Minnesota Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

https://www.survivalsullivan.com/minnesota-knife-laws/

The Essentials

  • Legal to Carry Openly: Any legal knife
  • Legal to Carry Concealed: Any Legal knife
  • Illegal Knives: Automatic knives, aka switchblades; cannot possess, manufacture or carry

Minnesota Knife Law Overview

Minnesota is study in contrasts for knife ownership, being both by and large highly lenient and permissive of knife carry and ownership (except switchblades), and also possessing some of the wordiest, lengthiest and least specific laws regarding what is and is not legal in regards to carry and possession.

flag of Minnesota

While there is almost no style of knife that will, on the surface, get you in trouble here, it pays to know what exactly the law says in regard to carry and ownership so you can make intelligent choices. We’ll delve into the maze-like Minnesota law on knife carry just below the break.

Relevant Mississippi State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • Section 609.02 — DEFINITIONS
  • Section 609.66 — DANGEROUS WEAPONS.
  • Section 625.16 — CARRYING DANGEROUS WEAPONS.

We’ll begin our twisting journey into the nether reaches of Minnesota law with Chapter 609 Section 02, which outlines specifically (or not so specifically) what a “dangerous weapon” is. 609.02 reads:

Section 609.02 — DEFINITIONS.

Subd. 6. Dangerous weapon. “Dangerous weapon” means any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, or any device designed as a weapon and capable of producing death or great bodily harm, any combustible or flammable liquid or other device or instrumentality that, in the manner it is used or intended to be used, is calculated or likely to produce death or great bodily harm, or any fire that is used to produce death or great bodily harm.

Subd. 7. Bodily harm. “Bodily harm” means physical pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.

Subd. 7a. Substantial bodily harm. “Substantial bodily harm” means bodily injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, or which causes a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or which causes a fracture of any bodily member.

Subd. 8. Great bodily harm. “Great bodily harm” means bodily injury which creates a high probability of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily harm.

To summarize the most salient points above, a dangerous weapon is one that is purpose-designed, improvised or when used to the effect has a high likelihood of causing death or substantially debilitating, disfiguring and crippling injuries. Knives of all kinds can certainly fit that description, even short, sharp ones if wielded with intent.

Though knives in general are not mentioned by name in the confines of 609.02, it would be a small thing for a judge, prosecutor or jury to declare your knife, any knife, as one that is liable to “produce death or great bodily harm.”

The larger your knife is, and the more “combative” it appears, the higher the chances. Choose your blade carefully, especially if it’s for self-defense.

Chapter 609.66 further expands on the topic and defines, in the loosest possible terms, when it is a crime to carry them:

Section 609.66 — DANGEROUS WEAPONS

Subdivision 1. Misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes. (a) Whoever does any of the following is guilty of a crime and may be sentenced as provided in paragraph (b):

(1) recklessly handles or uses a gun or other dangerous weapon or explosive so as to endanger the safety of another; or

(2) intentionally points a gun of any kind, capable of injuring or killing a human being and whether loaded or unloaded, at or toward another; or

(3) manufactures or sells for any unlawful purpose any weapon known as a slungshot or sand club; or

(4) manufactures, transfers, or possesses metal knuckles or a switch blade knife opening automatically; or

(5) possesses any other dangerous article or substance for the purpose of being used unlawfully as a weapon against another; or

So you can recklessly handle any knife, of any kind, and be guilty of a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, but mere possession of a switchblade knife is as good as actually mishandling another knife with careless disregard for the safety of others. I guess switchblades are just too dangerous for the good people of Minnesota!

Something else to consider: as I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, Minnesota is really not big on sharply (sorry) and precisely defining what any knives are, including automatics. For this reason, based on the language in the statutes above, it is far from out of the question that a common assisted-opening knife could be lumped into the class of “switchblade” under Minnesota law.

I am not an attorney, and definitely not your attorney. Seek counsel from a competent Minnesota attorney versed in the intricacies of weapons law before choosing an assisted open knife for your carry blade.

This section also weirdly lumps in all kinds of other regulations regarding possession on school grounds and in other restricted areas, transferring dangerous weapons to minors without their parent’s permission and other, head-scratchingly strange placements of loosely related laws. We’ll circle back on some of them a little farther into the article.

I think it will be helpful to summarize and collate what we have gleaned from the law so far:

  • It is illegal to possess or carry automatic/switchblade knives.
    • Assisted-opening knives may fall under the definition of switchblade in MN.
  • You may legally carry or conceal any other knife including a knife designed as a “dangerous weapon” so long as you do not intend to do harm illegally to someone else or commit an illegal act with it.
  • Reckless use of any knife is a crime.

Everyone good? Okay, moving on. There is one odd-ball law that does not surface very often in MN, but you had better understand what’s what with it. Consult 625.12:

Section 625.16 —PRESERVATION OF PUBLIC PEACE – CARRYING DANGEROUS WEAPONS

“Whoever shall go armed with a dirk, dagger, sword, pistol, or other offensive and dangerous weapon, without reasonable cause to fear an assault or other injury or violence to person, family, or property, may, on complaint of any other person having reasonable cause to fear an injury or breach of the peace, be required to find sureties for keeping the peace, for a term not exceeding six months, with the right of appealing as before provided.”

What’s this? What’s a surety/sureties? Can one of your fellow citizens just drop a dime on you if they see you carrying? What’s going on here? Alright, hear this: a surety is a type of bond, like insurance, between three parties, the principal (you), the surety, and the obligee

Essentially you’ll pay a surety a certain amount of coin, intended for the obligee, that’s the whining neighbor or whoever, to guarantee that you’ll behave, in essence.

Yes, it is as dumb as it sounds. Yes, it weaponizes the weak-kneed and those of flimsy backbone. Yes, this is a good reason to keep your stuff concealed whenever possible.

No, I don’t know of any modern instances of this occurring in MN or anywhere else. But since it relates to the carry of weapons, including knives, you need to know about it.

No-Go Zones

Schools and courtrooms, mostly. Per usual, the law expands the typical definition of dangerous weapon to include any knife that is not otherwise explicitly permitted on the premises.

If you aren’t faculty or a judge (or someone else associated with the proceedings) you can forget about it. All of this is covered in detail for both categories in 609.66:

609.66 DANGEROUS WEAPONS

Subd. 1d. Possession on school property; penalty.

(a) Except as provided under paragraphs (d) and (f), whoever possesses, stores, or keeps a dangerous weapon while knowingly on school property is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $ 10,000, or both.

(e) As used in this subdivision:

(2) “dangerous weapon” has the meaning given it in section 609.02, subdivision 6;

(4) “school property” means:

(i) a public or private elementary, middle, or secondary school building and its improved grounds, whether leased or owned by the school;

(ii) a child care center licensed under chapter 245A during the period children are present and participating in a child care program;

(iii) the area within a school bus when that bus is being used by a school to transport one or more elementary, middle, or secondary school students to and from school-related activities, including curricular, cocurricular, noncurricular, extracurricular, and supplementary activities; and

(iv) that portion of a building or facility under the temporary, exclusive control of a public or private school, a school district, or an association of such entities where conspicuous signs are prominently posted at each entrance that give actual notice to persons of the school-related use.

(f) This subdivision does not apply to:

(1) active licensed peace officers;

(2) military personnel or students participating in military training, who are on-duty, performing official duties;

(3) persons authorized to carry a pistol under section 624.714 while in a motor vehicle or outside of a motor vehicle to directly place a firearm in, or retrieve it from, the trunk or rear area of the vehicle;

(4) persons who keep or store in a motor vehicle pistols in accordance with section 624.714 or 624.715 or other firearms in accordance with section 97B.045;

(5) firearm safety or marksmanship courses or activities conducted on school property;

(7) a gun or knife show held on school property;

(8) possession of dangerous weapons, BB guns, or replica firearms with written permission of the principal or other person having general control and supervision of the school or the director of a child care center; or (…)

In essence, the only time you are allowed to carry any knife on school grounds is if there is, somehow, a shooting competition, gun show, knife show, or some other related activity taking place on the school grounds or you have the explicit permission of the principal. That’s it. Otherwise, don’t even think about bringing your knife along.

This section also covers carry in courts and courthouses:

Subd. 1g. Felony; possession in courthouse or certain state buildings.

(a) A person who commits either of the following acts is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $ 10,000, or both:

(1) possesses a dangerous weapon, ammunition, or explosives within any courthouse complex; or

(2) possesses a dangerous weapon, ammunition, or explosives in any state building within the Capitol Area described in chapter 15B, other than the National Guard Armory.

(4) persons who possess dangerous weapons in a courthouse complex with the express consent of the county sheriff or who possess dangerous weapons in a state building with the express consent of the commissioner of public safety.

Simply enough, if you don’t work at the courthouse in a legal or protective capacity, or have the in-writing explicit permission of the sheriff or the public safety bigwig, don’t go anywhere near a courthouse with a blade; it’s a felony.

Preemption

There is no statewide preemption in Minnesota, and a several cities have taken it upon themselves to enact their own, sometimes contradictory, knife laws.

Minneapolis forbids the concealed or open carrying of knives with blades of 4” or longer. St. Paul has similarly restrictive ordinances. Woodbury, of all places, forbids the carrying of knives with blades longer than 3” in any public place.

If I have said it before, I have said it one hundred times: if a state lacks statewide preemption statutes you must redouble your efforts to be sure that the knife you are carrying is legal in any given jurisdiction. Ignorance of weapons law is never an excuse, nor is it a mitigating factor in an otherwise clean use of force incident.

Bottom Line

Minnesota is a pro-knife state, but one that does not inspire much in the way of confidence thanks to its long, wordy, and fuzzy statutes covering definitions of knives and permissible carry thereof.

Assisted opening knives currently occupy a dodgy place of legality that could change at the whim of a law enforcement official. Take care that you learn local laws well, and pick a knife accordingly.

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