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  • Writer's pictureTom Fowler

Iowa Knife Laws

Iowa knife law is friendlier than legislations present in other states. People can carry most knives and blades here, but there are some legal restrictions to ensure the safety of every citizen should someone misuse them.

Iowa Knife Laws


Iowa laws dictate that it is legal to own any kind of knife. However, it is unlawful to carry a knife defined as a dangerous weapon beyond the owner's dwelling, business place, or any property where they hold a possessory interest.

Regarding knives, statute 702.7 includes both name and blade length elements. A person should only carry a razor, dagger, stiletto, switchblade, and any knife with a blade length longer than five inches if the individual possesses a concealed weapon license, with some exceptions.

Relevant Statutes

Here are the relevant statutes, laws, and penal codes in Iowa related to knife usage, possession, open and concealed carry :

  • 702.7. Definition of dangerous weapons

  • 724.1. Definition of offensive weapons

  • 724.4. Carrying weapons

  • 724.4A. Weapons free zone and enhanced penalties

  • 724.4C. Possession of dangerous weapons under the influence

  • 724.28. Prohibition of regulation by political subdivisions of the state

  • 724.32. County courthouse - weapons prohibitions

General Ownership

The state of Iowa does not explicitly forbid owning, buying, selling, receiving, or displaying any knives, only ballistic knives. A ballistic knife is a device that discharges a projectile over several yards by pressing a trigger on the handle. It can work through several mechanisms, such as air compression, springs, and gas charges.

Iowa takes remarkable effort and elaborates to classify knives into two categories: dangerous weapons and offensive weapons. Owning dangerous weapons is legal, but they are illegal to carry. Possessing offensive weapons is unlawful, and so is carrying them. Here is a list of the knives which are legal to own according to Iowa knife law:

  • Switchblades

  • Daggers

  • Stilettos

  • Automatic knives

  • Lipstick knives

  • Stabbing knives

  • Cane knives

  • Bowie knives

  • Belt knives

  • Balisong knives (butterfly knives)

People should be aware of which category their knife belongs to if they ever want to carry one within the boundaries of the law. Making a mistake can easily be grounds for an aggravated misdemeanor.

Iowa lacks statewide preemption laws, so individuals must acquaint themselves and follow local regulations related to carrying knives, including which types are illegal or legal to possess. Local ordinances, especially those present in larger cities, are usually more strict than those throughout the state, so it can be a troublesome matter. Contact Tom Fowler Law or browse through the city, county, or municipality's regulations for more information on the subject.

Definition of Dangerous Weapons

According to statute 702.7, which defines dangerous weapons, any dagger, switchblade knife, razor, stiletto, or knife with a blade length longer than five inches is dangerous. Additionally, a dangerous weapon includes anything designed to injure or stab to death quickly and other devices or tools used in such a manner.

There is not a definition for the knives listed in the clause. Iowa knife law considers any unspecified knife with a blade length longer than five inches to be a dangerous weapon. Additionally, even a razor or a stiletto with a blade length of an inch falls within this category.

Definition of Offensive Weapons

The term offensive weapon is broad and includes various devices such as guns. However, there is only one item related to knives: the ballistic knife. Any component or tool designed to create one is also included in this definition.

It is legal to own a dangerous weapon as long as a person does not carry it. However, it is entirely illegal to own an offensive weapon.

Concealed Carry without Permit

Without a concealed weapons permit, people can carry any knife that is not classified as an offensive weapon or a dangerous weapon. In other words, it is illegal to conceal carry any knife that belongs in these categories and has a blade longer than five inches.

There are some exceptions to the rule. For example, it is legal to carry a knife concealed on or near the person, such as the home, car, or place of business, without a permit if the individual in question has permission from a law enforcement officer.

Concealed Carry with Permit

The knife restrictions are the same for people who possess a valid concealed weapons permit in Iowa, with some exceptions. Iowa Knife laws state that an individual can produce such a permit for a law enforcement officer when asked if they are carrying a concealed knife.

These include sword canes, disguised knives, balisong knives, automatic knives, stilettos, razors, daggers, switchblades, and other knives with a blade longer than five inches.

Although this part of the law is concise and easy to interpret, it is not a strong fortification of the citizen's rights. The statute further elaborates, saying that concealed weapons permit holders can produce the license at a trial for such a crime as a valid defense.

Open Carry

There are no restrictions on the types of knives that people can openly carry, except for offensive weapons. Iowa knife laws mainly apply to knives individuals carried concealed.

Concealment Intention

The concealment test under Iowa knife law consists of whether the weapon is distinguishable by ordinary observation. The intent of the person carrying the weapon does not influence the result. Instead, the perspective of the people who come into contact or near the proximity of the individual in question is what matters.

In a state where the weapon carrier is an issue, one can argue that carrying a pocket clip knife instead of placing it entirely within the pocket indicates the absence of concealment intent.

Nonetheless, this is not the case in the state of Iowa.

Ultimately, what determines if the concealed weapon was discernible by ordinary observation is the jury. Prior to deliberation in a trial where the charge is possessing a dangerous weapon concealed, the jury receives an explanation by the prosecution regarding the issue in the following pattern:

  • The date when the defendant carried the weapon

  • That the defendant concealed the knife near on or near their person

  • That the knife was dangerous, per the legal definition

Exceptions of Iowa Knife Laws

There are some exceptions to the concealed carry restriction present in subsection 4 of statute 724.4. Some of them are:

Law Enforcement Officers and Military

Knife laws in Iowa provide exceptions to concealed carry regulations for peace officers, corrections officers, US Military, and National Guard members when the possession of the weapon is connected to their duty.

Restricted Places

According to Iowa knife law, there are several places where buying, selling, carrying, and using knives or blades is entirely prohibited. People caught possessing a knife in these places are subject to severe fines. Here are some of them:

  • Schools. Section 724.4A considers schools a weapons-free zone. It is illegal to carry knives, blades, and other dangerous weapons in and near schools. If someone has a dangerous weapon, the closest they can be to schools is one thousand meters. However, an individual can ask a police officer or any other law enforcement officer for authorization.

  • Airports. People can bring knives in their luggage but not in their person. TSA prohibits anyone from traveling with any sharp objects in their carry-on baggage. The penalty for failing to comply is a fine between $350 and ·$2050.

Courthouses and other places that practice judicial functions and any property that falls under other political subdivision weapon regulations according to statute 724.28 are restricted areas as well.

Knife Laws in Iowa for Minors

There is not a statute that dictates special regulations regarding minors possessing knives. They are subject to every law previously mentioned. However, as they cannot receive a concealed carry permit, they cannot carry weapons considered dangerous under statute 702.7.

They can carry pocket knives or fixed blade knives as long as they are shorter than five inches. Minors cannot have daggers, razors, stilettos, switchblades, or knives with blades longer than five inches concealed within their person.

Consequences and Fines for Offenses

The penalty for possessing a weapon that the Iowa statute defined as offensive, or other illegal weapons such as the ballistic knife, is a five-year imprisonment term and a fine between $750 and $7500 depending on the offense's severity.

A violation of concealed carry laws by carrying a concealed dangerous weapon without a permit, such as a switchblade, stiletto, razor, disguised knife, balisong knife (butterfly knife,) automatic knife, or dagger, is considered an aggravated misdemeanor. It carries a two-year jail term and a fine between $625 and $6250.

The offense of carrying a knife with a blade exceeding eight inches without a valid permit is regarded as an aggravated misdemeanor. It carries a jail term of up to two years of imprisonment and a fine between $625 and $6250.

On the other hand, the offense for the concealed carry of a knife shorter than eight inches and lengthier than five without a permit is regarded as a serious misdemeanor. It carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine between $315 and $1875.

Offenses for possessing a knife that is considered a dangerous weapon while under the influence are considered a serious misdemeanor. It carries a one-year jail term and a fine between $315 and $1875.

Should any of the previously mentioned violations occur in the mentioned restricted places, the offender can face a fine that is double the usual amount. For example, the fine for possessing a concealed automatic knife or any other with a blade over eight inches is around $1,250 and $12500.


Iowa knife laws are not as restricted as the legislation in other states, but there are some restrictions. Except for the ballistic knife, any knife is legal to own, buy, sell, and display.

Switchblades, daggers, stilettos, and other sharp knives with a blade that extends over five inches are illegal to carry in the state without a valid permit. Nonetheless, having one does not exempt the person from the consequences of brandishing one in a dangerous manner.

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Which Knives Are Legal to Carry in Iowa?

It is legal to carry knives of any kind in Iowa, except for ballistic knives, as long as you have a valid permit.

Which Knives Are Illegal to Carry in Iowa?

Iowa Knife law prohibits owning ballistic knives within the state. It is also illegal to carry knives such as switchblades, daggers, razors, stiletto, butterfly knives, cane swords, disguised knives, lipstick knives, and other knives regarded as "dangerous weapons" without a permit.

How Long Can the Blade Length Be?

Iowa law allows the possession of legal knives with any blade length. However, the problem is with the knife length for concealed carry. A person must have a state permit to carry a concealed knife with a blade length that extends over five inches.

What About Local Ordinances within Iowa?

Local ordinances are permitted for Iowa knife laws. Counties, cities, municipalities, and districts can and usually employ more strict knife laws.

When Can One Carry Concealed Knives?

There are some situations where individuals can carry a knife concealed without risking charges. These are:

  • During lawful hunting or fishing

  • When the person is on their own place

  • A peace officer, when their duty requires it

  • A correctional officer, when their duty requires it

  • A member of the US armed forces or in service when it is connected to the person's duties

  • A law enforcement officer carrying a concealed weapon from one place to the other due to their duties

Complete details are in section 724.4.

Is It Legal to Sell or Transfer the Ownership of a Knife in Iowa?

Is It Legal to Sell or Transfer the Ownership of a Knife in Iowa?

Iowa allows transferring and selling any legal knife in the state.

Can Minors Carry Knives in Iowa?

Minors can only carry knives that do not fall under the definition of dangerous weapons because only people over 21 years old can apply for a permit. Some exceptions apply, such as using a hunting knife or any other knife for hunting or fishing.

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