Tennessee Knife Laws

Tennessee Knife Laws 101: A Comprehensive Guide

Which American state affords the greatest liberty to possess or carry a knife? Tennessee is your answer, without a doubt!

The state has almost no restrictions on the type of knife people may possess or carry. The list of prohibited weapons (39-17-1302) doesn’t include knives, and there’s no restriction either on the open or concealed carry of knives.

The ban on automatic or switchblade knives is a thing of the past. A 2014 bill repealed it, and people in Tennessee have had absolute freedom regarding their knife rights ever since.

Besides antiquating knife laws, the state even passed preemption so local governments can’t pass stricter knife laws. You can also sell or transfer knives in the state, just like any other goods.

However, Tennessee laws have location-based knife restrictions that apply to carrying it to school properties. Also, possessing a knife with the intent to commit a dangerous offense is considered a felony.

For more details on Tennessee knife laws, continue reading the article here.

Legal Facts At A Glance

Here we’ve got some vital legal facts about knife laws in Tennessee; have a quick look at them below.


Tennesse has a statewide preemption that restricts local governments from enacting ordinances stricter than the state regarding knife possession, ownership, transfer, or transportation.

Concealed Carry

The Tennessee knife laws have no restrictions on the concealed carry of knives.

No-Go Zones

You can’t possess or carry a knife in school-related areas, from private to public, and from kindergarten through university.

List Of Illegal Knives In Tennessee

The Knife Rights Movement Helped Rewriting Tennessee Knife Laws

Tennessee had been among the states that enacted restrictions on automatic or switchblade knives. The Knife Rights Movement was successful in repealing the ban on switchblades or automatic knives.

With the help of the bill’s sponsors, Representative Vance Dennis and Senator Mike Bell, Knife Rights was able to defeat the anti-knife bill.

They had a legislative victory to ensure knife freedom for the Tennesseans.

The respective senate bill SB1771 repealed the state’s antiquated restriction on automatic switchblade knives.

At the same time, it has also legalized the possession and open or concealed carry of knives over four inches long. The law came into effect on July 01, 2014, and since then, there’s no longer any per se illegal knife in Tennessee.

Also, there’s no specified legal knife length to worry about.

Statewide Preemption

In 2013, one year before the bill to lift the ban on automatic knives was signed, the Tennessee state government passed knife law preemption.

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As a result, restrictions on the type of knife or blade length imposed by the local governments were rendered null and void.

Since then, they’ve lost the power to pass new laws restricting certain knives. The section § 39-17-1314 talks about the preemption where its subsection (f) applies to knives. Here you can check it out.

section § 39-17-1314(F)

Restriction Of Knives On Schools And School Properties

Tennessee law section § 39-17-1309 forbids the possession and carry of weapons, including knives, on school property.

According to the above TN law, the “intent to go armed” with a weapon, including a knife, in a school properly is a punishable offense.

List of Illegal Knives In Tennessee School Property

The law names the following knives to prohibit them from possessing or carrying on school property with the intent of going armed or committing a crime.

  • Bowie Knife
  • Hawk Bill Knife
  • Dagger
  • Switchblade or automatic knife

Prohibited Weapons Of Like-Kind To Knife

Some prohibited weapons close to knife includes:

  • Razors and Razor Blades
  • Sharp-pointed or Edged-Instruments like Ice Pick and Leaded Cane.

Tools That Are Not Considered Weapons Of Like-Kind To Knife

The tools that are not considered “weapons of like kind” to knives and don’t fall under restrictions include:

  • Razors or Blades used for personal shaving
  • Unaltered Nail Files and Clips
  • Tools used solely for food preparation, instruction, or maintenance.

Prohibited School Areas Where The Knife Restriction Applies

Here are the prohibited school areas from K through university where possessing or carrying a knife with the intent to go armed or commit a crime is considered a felony.

  • The building or bus of the public or private schools
  • Premises of the public or private school campuses
  • Grounds, athletic fields, and recreation areas of the schools
  • Properties that are owned, operated, or used by the board of education for public schools
  • Similarly, properties owned or operated by the board of trustees/directors/regents of private educational institutions

Exceptions That Apply To The Law Restricting Knives To School Properties

Some exceptions apply to the law § 39-17-1309. Let’s take a look at them here.

If Knife Is Carried As A Mere Act And Without The “Intent To Go Armed”

The phrase “intent to go armed” limits the universal restriction of carrying a knife or weapon on school property.

According to the phrase, a person will commit a felony only if there was an intent of going armed and committing a crime using knives.

It’s been construed in a way that the prosecution needs to prove that the knife was carried to go armed. But if the knife is carried as a mere act, it doesn’t establish any felonious intent and could be proved lawful.

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You can check out a relevant lawsuit: Cole v. State 539 S.W.2d 46 (1976).

If A Knife Is Carried Aside From The Prohibited Knife Types Or Weapon Of Like-Kind

The law restricting knives on school property includes prohibited knife types, such as bowie, daggers, switchblade, and hawkbill knives.

Aside from these knives, taking other knives may be lawful unless they fall under “weapons of like kind.”

If Knife Is Carried For Instructional Purpose

If a knife is carried solely for instructional or ceremonial purposes sanctioned by the school authority, it’s lawful to carry it to the school property.

The exception will also be applied to similar objects like blades used solely for food preparation and maintenance.

If A Knife Is Carried By Authorized Personnel

The exceptions apply to authorized personnel such as:

  • Law enforcement officers
  • School security personnel
  • Public officials who carry the listed weapons as a part of their duty
  • Persons involved in the gun or knife shows approved by the school authority
  • Persons entering the school property to pick or drop a passenger and the knife remains in the vehicle

Relevant Sections That Restrict The Use Of Knife With The Intent To Commit A Crime

Tennessee law §39-17-1307(d) is relevant to knives that states any person possessing a deadly weapon aside from a firearm with the intention of committing a dangerous offense (as defined in the section § 39-17-1324(i) will commit a class E felony.

The section § 39-17-1324(i) defines a long list of dangerous offenses or crimes you can’t intend to commit while carrying a knife in Tennessee.

If you commit or attempt to commit the following crimes using a knife in TN, you’ll be charged with a Class E felony.

So you mustn’t intend to commit crimes like murder, making or selling drugs, kidnapping, robbery or burglary, or stalking in Tennessee using knives. Otherwise, you’ll have to face strict legal consequences.

If you violate the law with an automatic or switchblade knife, you might face even worse punishment according to section § 39-17-1301.

Punishment For Illegal Possession Or Carry Of Knives

There are two possible scenarios where you could possess or carry knives illegally in Tennessee and get charged with a punishable offense.

  • If you violate the section § 39-17-1309 (b) and carry illegal knives on school property.
  • If you violate subsection (d) of section § 39-17-1307 and use knives (as a deadly weapon other than) to commit or attempt to commit a dangerous offense (as defined in section § 39-17-1324).
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Let’s see what the punishments are for both these violations.

Carrying Illegal Knives On School Property

If you carry an illegal knife as defined in the law with the intent to go armed in restricted school locations like vehicles, grounds, buildings, or recreation areas in Tennessee, you’ll be charged with violating the law with a class E felony.

The court may sentence a punishment of up to 6 years imprisonment and a fine of $3,000 for violating the law (according to § 40-35-111).

Carrying Knife With The Intent To Commit A Dangerous Offense

If you use a knife to commit or intend to commit crimes like murder, making or selling of drugs, robbery, etc., you’ll be charged for violating section § 39-17-1307(d) with the Class E felony.

If the court finds one guilty of violating the abovementioned law, the accused can get a punishment of imprisonment for up to 6 years and a $3,000 fine (according to § 40-35-111).

The fine may be doubled (up to $6,000) if the weapon used for the crime or for attempting the crime is an automatic or switchable blade.

Does Tennessee Allow Interstate Commerce The Manufacturing, Selling, Importing, Or Trading Of Knives?

You can manufacture, sell, trade, or import knives in the state without any restriction.

However, the federal law regarding switchblade knives, Federal Switchblade Act, restricts the interstate commerce of automatic or switchblade knives and prohibits their manufacturing, distribution, or transportation for the purpose.

Check out the what is the penalty for violating this Federal Act below.

Penalty for violating Federal Act


Tennessee knife laws greatly regard the citizens’ rights by allowing them to own and carry any type of knife.

Besides, you don’t have to wonder what size knife is legal to carry in Tennessee, as there’s absolutely no restriction on the legal knife length. The law also doesn’t distinguish between the open or concealed carry of knives.

But you should steer clear of all sorts of school properties as it’s the only location where you can’t carry a knife.

Also, ensure you don’t intend to commit a crime using a knife in Tennessee, as there’s a law covering the criminal use of knives.

These few knife restrictions are perfectly justified for citizens’ safety, especially the schoolgoers’.

Apart from this, Tennesseeans can enjoy the greatest freedom regarding knives since the state has reformed its knife laws.

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