You probably have heard about the ratcheting up of violence on the streets of Chicago. The nightly news has covered the stories of street violence (mostly gang related) extensively, as well as nationally recognized publications such as USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. Has the publicity coincided with a push for more weapon control legislation by the Illinois legislature?
The answer is no, which is good news for outdoor recreational enthusiasts that use a wide variety of knives to cut fishing lines and set up duck blinds.
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Overview of Illinois Knife Laws
Illinois represents one of several states that refer to intent when it comes to determining the legality of possessing a knife. State law defines intent as attempting to injure another person by using a knife.
However, intent is not the only criterion for determining how to write Illinois knife laws. The state has decreed specific types of knives to be illegal: ballistic, throwing and automatic. Residents of and visitors to the State of Illinois are prohibited from owning and/or selling the banned knives.
(720 ILCS 5/24-1) Sec. 24-1 defines the unlawful use of weapons:
(a) A person commits the offense of unlawful use of weapons when he knowingly:
(1) Sells, manufactures, purchases, possesses or carries any bludgeon, black-jack, slung-shot, sand-club, sand-bag, metal knuckles or other knuckle weapon regardless of its composition, throwing star, or any knife, commonly referred to as a switchblade knife, which has a blade that opens automatically by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device in the handle of the knife, or a ballistic knife, which is a device that propels a knifelike blade as a projectile by means of a coil spring, elastic material or compressed gas; or
(2) Carries or possesses with intent to use the same unlawfully against another, a dagger, dirk, billy, dangerous knife, razor, stiletto, broken bottle or other piece of glass, stun gun or taser or any other dangerous or deadly weapon or instrument of like character;
Illinois law emphasizes the intent to use a legal knife can change the legality of owning the knife. For example, accidentally hurting another person by handing a dagger over is not typically considered bad intent. However, using the same dagger to threaten someone is cause for seeking a warrant for the violation of Illinois knife laws.
A Word about Automatic Knives in Illinois
Like many states, Illinois has banned automatic knives. You cannot create, own, sell, and/or trade an automatic knife. Legal restrictions placed on automatic knives have gotten tougher over the past few years in response to the violence epidemic plaguing the streets of South Chicago. Nonetheless, several Illinois legislatures that represent rural districts have formed a coalition to loosen the restrictions placed on automatic knives, which are popular among anglers and hunters. Avid anglers and hunters should pay close attention to any legislation introduced in Illinois that makes it legal to own an automatic knife.
Knives that are Considered Legal by Illinois Law
At one time deemed illegal according to Illinois knife laws, switchblades moved into the legal column in 2017 thanks to a coordinated push by legislators representing districts outside of Chicago. On August 11, 2017, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law SB 607, which repeals a ban on switchblades in Illinois.
Open Carry Knife Laws in Illinois
Despite the media attention paid to the violence in Chicago, Illinois has remained a knife ownership friendly state. Only a few styles of knives are outright banned and in some areas of the state, you are not allowed to open carry a knife that exceeds three inches in length. Areas of concern that regulate open carry knives include public property, such as a state landmark and a federal courthouse. All other types of legal knives are eligible to be open carried anywhere in the State of Illinois.
Concealed Carry Knife Laws in Illinois
As opposed to open carry laws, Illinois does not place restrictions on the concealed carrying of a knife, as long as the knife is legal to own. However, like open carry knife laws in Illinois, concealed carry statutes ban the carrying of any kind of knife in the following public places:
- Public schools
- Public housing
- School buses
- School sanction activities held off-premise
- Public transportation
- All types of athletic venues
Illinois Laws and Knife Length
Illinois law places few legal restrictions on the length of knives carried by residents and visitors. Yet, a couple of laws exist that prohibit the carrying of knives that are more than three inches long. The length restriction is in place on properties partly or entirely owned by state, federal, and municipal governments. There does not have to be bad intent to ban knives measuring more than three inches in length.
Illinois Knife Laws and Minors
In an attempt to prevent the onset of illegal behavior by minors, Illinois legislators have focused on crafting knife laws that target minors. Under Illinois statute 105 ILCS 5/10 22.6, any student in possession of a knife while on school grounds is legal cause for expulsion of the student between one year and two years.
A group of legislators have proposed Illinois knife laws that increase the penalty for minor ownership of any type of knife off school grounds, but each bill has fallen short of receiving enough votes in the Illinois legislature.
Illinois Knife Laws 2019
Perhaps no other state has such a wide disparity in political perspective than what you find in the State of Illinois. Representatives of Chicago districts-especially districts located on the south side-want stricter knife possession laws, as well as harsher penalties for violating the laws. Rural legislators prefer a much more lenient approach to Illinois knife laws. Nonetheless, neither urban nor rural Illinois legislators have placed any bills on the 2019 legislative docket that address knife issues. Stay up to date to legislative activity by joining the email list created by your state representative.
Please note: None of the material in this article should be interpreted as legal advice. I am not a lawyer. Never take any action with legal consequences without first consulting with a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction. This article should not be relied upon for making legal decisions. This information is provided for scholarship and general information only.