Quick Legal Facts
May only carry blades 5-1/2 inches or longer under specific conditions.
Schools are weapons free zones.
More than 5-1/2 inches blade length considered location "restricted knife."
At a Glance:
Texas statutory law on the topic of knives, found at Chapter 46 of the Penal Code, is objective and based on measurable aspects. The restraints are limited. There are two types of knives in Texas law, distinguished only by blade length. A ‘location restricted knife’ is any knife (bladed hand instrument) with a blade over 5-½ inches. If the blade is exactly 5-½ inches, or less, it is simply referred to throughout Chapter 46 as a ‘knife’. In addition to restrictions on locations or places applicable to a ‘location restricted knife’ there are also limitations for people under the age of eighteen (18).
§ 46.01. Definitions
“Location-restricted knife” means a knife with a blade over five and one-half inches.
“Knife” means any bladed hand instrument that is capable of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by cutting or stabbing a person with the instrument.
§ 46.02. Unlawful Carrying Weapons
§ 46.03. Places Weapons Prohibited
§ 46.05. Prohibited Weapons
§ 46.06. Unlawful Transfer of Certain Weapons
§ 46.15. Non-applicability
§ 229.001. Firearms; Air Guns; Knives; Explosives (State Preemption)
Any knife with a blade longer than 5-½ inches.
Concealment or open carry of knives and/or ‘location restricted knives’ is not an issue.
Restrictions on Sale or Transfer:
A location restricted knife may not be sold to a person under the age of eighteen (18).
Restrictions on Carry in Specific Locations/Circumstances:
Yes. Location restricted knives. See discussion below
Texas has eliminated some of its prior knife law which was based on blade shapes or styles and opening mechanisms in favor of a legal status based solely upon blade length. This has been interpreted by Texas appellate level courts as the length of the ‘flat-edged part of the knife, which includes the sharpened part of the instrument and any remaining flat-edged part up to, but not including, the handle.’ McMurrough v. The State of Texas, 995 S.W. 2d 944 (1999).
The Texas measurement standard is consistent with the AKTI Protocol for Measuring Knife Blade Length which provides that blade length ‘shall be the straight line extending from the tip of the blade to the forward-most aspect of the hilt or handle.’
In the McMurrough case the difference between the length of the sharpened part of the blade only, and the length from blade tip to the handle was about ½ inch for a total length of 6 inches. The conviction for possession of a knife with a blade longer than 5-½ inches was upheld. The same measurement standard was previously used by the Texas Court of Appeals in Rainer v. State of Texas, 763 S.W. 2d 615 (1989) although the amount of the claimed differential is not discernible from the opinion.
AKTI recommends that increments less the 1/8 inch are impractical when measuring blade length, and, as appropriate, the measurement should be rounded down to the next whole 1/8 of an inch increment. Texas may not choose do so. We suggest one not try for the maximum length when selecting a knife for unrestricted carry in any event.
Persons Under the Age of 18
It is unlawful per § 46.02 (a4) for a person under the age of 18 to ‘intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carry on or about his or her person a location-restricted knife’, subject to certain exceptions:
A person commits an offense if the person:
(1) intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries on or about his or her person a location-restricted knife;
(2) is younger than 18 years of age at the time of the offense; and
(3) is not:
(A) on the person’s own premises or premises under the person’s control;
(B) inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle or watercraft that is owned by the person or under the person’s control; or
(C) under the direct supervision of a parent or legal guardian of the person.
It is similarly unlawful per § 46.06 (a2) to intentionally or knowingly sell, provide, or even offer to sell or provide a location restricted knife to someone under age 18. An affirmative defense is available if the parent or legal guardian had given written permission for a sale or ‘effective consent’ for a non-sale transfer. § 46.06 (c).
There is also an exception for outdoor pursuits as set forth in § 46.15 which provides that § 46.02 does not apply to persons:
engaging in lawful hunting, fishing, or other sporting activity on the immediate premises where the activity is conducted, or is en route between the premises and the actor’s residence, motor vehicle, or watercraft, if the weapon is a type commonly used in the activity;
There are no restrictions for a ‘knife’ with a blade length less than 5-½ inches applicable to persons under 18 years of age.
Most of the restriction on knives in Texas involves the various places where a ‘location restricted knife’- blade longer than 5-½ inches – is prohibited. The portion of § 46.03. (Places Weapons Prohibited), applicable to such items is as follows:
a) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a firearm, location-restricted knife, club, or prohibited weapon listed in Section 46.05(a):
(1) on the physical premises of a school or educational institution, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by a school or educational institution is being conducted, or a passenger transportation vehicle of a school or educational institution, whether the school or educational institution is public or private, unless:
(A) pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the institution; or
(2) on the premises of a polling place on the day of an election or while early voting is in progress;
(3) on the premises of any government court or offices utilized by the court, unless pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the court;
(4) on the premises of a racetrack;
(5) in or into a secured area of an airport; or
(6) within 1,000 feet of premises the location of which is designated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as a place of execution under Article 43.19, Code of Criminal Procedure, on a day that a sentence of death is set to be imposed on the designated premises and the person received notice that:
(A) going within 1,000 feet of the premises with a weapon listed under this subsection was prohibited; or
(B) possessing a weapon listed under this subsection within 1,000 feet of the premises was prohibited.
(a-1) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possesses or goes with a location-restricted knife:
(1) on the premises of a business that has a permit or license issued under Chapter 25, 28, 32, 69, or 74, Alcoholic Beverage Code, if the business derives 51 percent or more of its income from the sale or service of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption, as determined by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission under Section 104.06, Alcoholic Beverage Code;
(2) on the premises where a high school, collegiate, or professional sporting event or interscholastic event is taking place, unless the person is a participant in the event and a location-restricted knife is used in the event;
(3) on the premises of a correctional facility;
(4) on the premises of a hospital licensed under Chapter 241, Health and Safety Code, or on the premises of a nursing facility licensed under Chapter 242, Health and Safety Code, unless the person has written authorization of the hospital or nursing facility administration, as appropriate;
(5) on the premises of a mental hospital, as defined by Section 571.003, Health and Safety Code, unless the person has written authorization of the mental hospital administration;
(6) in an amusement park; or
(7) on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established place of religious worship.
(g-1) If the weapon that is the subject of the offense is a location-restricted knife, an offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor, except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if the offense is committed under Subsection (a)(1).
Law Enforcement / Military and Other Exceptions
Numerous and varied classes of state and local government employees, ‘first responders’, and US Military, are exempted in part or entirely from sections 46.02 and 46.03 by the provisions of § 46.15, (Non-applicability):
Sections 46.02 and 46.03 do not apply to:
(1) peace officers or special investigators under Article 2.122, Code of Criminal Procedure, and neither section prohibits a peace officer or special investigator from carrying a weapon in this state, including in an establishment in this state serving the public, regardless of whether the peace officer or special investigator is engaged in the actual discharge of the officer’s or investigator’s duties while carrying the weapon;
(2) parole officers and neither section prohibits an officer from carrying a weapon in this state if the officer is:
(A) engaged in the actual discharge of the officer’s duties while carrying the weapon; and
(B) in compliance with policies and procedures adopted by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice regarding the possession of a weapon by an officer while on duty;
(3) community supervision and corrections department officers appointed or employed under Section 76.004, Government Code, and neither section prohibits an officer from carrying a weapon in this state if the officer is:
(A) engaged in the actual discharge of the officer’s duties while carrying the weapon; and
(B) authorized to carry a weapon under Section 76.0051, Government Code;
(4) an active judicial officer as defined by Section 411.201, Government Code, who is licensed to carry a handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code;1
(5) an honorably retired peace officer, qualified retired law enforcement officer, federal criminal investigator, or former reserve law enforcement officer who holds a certificate of proficiency issued under Section 1701.357, Occupations Code, and is carrying a photo identification that is issued by a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency, as applicable, and that verifies that the officer is:
(A) an honorably retired peace officer;
(B) a qualified retired law enforcement officer;
(C) a federal criminal investigator; or
(D) a former reserve law enforcement officer who has served in that capacity not less than a total of 15 years with one or more state or local law enforcement agencies;
(6) the attorney general or a United States attorney, district attorney, criminal district attorney, county attorney, or municipal attorney who is licensed to carry a handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code;
(7) an assistant United States attorney, assistant attorney general, assistant district attorney, assistant criminal district attorney, or assistant county attorney who is licensed to carry a handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code;
(8) a bailiff designated by an active judicial officer as defined by Section 411.201, Government Code, who is:
(A) licensed to carry a handgun under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code; and
(B) engaged in escorting the judicial officer;
(9) a juvenile probation officer who is authorized to carry a firearm under Section 142.006, Human Resources Code; or
(10) a person who is volunteer emergency services personnel if the person is:
(A) carrying a handgun under the authority of Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code; and
(B) engaged in providing emergency services.
(b) Section 46.02 does not apply to a person who:
(1) is in the actual discharge of official duties as a member of the armed forces or state military forces as defined by Section 437.001, Government Code, or as a guard employed by a penal institution;
(2) is traveling;
(3) is engaging in lawful hunting, fishing, or other sporting activity on the immediate premises where the activity is conducted, or is en route between the premises and the actor’s residence, motor vehicle, or watercraft, if the weapon is a type commonly used in the activity;
(4) holds a security officer commission issued by the Texas Private Security Board, if the person is engaged in the performance of the person’s duties as an officer commissioned under Chapter 1702, Occupations Code, or is traveling to or from the person’s place of assignment and is wearing the officer’s uniform and carrying the officer’s weapon in plain view;
(5) acts as a personal protection officer and carries the person’s security officer commission and personal protection officer authorization, if the person:
(A) is engaged in the performance of the person’s duties as a personal protection officer under Chapter 1702, Occupations Code, or is traveling to or from the person’s place of assignment; and
(B) is either:
(i) wearing the uniform of a security officer, including any uniform or apparel described by Section 1702.323(d), Occupations Code, and carrying the officer’s weapon in plain view; or
(ii) not wearing the uniform of a security officer and carrying the officer’s weapon in a concealed manner;
(6) is carrying:
(A) a license issued under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, to carry a handgun; and
(B) a handgun:
(i) in a concealed manner; or
(ii) in a shoulder or belt holster;
(7) holds an alcoholic beverage permit or license or is an employee of a holder of an alcoholic beverage permit or license if the person is supervising the operation of the permitted or licensed premises; or
(8) is a student in a law enforcement class engaging in an activity required as part of the class, if the weapon is a type commonly used in the activity and the person is:
(A) on the immediate premises where the activity is conducted; or
(B) en route between those premises and the person’s residence and is carrying the weapon unloaded.
(c) The provision of Section 46.02 prohibiting the carrying of a club does not apply to a noncommissioned security guard at an institution of higher education who carries a nightstick or similar club, and who has undergone 15 hours of training in the proper use of the club, including at least seven hours of training in the use of the club for nonviolent restraint. For the purposes of this subsection, “nonviolent restraint” means the use of reasonable force, not intended and not likely to inflict bodily injury.
(d) The provisions of Section 46.02 prohibiting the carrying of a firearm or carrying of a club do not apply to a public security officer employed by the adjutant general under Section 437.053, Government Code, in performance of official duties or while traveling to or from a place of duty.
(e) Section 46.02(a-4) does not apply to an individual carrying a location-restricted knife used in a historical demonstration or in a ceremony in which the knife is significant to the performance of the ceremony.
(f) Section 46.03(a)(6) does not apply to a person who possesses a firearm or club while in the actual discharge of official duties as:
(1) a member of the armed forces or state military forces, as defined by Section 437.001, Government Code; or
(2) an employee of a penal institution.
(g) The provisions of Sections 46.02 and 46.03 prohibiting the possession or carrying of a club do not apply to an animal control officer who holds a certificate issued under Section 829.006, Health and Safety Code, and who possesses or carries an instrument used specifically for deterring the bite of an animal while the officer is in the performance of official duties under the Health and Safety Code or is traveling to or from a place of duty.
(j) The provisions of Section 46.02 prohibiting the carrying of a handgun do not apply to an individual who carries a handgun as a participant in a historical reenactment performed in accordance with the rules of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
The Texas preemption law provides, with respect to knives, that municipalities may not adopt regulations relating to, among other things, the transfer, possession, wearing, or carrying of knives. This includes public parks, parades, public meetings or political rallies.
Municipalities may adopt regulations which require residents or public employees to be armed for personal or national defense, law enforcement, or other lawful purposes. Such a meritorious regulation could include or specify knives.
Municipalities may also regulate the use of firearms or knives in the case of an insurrection, riot, or natural disaster if the municipality finds the regulation is necessary to protect public health and safety. A regulation requiring residents to be armed, as discussed above, may obviate such a need.
Compliance with the knife law of Texas is far less onerous than compliance with the knife law of many other states. In general, the Texas penalties for non-compliance are also more realistic. The restricted knife violation of § 46.02 (a4) (person under 18 in possession of a ‘location restricted knife’), and the location violations of § 46.03, with the exception of school locations, are classified a Class C Misdemeanors which carry a maximum penalty of a fine not to exceed $500 and no collateral disqualifications. A § 46.03 violation involving a school location is a felony.
Updated September 2, 2019 by Daniel C. Lawson