Missouri Knife Laws: A Simple Cheat Sheet With All You Need To Know

In Knives and Blades by M.D. Creekmore


As one of the leaders in preserving constitutionally guaranteed rights, the Show-Me State not only recognizes the right of residents and visitors to bear arms, but the state also preserves the rights of residents and citizens to own and bear all types of knives. The Missouri Constitution closely resembles the language written into the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

  • 23.
    Right to keep and bear arms-exception

“That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms,  ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms, in defense of his home, person, family, and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned.

The rights guaranteed by this section shall be unalienable. Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny and the state of Missouri shall be obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement.

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Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the general assembly from enacting general laws which limit the rights of convicted violent felons or those duly adjudged mentally infirm by a court of competent jurisdiction.”

Are Any Knives Prohibited in Missouri?

Since 2012, state law § 571.010 does not include a switchblade on the list of prohibited knives. However, anyone that uses a switchblade to commit a crime is in violation of a long-standing federal law. The United States Congress passed the Federal Switchblade Act in 1958 to regulate interstate commerce. Confusion as to which switchblade law applies to each case has bogged down court proceeding involving the ownership of switchblade knives.

Concealed Carry of Knives in Missouri

Missouri knife laws forbid the concealed carrying of any type of knife, except for “an ordinary pocketknife” that does not measure more than four inches in length. As with many legal definitions, the meaning of “an ordinary pocketknife” has undergone intense judicial scrutiny in several highly publicized civil and criminal cases.

The state law applying to concealed carry reads like the following:

  • Carries concealed upon or about his or her person a knife, a firearm, a blackjack or any other weapon readily capable of lethal use.

In summary:

  • You are not allowed to conceal carry a pocketknife that is more than four inches in length
  • You are allowed to open carry any type of knife that state law mandates as legal to won
  • You cannot conceal carry any other type of knife outside of a pocketknife measuring fewer than four inches in length

As one of the legal pillars of Missouri precedent law, the case of State v. Dowdy rules that a paring knife Dowdy had concealed qualified as a banned conceal carry knife as written into state knife laws.

Concealed Carry Further Defined in Missouri

Missouri law considers the meaning of concealed to be a knife that “is not readily and practically visible to approaching persons under ordinary circumstances.” As another case that set Missouri knife laws in stone, State v. Rowe declared a six-inch bladed knife hidden in the driver’s side door of Mr. Rowe’s vehicle met the legal definition of concealed.

Although Mr. Rowe’s knife handle was easy to see, state court ruled the knife was concealed and thus, a banned knife under Missouri knife laws. Moreover, the court’s decision in State v. Rowe states that in order to convict a defendant for the concealed carrying of a knife, the person owning the knife must have easy access to controlling the knife.

A Few Exceptions to Missouri’s Concealed Carry Provision

Missouri knife laws when it comes to concealed carry do not apply to government employees, as well as professionals that serve legal papers to Missouri residents. Hunters that legally carry an exposed bow and/or firearm also are allowed to conceal carry a knife in the Show Me State.

Anyone “peaceably” traveling through the state are allowed to carry a concealed knife. Numerous defendants have submitted legal challenges in court to request definitions for the terms “peaceably traveling” and “continuous journey.”

Here are a few of the cases:

State v. Mason ruled in 1978 that you do not have to travel entirely through the state of Missouri to be considered on a “continuous journey.” The ruling opened the door for residents that concealed carry certain knives from let’s say Rolla to St. Joseph.

Not surprising, a court ruled in 1990 that transporting a “considerable quantity” of narcotics violated the “peaceable traveling” clause of Missouri knife laws.

Eleven years later, a Missouri Appellate Court rules in State v. White that possession of a small quantity of marijuana does not exempt a defendant from the meaning of “peaceably traveling.”

Missouri Statutory Definition of a Knife

 (12) ‘Knife’, any dagger, dirk, stiletto, or bladed hand instrument that is readily capable of inflicting serious physical injury or death by cutting or stabbing a person. For purposes of this chapter, ‘knife’ does not include any ordinary pocketknife with no blade more than four inches in length;

Remember the term “ordinary pocketknife remains a contentious topic among both defense and prosecuting attorneys.

Miscellaneous Missouri Knife Statutes

Missouri represents one of the few states that does not place any restrictions on the minor age ownership of knives. There is not a statewide preemption allowed for Missouri knife laws. The lack of statewide preemption has given major cities such as St. Lois and Kansas City more legal wriggle room to enact stricter knife laws. The critical dimension mandated by Missouri knife laws is four inches. No blade on any type of knife can exceed four inches.

Missouri Knife Laws Moving Forward

In 2019, Missouri appears to be a state that will address legally ambiguous language written into the state’s knife laws. Lawmakers are also poised to address the legal conflict between allowing minors to own knives and the tough knife laws passed by a few cities that prohibit the carrying of any type of knife on school property. Nonetheless, Missouri should remain one of the most knife-friendly states in the country.

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.

You can read my other knife law articles for other states here

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M.D. Creekmore
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