Iowa Knife Laws

Iowa Knife Law Made Simple: What You Need to Know

Iowa is one of the most stringent states when it comes to knife laws. The state’s relentless policies on carrying and owning knives have made it so.

It would be a mistake to think Iowa is liberal about its knife laws like some other big states of America.

Iowa is a place of serene beauty and attracts plenty of tourists due to its historical elements. The state has strict weapon laws to safeguard its people and tourists.

Even though most knives and blades are allowed, some legal norms are placed to combat the misuse of knives.

Every citizen or tourist must abide by these legal bindings if they desire to avoid any brushes with the law.

In this article, we’re going to discuss everything about the knife laws in Iowa.

Whether you’re a native of the state or just traveling there to bask in the beauty of the Mississippi, a good look at these laws might save you some trouble.

Let’s get started.

Quick Legal Facts

Here are some quick legal facts about the Iowa knife laws. Take a look to reiterate your memory.

  • Illegal Knives: Ballistic knife (considered a dangerous weapon).
  • Concealed Carry: Balisongs, Dagger, Razor, Stiletto, Switchblade, and any knife with a blade longer than 5 inches are considered illegal for concealed carry in Iowa.
  • School Ground: All kinds of knives, both concealed carry and open, are considered illegal within school grounds, with few exceptional cases, requiring a permit from the state.
  • Statewide Preemption: Unavailable (local laws overrule state laws).
  • Critical Dimension: 5 inches for conceal carry and 8 inches for open carry.

List of Illegal Knives In Iowa

It is illegal to carry a dangerous weapon to commit a crime in Iowa. It is considered to be an aggravated misdemeanor.

What Is A Dangerous Weapon?

A dangerous weapon is a device that is designed to inflict pain and cause lethal damage to another person.

As most knives aren’t designed for the sole purpose of causing damage to humans, one can carry all sorts of knives in Iowa.

However, some knives are considered by the state dangerous weapons. These knives are illegal to carry both openly and in a concealed manner.

These are –

  • Ballistic knives
  • Switchblades
  • Daggers
  • Any knife that doesn’t have any utility other than fighting or inflicting pain

Ballistic knives are strictly illegal for both open carry and concealed carry in Iowa. The state law of Iowa considers them “offensive” or “dangerous weapons.”

What Is A Ballistic Knife?

A ballistic knife is a spring powered/explosive-powered knife that uses a spring mechanism to eject the blade at high speed forcefully.

This knife doesn’t have any activity-based utility and can be used to physically injure anyone from a distance.

This knife is usually used for the sole purpose of fighting or killing someone and is therefore considered a dangerous weapon.

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It is highly prohibited in Iowa, as well as in many other states in the USA.


A dagger is a sharp and long knife, often exceeding the length of 8 inches, which is the critical legal length of a knife in Iowa.

Because of its unnecessarily long length and no practical use in any day-to-day profession, it is considered to be a dangerous weapon.

Daggers are usually used as weapons and to inflict deadly pain, so they’re banned for open and concealed carry.


Switchblades are automatic knives that can be opened by pressing a button or switch, hence the name.

These knives are considered dangerous because they have automatic blades.

Since these are used in a concealed manner, they’re very easy to misuse. All things considered, the use of these knives is banned.

Illegality Based On Areas

According to Code 724.4 of Iowa Knife Law, it is illegal to carry any kind of knife, blade, or other dangerous weapons, in either a concealed or open manner, inside public or private school premises.

Code 724.4 of Iowa Knife Law

This includes elementary schools, middle school, junior school, junior high, high school, vocational school, college, graduate school, and post-graduate school.

Should an emergency arise, one must take permission from the state’s peace officer.

According to the TSA (Transportation Security Administration), you’re prohibited from bearing any kind of knife or blade, concealed or open, inside an airport.

This includes small concealable knives such as Pen knives or Lipstick knives.

It is illegal to carry any kind of dangerous knife inside a public vehicle in Iowa. Public vehicles include buses, trains, and cars such as taxis/Uber.

In Iowa, it is illegal to open carry, or conceal carry any knife or weapon inside government buildings such as banks, courts, or post offices.

And as well as any other municipal or state government building.

It’s also illegal to bring or carry dangerous knives or blades inside private property without the consent of the owner of said property.

Illegality Based on Local Governments

Iowa has 3 types of local governments – Counties, Cities/Towns/Villages, and Special Districts. A lot of these local governments have even more stringent knife laws.

Most local governments in Iowa don’t have any knife laws that supersede the state knife laws. Local governments also have a jurisdictional balance with the state.

However, some local governments have specific knife laws that supersede the state’s knife laws.

Since statewide preemption is unavailable in the state of Iowa, it’s highly advised to look up the local knife laws when traveling.

Some local knife laws in Iowa are listed below –

  1. The city of Cedar Rapids bans the concealed usage of any knife that exceeds the length of 3 inches. This means that you cannot conceal carry any knife with you that is longer than 3 inches.
  2. The city of Council Bluffs also bans the concealed usage of any knife that is longer than 3 inches.
  3. The city of Des Moines bans the usage or carrying of any kind of knives or blades inside a primary or secondary school property. This means concealed, legal, illegal, open – any kinds of knives are illegal inside these premises.
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Illegality Based On Concealment

Unless you are in a profession that requires you to carry a knife (fishing, hunting), or unless you carry a CCWP (Conceal Carry Weapon Permit), it is illegal to conceal carry any knife in Iowa if the length of the blade exceeds 5 inches.

Conceal carry usually means carrying something in a misleading or concealed way that is visually inaccessible to another person.

Carrying a knife inside one’s pocket, purse, backpack, wristband, or inside their apparel, can be deemed as concealed carry.

According to section 724.4 of Iowa law, you are allowed to own and conceal carry any legal knife as long as it doesn’t exceed the blade length of 5 inches.

section 724.4 of Iowa law

It’s also important to note that any knife with a blade longer than 8 inches are illegal to carry openly.

Knives that are illegal to conceal carry in Iowa are –

  • Any knife with a blade longer than 5 inches
  • Balisong knife
  • Cane swords
  • Dagger or Stiletto
  • Lipstick knives
  • Switchblades
  • Any knife that is deemed illegal by the state

Illegality Based On Possession And Trade

Iowa doesn’t have any specific laws that prohibit the possession of legal knives. If a knife is legal to own, then it is legal to sell within that state.

Interstate selling of knives is illegal.

However, you cannot own, possess or manufacture any knives or blades that are deemed illegal by the state.

For example, Ballistic knives are illegal to own and carry. This automatically makes it illegal to sell, distribute or manufacture within that state.

By this law, Ballistic knives, Daggers, and Switchblades are illegal to buy, sell or distribute in the state of Iowa.

Penalties And Punishment For Carrying Illegal Knives

If you carry a knife that is illegal statewide or within a certain area, you will face certain penalties and punishments based on the severity of the crime.

For example –

Section 724.1B
  • According to the Iowa knife law, section 724.1B, carrying an offensive or illegal knife is a class D felony. For this crime, you’ll be fined 11,000 dollars and sentenced to prison for up to 1 year.
  • It’s illegal for any minor (less than 18 years) to carry a knife without their parent’s consent. Breaching this law is a class D felony.
  • Possession of a ballistic knife is a felony crime. It is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of 750 to 7500 dollars.
  • An unlicensed carrying of a concealed knife such as a dagger, stiletto, razor, or switchblade is considered an aggravated misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a fine of 625 dollars to 6250 dollars.
  • Openly carrying a knife with a blade length of 8 inches or more is considered an aggravated misdemeanor. The punishment can be up to 2 years in prison.
  • Openly carrying a blade longer than 5 inches but shorter than 8 inches is considered a serious misdemeanor, and can be punishable by 1 year in prison, and a fine between 315 dollars and 1875 dollars. Carrying a dangerous knife while drunk is also considered a serious misdemeanor.
  • According to section 724.4, bearing a concealed automatic knife or a blade longer than 8 inches will be punishable by twice the regular amount of penalties, which is 12.500 dollars.
Section 724.4

List of Legal Knives

It is legal to own and carry almost any knife in Iowa, as long as it’s not a Ballistic knife or a concealed knife longer than 5 inches.

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The knife also must have some activity-based utility.

These knives listed below are legal to own in Iowa –

  • Dirks
  • Bowie knives
  • Push Knives
  • Balisongs (open carry only)
  • Dagger (open carry)
  • Stiletto (open carry)
  • Switchblades (open carry)
  • Pen knife
  • Cane knife
  • Lipstick knife (open carry)
  • Hunting knife
  • Kitchen knife
  • Any blade that doesn’t exceed the 5-inch length

Exceptions In The Knife Law Of Iowa

There are a few exceptions in the knife laws of Iowa.

  • According to Section 724.4.3.h, you are allowed to openly carry sharp knives if your profession requires the usage of a knife, such as fishing or hunting. In that case, you can carry any legal knife, but you must obtain and carry a valid license for your profession.
  • Another exception applies if you are a member of the law (such as police or military), you are allowed to conceal carry any legal knife. However, you must have a CCWP for this.
  • According to code 724.4 of Iowa knife law, you can only carry illegal knives if you are allowed or permitted by the state’s peace officer.
  • You are also allowed to carry a knife in your car, as long as you’re not inside a prohibited area, and are traveling through the state. This law mostly applies to people who are carrying a knife for self-defense.


In this article, we’ve given you a basic idea about the knife laws of Iowa.

If you’re a resident, or just a tourist passing through, you can never be too safe about the weapons law of a certain place.

Bear in mind that this is not legal advice but rather helpful notes that might help you avoid any misunderstandings with the law.

Thanks for reading!

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