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Tennessee State Knife Laws (Updated 2021): Is it Legal to Carry a Knife?

What are the first things that come to your mind when someone mentions Tennessee? If you're like me, it's country music and 'Tennessee whiskey'. The good ol', forever reliable Jack Daniels and an evening of Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Dolly Parton. But there's a lot more than timeless whiskey and music the Volunteer State has to offer. And it's good news for knife lovers. TN is the holy ground for knives. Its history dates back centuries and it was the birthplace of the famous 'Colonel Coon' bone-handled barlow. Established by Adrian Harris, a former knife repairman, the knives became well known to both users and collectors for their fine quality and craftsmanship. The tradition continued and today Tennessee makes some of the finest knives in the country.

Tennessee Knife Laws [Updated 2021]. Simple. Simply Deceiving.

Tennessee boasts one of the friendliest knife laws in the country. If you're a knife lover, a collector, or a survival enthusiast, you'll love the relaxed knife laws here. But there is some confusion behind the loose restrictions. We'll take you through them here in jargon-free plain English - so you know what you can own and carry safely.

To cut to the chase, you can own most knives in Tennessee including automatic knives, folders, and fixed blades. The law is pretty straightforward here. The issue is with open vs. concealed carry - it's confusing and unclear. We'll come back to that. First, let's see what you can legally own.

Knives Legal To Own in Tennessee
     -It is legal to own a Bowie knife
     -It is legal to own a dirk, dagger, or other stabbing knives
     -It is legal to own disguised knives like penknives, and buckle knives
     -It is legal to own a stiletto

The Butterfly Dilemma
You may legally own a butterfly knife, however, you may have to verify with your attorney first the difference between a 'butterfly knife' and a switchblade or automatic knife. The majority of Courts in the U.S.A would define a butterfly knife as one that opens by “gravity or inertia”, which is how Tennessee defines a switchblade knife. Generally, the majority of the Courts have established butterfly knives as a type of pocketknife and NOT an automatic knife or gravity knife. We are waiting for Tennessee’s Courts to weigh in.

To be honest, it is apparently legal to own a butterfly knife and to carry it openly or concealed so long there is no intent to commit a crime. If you do commit a crime while carrying it, you’re on your own.

Knives Illegal To Own In Tennessee
Here’s the best part of it all, you good people of Tennessee! There are actually no prohibited knives under new Tennessee Statutes Laws. The automatic knife or the switchblade prohibition was removed in July of 2014. So, to get to the point – it’s legal to own any knife. Woohoo!

Restrictions On Carrying. Open Carry Against Concealed Carry
There is a grey area regarding open and concealed carry as we mentioned earlier. The Tennessee Statutes in 2017 seems to stress more on the 'intent of carrying' rather than the fashion in which it is carried. In brief, both open carry and concealed carry be legal or illegal - depending on your intent.