Why Are Butterfly Knives Illegal – And Where Are They Legal

Balisongs, or butterfly knives, are illegal in different parts of the world, not just the United States alone.

These knives have made their way into different movies, modern literature and have even become sort of a cool factor when used by someone that knows what they are doing.

Not quite long ago, I even developed a guide (with video instructions) on how to perform beginner tricks with a butterfly knife. However, I did mention that trainer butterfly knives (see this affordable butterfly trainer on Amazon) be used for their legal status, among other things.

So, why are butterfly knives illegal in the first place – and what should you do if you own one?

Are butterfly knives illegal?

Source: Flickr

Is cannabis illegal?

These questions are dicey and cannot be answered with a quick yes or no. It is much like the open carry laws and how they are subject to interpretation in the different states that you get into – or part of the world that you are in.

The balisong knife/ butterfly knives are illegal in many parts of the USA and other regions of the world also. To drive home the point, some laws classify these kinds of a knife as daggers, switchblades, gravity knives, and other dangerous knives and blades.

Perhaps the biggest factor to note here is that butterfly knives now suffer an illegal status in urban Philippines areas. This is significant because that is the country where they originated from, lending further credence to why they are not accepted in other parts of the world too.

Why the Butterfly Knife Is Illegal

There are a variety of reasons contributing to the illegal stamp placed on butterfly knives today.

Some of the knife laws against the blade are as a result of:

Portrayal in Modern Media

This might look like a shocking reason but I promise you that it is true.

Modern media (such as movies) show how useful this kind of knife is to someone who knows their martial arts. The cool factor of the balisong knife makes it a staple in many action movies, but that has also led law enforcement to see that others might want to practice what they see.

Due to the efficacy of the knife in inflicting serious damage, it is just logical that the knife laws pick this up as a deadly weapon that should not make it to the streets.


The history of the butterfly knives also plays a huge role in why they are illegal in many places today.

Originating from the Philippines as the baling sungay – or the broken horn – this knife took part in a lot of street violence and gang wars.

There was even a time when it was believed that every Batangueno (people who live in the Batangas province) had one of these knives for self-defense or as a utility knife. That might not be true, but there is no denying the fact that this knife was used as a deadly weapon in multiple cases.

Based on that alone, it is not illogical that they are no longer legal to possess as an ordinary knife.


Sometimes, knife laws and conceal carry legislation also take into account how dangerous a knife can be to the user.

I can always bet on the fact that inexperienced users will cut themselves multiple times with a real butterfly knife.

Even when not in use, holding the knife from the bite handle is enough to cut you. And that is when the knife is closed.

If you look at the butterfly knife tricks for beginners here, you’ll observe that even the instructor sometimes gets the sharp edge of the knife against her body. Imagine how worse it would have been if she were not experienced with the knife.

For the sake of keeping yourself safe alone, I don’t mind that these knives are considered illegal and not in prevalent use.

Intimidation Factor

If we will be honest with ourselves, a tactical knife can easily do much more damage than a butterfly knife. Still, the latter is considered as a utility knife in most cases.

The former is easy to unsheathe and deploy as a weapon, either during an attack or in self-defense mode.

But then, a butterfly knife brings a unique twist to the table.

From the two handles to the swift and precise movements that the experts swing them around with, they do look intimidating. If I was the government, maybe I would have prohibited the use of such knives too.

In what US States is the Butterfly Knife illegal?

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Like I said before in the open carry piece, most knife laws are open to interpretation.

To put even more weight on the illegal status of the balisong knives, they have been labeled switchblades and daggers in some regions. But then, these knives are legal in some regions still.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the major states and how the balisong butterfly knife compares there:


Whether as carried concealed or openly, balisong knives are illegal in California. Some builds of these knives are legal to own and keep at home as evidenced by some collectors. If you want to have them, look out for the safer builds


The state law is much friendlier in Florida where it is legal to carry the balisong as pocket knives. The only caveat to this possession law is that the blade must not be more than 4 inches long.


The penal code in Hawaii regarding the balisong butterfly knife is pretty harsher. The state laws define that these knives may not be made, sold, transferred, carried, or transported within the state. In short, stay as far away from the butterfly knives as possible when in Hawaii.


As of the time of this writing, any blade knife or other related weapons are not illegal to carry in Kansas. The state laws were not always so accommodating till 2013 when these items were decriminalized by the Kansas Comprehensive Knife Rights Act.


Kentucky has this special law that prevents individual cities and counties from making their legal restrictions against weapons. Thus, it is not illegal to carry one – either openly or concealed – balisongs in the state.


Where other states classify the balisong knife as other types of knives so it can fit as a weapon, Michigan state sees the knife as a folding knife. The folding knife is legal in the state, so butterfly knives also enjoy the same legal canopy.

New Jersey

I would suggest that you not carry the butterfly knife in this region at all.

There are no entirely clear laws regarding the legality or the illegality of the knife. In other words, you are subject to the interpretation of whoever finds the knife with you – and you don’t want to live on that chance.

New York

The New York penal code regarding the legality of butterfly knives is also dicey.

For one, they are not classified under the gravity knife (which are banned in the state) which means that they should be legal. Since it is not explicitly stated, though, the knife could still be classed as a switchblade or any other illegal weapon.

Here, again, we have the problem of leaving things too open to interpretation.


Ohio is one of the many states with a clear-cut approach towards the butterfly knives’ illegal or legal status.

The law states that these knives can be carried openly with no regard to the length of the blade. However, should they be carried concealed, the knife will be regarded as a dangerous weapon and is a criminal offense.


There is no two way about it here. The butterfly knife’s illegal status here is not one you want to joke with.


Switchblades are no longer illegal in Texas from 2013.

Here in Texas, butterfly knives are considered under the switchblade category.


People are not prohibited from carrying a butterfly knife in Utah, provided they do not conceal the knife


The main difference between Virginia and Kentucky knife laws is how they address the state-wide implementation.

In Virginia, the state allows the open and concealed carry of this knife. However, the legality can be questioned by county and city laws as seen fit by the administration of those areas.

When in Virginia, check with the local laws to be sure you are not committing a criminal offense by having this kind of blade on your person.

In what other places are butterfly knives illegal?

Source: Pixabay

The US is not the only place where the legality of these flick knives is in question.

Like I mentioned before, they have even been banned in their home country (the Philippines), among others.

Some of the notable regions of the world where the butterfly knives enjoy varying degrees of illegal status are, but not limited to:


The Australian definition of the knife lumps it up with flick knives, switchblades, and a gravity knife, all of which are illegal in the country.

To carry and use this kind of knife in the country means having a valid and legitimate excuse for it. That ranges from being a martial arts instructor to carrying one as a utility pocket knife for your work.


Canada leaves things vague as to the official definition of a butterfly knife. If it has not been grandfathered before the time of prohibition, though, you must not be caught with one of these on your person.

United Kingdom

The UK is one of the regions that have long considered the knife to be a deadly weapon. Since 1989, you must not be seen in possession of these knives in public. By extension, you must also not sell, lend, hire or give these knives in the region.

However, they are not illegal to possess – as long as they don’t leave the confines of your home.


The swiss do not want anything to do with the buying, selling, giving, or carrying of this knife.


Germany has one of the strictest weapons laws in the world, punishing anyone found with this knife with up to five years in prison.

The law extends to anyone caught buying, using, possessing, lending, crafting, or trading the knife in the country. In simpler terms, dissociate with anything that could bring you together with a balisong knife when in Germany.


The good people of Lithuania have defined the butterfly knives exclusive of switchblades and make them legal to carry and own. It gets interesting, as these knives are not considered weapons (let alone deadly weapons) in the region. Thus, balisongs are legal here.


Poland also follows Lithuania, but they do that in style. While Lithuania allows just the butterfly knives, Poland takes things a step further in welcoming switchblades and gravity knives. Surprisingly, all these knives are not considered weapons in that part of the world also.

Always Check to Be Sure

If anything, the above should show you how tricky knife laws can be in different parts of the world.

Wherever you go, make sure you check ahead to know how legal your knives are. Even if they were considered legal in those regions, check under what conditions. For example, make sure your knife does not exceed the length stated, is open/ concealed according to the law, and is properly classified.

With that, you should be safely operating within the confines of the law.

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