I’m ordering them now.

        1. I_Like_Pie says:

          Yeah…no kidding. Those are honking awesome!

  2. Out_Fang_Thief says:

    “No person shall with intent to use unlawfully against another,..”

    “No person shall wear or carry concealed upon his person, any of the above-mentioned instruments or weapons, or…”

    If you don’t have the “intent to use unlawfully against another” doesn’t that make everything, including the 3″ rule moot, just as long as you don’t have the intent on using it unlawfully?

    1. I_Like_Pie says:

      Unfortunaltly if you are being searched by the po-po….that threshold has usually already been passed.

      Kind of a chicken vs. egg thing…

  3. Skyler says:

    When will a second amendment challenge be presented to courts about knives? They can’t say the founders didn’t have swords and knives and crossbows. In fact, since their model was largely based on the Greek hoplites, you’d think these laws wild be blatantly unconstitutional.

  4. Jared says:

    Chris, you can carry knives longer than 3 inches if they are unconcealed.

  5. Adam says:

    The big question is, is it a misdemeanor or a felony offense to carry ?! This is where size does matter !

    1. d says:


      “possession of a concealed weapon, non-firearm over three inches”

  6. Bill says:

    Is wearing a knife on the inside, clipped to your pocket considered concealed or open? Thanks, Bill

    1. I wish I could help you Bill. I am not a lawyer, and Chris is out of town at the moment. The safe answer would be to contact a Rhode Island licensed attorney. I feel comfortable in making layman’s judgments about the laws in TN because I have personally researched them.

      I will drop Chris a note and ask him to chime in upon his return.

    2. d says:

      if your shirt or jacket or anything covers it where it doesn’t scream “I HAVE A KNIFE ON MY BELT!!!” then it is conscealed.

  7. Domenic says:

    The information in this posting is incorrect.
    The 3″ knife blade rule is only for knives which are:
    (a) Concealed on the person. This means in a pocket, inside a belt, in a boot, around an ankle, or etc. The entirety of the knife has to be outside of normal clothing parameters, in other words, a bowie knife in a sheath wouldn’t be considered “concealed,” as the sheath is an extension of the knife.
    (b) To be used against a person. This includes self-defense. So brush up on your “knife-use” knowledge. I once told a cop I used my bowie knife to cut sandwiches.
    Now, there is a caveat to all this. If someone calls in a complaint against you for carrying the knife, the standard of proof is non-existent. No allegation against you has to be proven to assume you’re in possession of the knife for unlawful purposes. However, you can present facts to the police at the time of the stop which indicate your possession is lawful. So if you say you use it to cut sandwiches, there better be some damn peanut butter on the blade.

  8. Gravity says:

    How old do you have to be to carry a pocket knife in Rhode Island?

  9. Shawn says:

    Maby check to see if what you are telling people is correct. At the least, read the laws carefully with ought skimming over key words such as “concealed” and ” intent”.
    It IS perfectly legal to carry any knife, being the knife it self is legal, in R.I. if it’s not intended to be used as a weapon. If it is longer than 3 inches it cannot be concealed or hidden. If you have a practical use for it you shouldn’t catch any guff from the police. But if you are walking around with a broad sword braveheart style and you are questioned about it your reason better not be using it at work to open boxes.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Know Your Knife Laws #13: Rhode Island

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email