Some time ago a poster on r/legaladvice on Reddit asked a question about whether a guillotine left in the back of a pickup truck would fall under weapon carry laws. This was, of course, a ridiculous question, but I find the idea hilarious. In short: Is it legal to open carry a guillotine?
To that end, I’ve read through a list of state knife laws that may technically apply, and I provide a very brief summary below for your amusement. Of course any DA will absolutely find some means by which to charge you if they really feel like it. A few notes before we get to the list:
1- Because many state laws specify certain lengths of blade and whatnot, or use specific names for specific types of knife, I am making these assumptions: a guillotine blade would be 12+ inches in length; a guillotine would be considered a ‘fixed blade’ in that it does not fold into its handle and does not ‘eject’ its blade; a guillotine would most likely have the terms ‘razor’, ‘butcher’, or ‘bowie’ knife apply as opposed to things like ‘balisong’ or ‘dirk’. (While ‘gravity knife’ would on its own be a comically apt descriptor, legally that’s referring to a different kind of device).
2- I have focused on state laws. Most cities will have separate laws that could apply. I’m not going to go into them beyond Washington DC where they’d most likely be needed, and NYC for giggles. Just hit up Google if you care. Similarly, there will be other generalized weapon laws that may add restrictions, such as carrying near schools, felony conviction stuff, etc.
3- If I just state that ‘concealed’ is legal, ‘open’ is too in that circumstance.
4- Obviously this is all meant for comedy purposes and should not be construed as actual legal advice. But, you know, you do you.
Alabama — Open carry is legal.
Alaska — Laws are a tad vague and conflicting. There’s the below definition of a ‘dangerous instrument’, but that applies to basically anything. Under the other knife laws I referenced in my caveats above, open carry should be legal.
“any deadly weapon or anything that, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, or threatened to be used, is capable of causing death or serious physical injury.”
Arizona — Open carry is legal; Concealed carry is legal for anyone over 21.
Arkansas — Concealed carry legal.
California — Open carry is legal provided the knife isn’t “undetectable”, IE, it can’t be disguised as lipstick or something.
Colorado — Open carry is legal.
Connecticut — Carry not legal if the blade is over 4 inches.
Delaware — Open carry is legal. Note- it must also be detectable to metal detectors, so no trying to slip a ceramic-bladed guillotine through airport security.
Florida — Open carry is legal.
Georgia — Carry is not legal without a weapons permit. Under 5" blade would be legal for open carry.
Hawaii — Concealed carry is legal.
Idaho — Open carry is legal. Concealed carry is legal with a weapons permit. Ownership is prohibited for under 18.
Illinois — Open carry is legal provided your intent is not to ‘harm’ someone. Laws here are a nest of little one-offs that were probably added piecemeal as a kneejerk reaction to gang violence incidents.
Indiana — Concealed carry is legal. Indiana is exceptionally loose with knife laws, the only restrictions seem to be “not around schools” and “no throwing stars”.
Iowa — Open carry is legal.
Kansas — Concealed carry is legal, so carry on, my wayward son.
Louisiana — Concealed carry is legal.
Maine — Open carry is legal provided it is not brandished threateningly. Concealed carry is legal unless with intent to harm.
Maryland — Open carry is legal unless with intent to harm.
Massachusetts — Carry is not legal except with a ‘Class A’ license.
Michigan — Open carry is legal. “Stabbing items” may not be carried concealed, so concealed may be legal for a guillotine since that’s a little more slicey-cutty.
Minnesota — Knives “with utility purposes” are legal to carry. Bladed “weapons” may be carried if done without intent to harm.
Mississippi — Open carry is legal. It is illegal for a minor or felon to own a ‘Butcher Knife’ which probably fits us best here.
Missouri — Open carry is legal.
Montana — Open carry is legal.
Nebraska — Open carry is legal. It is illegal for felons to own any kind of knife.
Nevada — Open carry is legal.
New Hampshire — Concealed carry is legal for anyone not a felon.
New Jersey — Concealed carry is legal. It is illegal to own any weapon “ with the purpose to use it unlawfully against the person or property of another”
New Mexico — Open carry is legal.
New York — Concealed carry is legal (I guess NY does not have concealed carry laws for blades and focuses on the legality of the weapon itself: switchblades, cane swords, and a couple of others are illegal)
New York City — Carry is not legal (4" blade is the limit… there are nebulous sub-4" restrictions but they wouldn’t apply here)
North Carolina — Open carry is legal.
North Dakota — Open carry is legal.
Ohio — Open carry is legal. Concealed carry laws do not specify blades but do reference “any deadly weapon”, and courts have made frequent use of the wiiiiide latitude there.
Oklahoma — Carry is not legal. There was supposedly a recent update to the laws here but a little quick searching and I’m unable to find anything more recent than 2016.
Oregon — Open carry is legal.
Pennsylvania — Even ownership is technically not legal. They ban ownership of an
“implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose”.
Rhode Island — Open carry is legal.
South Carolina — Concealed carry is legal. SC’s laws are quite permissive, provided they’re not used in the commission of a crime.
South Dakota — Concealed carry is legal. Apparently SD has no laws at all about ownership or carrying of knives.
Tennessee — Concealed carry is legal “if the use is not malicious”.
Texas — Blades over 5.5 inches are considered ‘location restricted’ and can be carried concealed anywhere except for a laundry list of locations such as schools… but the most relevant for us is
“Within 1,000 feet of the premises where an Execution is being conducted, if posted”
Utah — Concealed carry is legal for non-felons, anyone who uses illegal drugs, anyone who’s been declared mentally ill, illegalized immigrants, delinquents, etc.
Vermont — Concealed carry is legal except for on government property, and provided there is not intent to harm another.
Virginia — Open carry is legal.
Washington — Open carry is legal provided it is not carried “in a way to cause others alarm.”
Washington DC — Carry is prohibited if the blade “has no utility purposes.”
West Virginia — Open carry is legal.
Wisconsin — Open carry is legal.
Wyoming — Open carry is legal.
Some further notes after having gone through this exercise.
First, of course I knew there were sites out there dedicated to dissecting state knife laws but it turns out there’s a lot of them. Far more than I’d realized. It has me wondering why I don’t see so many knife-rights groups astroturfing Twitter.
Second, state by state knife laws vary in some amusing ways. There were sort of three main trends: states that were exceptionally permissive; states that had seemingly passed laws specifically targeting gang violence but that could be left very open to interpretation; and states that had apparently started off with laws around dueling and just began tacking on switchblades and whatnot later. Most of the time, there were nebulous provisions that would be an easy legal out for someone who hadn’t been committing a crime at the time, but that could be used to add additional charges if the DA wanted to: that’s one of the reasons I left the vague ‘malicious intent’ notes in there.
Third, the lengths to which some legislatures have gone to define every last possible type of bladed device is almost comical.
But we’ll wrap this up here.