Quick Legal Facts
No, see discussion.
Restrictions regarding the carrying of concealed deadly weapons apply to individuals under the age of 21 although there are exceptions for an ‘ordinary pocket knife’ or ‘hunting knife’.
There is no statutory limitation regarding the possession of knives by minors.
Deadly weapons, which include knives, may not be possessed or carried on school property. Some limited exceptions are provided.
At a Glance:
Kentucky adopted a “Constitutional Carry” statute which became effective June 27, 2019. This law applies to knives and other “deadly weapons,” a term defined under Kentucky law. The effect of this statute is the elimination of most possession and carry restrictions for people 21 and older. Restrictions regarding the carrying of concealed deadly weapons apply to individuals under the age of 21 although there are exceptions for an “ordinary pocket knife” or “hunting knife.”
KRS 500.080. Definitions for Kentucky Penal Code
KRS 65.870. Local firearms control ordinances prohibited; exemption from immunity; declaratory and injunctive relief
KRS 82.082. Power for public purpose only and not in conflict with Constitution or statutes
KRS 237.104. Rights to acquire, carry, and use deadly weapons not to be impaired; Seizure of deadly weapons prohibited; Application of section
KRS 237.109. Authorization to carry concealed deadly weapons without a license
KRS 237.110. License to carry concealed deadly weapon
KRS 527.020. Carrying concealed deadly weapon
KRS 527.060. Forfeiture
KRS 527.070. Unlawful possession of a weapon on school property; posting of sign; exemptions
There is neither an issue nor a restriction, for persons at least 21 or those who possess a valid concealed weapon license. There are no restrictions on “open carry.”
Restrictions on Sale or Transfer:
Restrictions on Carry in Specific Locations/Circumstances:
Yes. Public and private schools K through 12. The restriction includes school buses, athletic fields, and recreational areas. The restrictions do not apply to post-secondary schools.
Some protection against local ordinances exists. See discussion below.
Major Kentucky Cities with Knife Restrictive Ordinances:
Lexington § 14-19.4 (see discussion below on preemption)
Louisville § 41.02
Section KRS 500.080 of the Kentucky Penal Code provides definitions for, among other things, ‘deadly weapon’ as follows:
As used in the Kentucky Penal Code, unless the context otherwise requires:
(4) “Deadly weapon” means any of the following:
(a) A weapon of mass destruction;
(b) Any weapon from which a shot, readily capable of producing death or other serious physical injury, may be discharged;
(c) Any knife other than an ordinary pocket knife or hunting knife;
(d) Billy, nightstick, or club;
(e) Blackjack or slapjack;
(f) Nunchaku karate sticks;
(g) Shuriken or death star; or
(h) Artificial knuckles made from metal, plastic, or other similar hard material;
As to the category of knives, with the exception of ‘hunting’ knives and ‘ordinary’ pocket knives, any knife is a statutory ‘deadly weapon’.
Constitutional Carry of Deadly Weapons
KRS 237.109 captioned Authorization to carry concealed deadly weapons without a license became effective as of June 27, 2019. It provides:
Persons age twenty-one (21) or older, and otherwise able to lawfully possess a firearm, may carry concealed firearms or other concealed deadly weapons without a license in the same locations as persons with valid licenses issued under KRS 237.110.
Persons under the age of 21 are limited by the existing provisions of KRS 527.020 which provides:
A person is guilty of carrying a concealed weapon when he or she carries concealed a firearm or other deadly weapon on or about his or her person in violation of this section.
Kentucky law, KRS 500.080, defines deadly weapon, as applicable to knives as “any knife other than an ordinary pocket knife or hunting knife.” Accordingly, in Kentucky, a person age 21 or in possession of a concealed weapon license may carry any knife.
There is no statutory definition under Kentucky law as to what constitutes concealment. There is also no “intent” requirement or element within KRS 527.020. The issue of concealment is an issue of fact. Thus, it will be determined by the jury, or in the case of a non-jury proceeding, by the judge. The decisional law standard was recently re-stated in the case of Sykes v. Kentucky, 550 S.W.3d 60 (2018):
Kentucky’s courts have defined concealment in an open-ended manner. A weapon is generally held to be concealed when so placed that it cannot be readily seen under ordinary observation.
The Sykes case arose from a law enforcement response to a ‘shots fired’ report. Defendant Sykes was seated in an automobile when the police approached. The concealed weapon, a handgun, became visible during the incident:
Once he exited the vehicle, Sykes became angry and started yelling. Sykes raised both of his hands in the air, at which time Detective Laney observed a firearm in his waistband and reached out to retrieve it. Later, Detective Leathers confirmed that “once his shirt came up over the gun,” the firearm became apparent.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld the conviction under KRS 527.020 for carrying a concealed “deadly weapon.” (The case arose from a 2016 incident, several years prior to the recent constitutional carry amendment). The holding of the case regarding concealment of a weapon by a shirt or other garment is not disturbed by the 2019 legislation and would likely apply to a “non-ordinary” pocket knife clipped in a pocket if concealed by clothing.
Ordinary Pocket Knife, Hunting Knife
There is no statutory guidance under Kentucky law as to the characteristics of either an ordinary pocket knife or a hunting knife. There is also no clear guidance from the appellate level courts in that state. (For the contrasting approach, see North Carolina Knife Law on the topic of “ordinary pocket knife.”) In the case of White v. Commonwealth (2004), the Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of an individual in possession of nine (9) knives at the time of his arrest. The Court ruled that three (3) of the nine (9) knives were neither ordinary pocket knives nor hunting knives:
Having reviewed the evidence, we conclude that the Commonwealth’s evidence in connection with three of the knives and the expandable baton was sufficient to overcome White’s directed verdict motion. These three knives are the butterfly knife, the lockblade tactical knife that could be opened with one hand, and the tactical knife with the seven-inch blade.
The Court of Appeals directed that its opinion in the White v. Commonwealth matter would be a non-precedential decision. It cannot be cited or relied upon. The Court of Appeals in Crabtree v Commonwealth (2014) upheld a conviction where a five (5) inch locking blade folding knife was found by the jury to be a deadly weapon rather than an ordinary pocket knife:
…Absent guidance from the General Assembly, we need not and do not hold that as a matter of law a pocket knife with any particular blade length is or is not an “ordinary pocket knife,” but we are convinced that a reasonable juror here could have believed that Crabtree”s knife, with a five to six-inch blade, was not an ordinary pocket knife.
The Crabtree case was also categorized as non-precedential. A similar appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court in the case of Crumes v. Commonwealth (2005), was designated as non-precedential.
It may be that the Kentucky Courts have intentionally avoided creating precedent on what is a vague concept. The opinion in Crabtree could be viewed as a suggestion to the Kentucky legislature that it clarifies the issue.
In any event, we cannot provide reliable guidance on what will or will not be considered to be an ordinary pocket knife or a hunting knife. Should some legal intervention occur, the question will be decided by a jury. We suggest a conservative approach in selecting a knife for everyday carry including knives fitted with pocket clips.
There is statewide preemption statute in Kentucky (KRS 65.870) that applies to firearms specifically. Knives are not included in the protections. There are two other statutes in Kentucky that extend considerable statewide protection for knives. These are KRS 82.082 Power for public purpose only and not in conflict with Constitution or statutes, and KRS 237.104 Rights to acquire, carry, and use deadly weapons not to be impaired; Seizure of deadly weapons prohibited; Application of section.
KRS 237.104 provides:
(1) No person, unit of government, or governmental organization shall, during a period of disaster or emergency as specified in KRS Chapter 39A or at any other time, have the right to revoke, suspend, limit the use of, or otherwise impair the validity of the right of any person to purchase, transfer, loan, own, possess, carry, or use a firearm, firearm part, ammunition, ammunition component, or any deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
(2) No person, unit of government, or governmental organization shall, during a period of disaster or emergency as specified in KRS Chapter 39A or at any other time, take, seize, confiscate, or impound a firearm, firearm part, ammunition, ammunition component, or any deadly weapon or dangerous instrument from any person. Local governments may establish reasonable restrictions limiting weapons in government offices and facilities.
There is a provision in KRS 527.020 Carrying concealed deadly weapon which also provides protection for concealed weapon carry:
Persons carrying concealed weapons in accordance with KRS 237.109 or licensed to carry a concealed deadly weapon pursuant to KRS 237.110 may carry a concealed firearm or other concealed deadly weapon on or about their persons at all times within the Commonwealth of Kentucky, if the firearm or concealed deadly weapon is carried in conformity with the requirements of KRS 237.109 or 237.110. Unless otherwise specifically provided by the Kentucky Revised Statutes or applicable federal law, no criminal penalty shall attach to carrying a concealed firearm or other deadly weapon at any location at which an unconcealed firearm or other deadly weapon may be constitutionally carried. No person or organization, public or private, shall prohibit a person from possessing a firearm, ammunition, or both, or other deadly weapon in his or her vehicle in compliance with the provisions of KRS 237.109, 237.110, and 237.115. Any attempt by a person or organization, public or private, to violate the provisions of this subsection may be the subject of an action for appropriate relief or for damages in a Circuit Court or District Court of competent jurisdiction.
Law Enforcement and U.S. Military Exceptions
Extensive exceptions for law enforcement and other government officials, including federal, are provided for in KRS 527.020 Carrying concealed deadly weapon.
Updated October 17, 2019, by Daniel C. Lawson