Alabama is an all-around solid state for the carry and ownership of knives. The state does lack a preemption law, which means you have to stay up to date on which cities and municipalities, and force greater restrictions on the carry of various types and lengths of knives but this is typically not a big deal.
You can carry virtually any kind of knife in the state, including folding and fixed blade knives, switchblades, spikes and more with one notable exception being Bowie knives.
It sounds hard to believe, but any knife that is categorized as a Bowie knife (according to the state statutes) is illegal to carry concealed unless you are on your own property.
This odd limitation is one of the best examples of antiquated and misunderstood knife laws in the United States. That is a bit of a bummer considering how American the bowie knife is!
Nonetheless, Alabama is a dependably solid state when it comes to knife laws.
What You Need to Know
- What Kind of Knives Can I Own?: Any kind of knife.
- Can I Carry a Knife Concealed Without a Permit?: Yes, except Bowie knives.
- Can I Carry a Knife Concealed With a Permit?: Yes, except Bowie knives.
- Can I Carry a Knife Openly?: Yes, including Bowie knives.
As stated above, Alabama is generally extremely friendly when it comes to the ownership and carry of knives, with the curious and quirky exception of Bowie knives.
All other kinds of knives, including ones that are typically regulated by other more backward state laws including daggers, switchblades, push knives, punch daggers, karambits and more are all allowable under the state statutes.
Why is Alabama, of all the southern states, so afraid of Bowie knives?
Well, to answer that question, we have to look a little ways back into history as this knife is a vestigial artifact of an era gone by where people were far more prone to settling disagreements with violence.
Bowie knives were a fixture in the closing years of the nineteenth century, and especially in traditional cultures like the American deep south dueling was far from unheard of.
One tool that many men in this region would seldom go without was a knife, especially a large one that was suitable for handling all kinds of work, including self-defense.
Back in the day, Bowie knives were used in a disproportionate amount of fights with many deaths and maimings attributed to them.
Legislators and, indeed, much of the populace were getting fed up and plumb disgusted from seeing people get hacked to bits with these giant knives on the regular, and so Bowie knives were expressly forbidden from being carried.
Here we are well over 100 years later from that wild and wooly era and residents of Alabama are still not allowed to carry what was viewed as a weapon of mass destruction.
The only other major disappointment in Alabama is the lack of statewide preemption law. This means that municipalities and cities can enact their own regulatory laws governing the carry or ownership of knives that you and anyone else visiting will have to abide by.
This can become particularly onerous for people who travel regularly for work or play, as a pocket knife you carry faithfully day-in-and-day-out could be illegal in certain places, and you could potentially pay the piper if you get caught. Montgomery is one city as a “for instance” that has a restriction on blade length for all knives.
Concealed Carry, No Permit
The concealed carry of knives is completely legal in Alabama so long as you are not carrying a Bowie knife or any knife of like kind such as a machete. How does Alabama define a Bowie knife? Well, as it turns out they really don’t, at least not in the state statutes.
Typically, when a word is not defined by a state’s legal statutes it is assumed to have the common meaning or definition. Looking up the definition for a Bowie knife is not much help, as everybody seems to have their own definition and specific characteristics when it is time to define one.
Generally speaking, a proper Bowie is almost always a large fixed blade knife with a full cross guard and a lengthy blade, typically measuring 8 inches in length or longer, and sporting a pronounced clip point.
What knife qualifies as a knife of “like kind” is almost entirely up to the prosecutor handling the case to assert, so do take care if you are carrying any large and impressive fixed blade knife.
Concealed Carry, With Permit
There are no additional provisions against concealed carry of any particular kind of knife beyond what is set out in the section above. Do be cautious if carrying any Bowie-like knife.
You can open carry pretty much any kind of knife in Alabama, including Bowie knives.
As might be anticipated you cannot carry a knife, very especially a Bowie knife, or any other kind of weapon on school property.
If you can forgive the lack of statewide preemption and the states weird and antiquated hangup on Bowie-style knives, you will find that Alabama is definitely a knife permissive and carry-friendly state.
You might have to stay aware of the occasional curveball when it comes to local laws, but assuming you are hell-bent on carrying a giant fighting knife concealed you should find little to complain about in the state.
Important Alabama State Statutes
You don’t have to just take my word for it on the state laws. Below you will find a selection of the most relevant Alabama knife statutes, including ones that forbid the Bowie knife specifically by name.
As always, ignorance of the law is no excuse and you should take it upon yourself to read them, study them and understand them before choosing to carry any knife in the state.
Section 26 – Right to Bear Arms:
(a) that every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state. Any restriction on this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny. (b) No citizen shall be compelled by any international treaty or international law to take an action that prohibits, limits, or otherwise interferes with his or her fundamental right to keep and bear arms in defense of himself or herself and the state, if such treaty or law, or its adoption, violates the United States Constitution.
Section 13A-11-50 – Carrying concealed weapons
Except as otherwise provided in this Code, a person who carries concealed about his person a bowie knife or knife or instrument of like kind or description or a pistol or firearm of any other kind or an air gun shall, on conviction, be fined not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00, and may also be imprisoned in the county jail or sentenced to hard labor for the county for not more than six months.
Section 13A-11-57 – Selling, , pistol or bowie knife to minor
(a) Any person who sells, gives or lends to any minor any pistol , except under the circumstances provided in Section 13A-11-72, bowie knife, or other knife of like kind or description, shall, on conviction, be fined not less than fifty dollars ($50) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500).
(b) This section does not apply to a transfer by inheritance of title to, but not possession of, a pistol, bowie knife, or other knife of like kind or description to a minor.
Section 13A-11-72 – Certain persons forbidden to possess pistol
(c) Subject to the exceptions provided by Section 13A-11-74, no person shall knowingly with intent to do bodily harm carry or possess a deadly weapon on the premises of a public school.
(d) Possession of a deadly weapon with the intent to do bodily harm on the premises of a public school in violation of subsection (c) of this section is a Class C felony.
(g) The term “public school” as used in this section applies only to a school composed of grades K-12 and shall include a school bus used for grades K-12.
(h) The term “deadly weapon” as used in this section means a firearm or anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purposes of inflicting death or serious physical injury, and such term includes, but is not limited to, a bazooka, hand grenade, missile, or explosive or incendiary device; a pistol, rifle, or shotgun; or a switch-blade knife, gravity knife, stiletto, sword, or dagger; or any club, baton, billy, black-jack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles.