On September 1, 2017, Texans over the age of 18 will be allowed to carry knives, spears, sabers, machetes, and swords. H.B. 1935 (Texas Knife Law Reform Bill) eliminates ownership and restrictions on knives with blades longer than five and one-half inches long, including daggers, double-edged knives, swords, dirks, poniards, dirks, stilettos, and Bowie knives.
If you’ve never heard of these types of knives, you’re not alone. Knife Rights, a national knife advocacy group, said that the bill was 95 percent intact when Governor Abbott signed it. Advocates promised to continue fighting until all “minor restrictions” concerning knives are cleared in Texas.
Knife activists were passionate about the bill because they believe that Texans were inappropriately considered as “criminals” for carrying blades and knives. The law moves from illegal knives to location-restricted knives.
H.B. 1935 and Location-Restricted Knives
The new law will allow Texans to carry knives anywhere in the state, with certain notable restrictions. The owner must not carry these knives in schools, airports, places of worship, sporting events, government buildings, colleges, amusement parks, correctional facilities, hospitals, polling places, or bars that make at least 51 percent of income from the sales of alcohol.
The law restricts minors under age 18 won’t be able to openly possess a knife longer than 5-1/2 inches unless he or she is at home, in a car or watercraft, or he or she is being supervised by a parent/guardian.
The states of Oklahoma and Montana also passed legislation regarding the open carry of knives and swords.
Open Carry as a “Cultural Shift”
H.B. 1935 is seen as a cultural shift by many law enforcement professionals. Texas police say they don’t predict most Texans will carry a machete or sword when the new law takes effect on September 1st. They believe most Texans will view the law as a similar transition from concealed carry to open carry gun laws. Fewer Texans took advantage of the new law to openly carry firearms than some news outlets predicted.
Police also say that, if an increase in crime occurs, H.B. 1935 won’t prevent prosecutors from punishing those who commit knife violence. Police encourage the public to report any criminal use of knives and weapons in general.
University of Texas Campus Stabbing
The bill was signed approximately one and a half months after a 21-year-old male student stabbed and killed one person and wounded three others with a hunting knife (referred to as a Bowie knife) on the UT-Austin campus. The stabbing caused legislators to delay the debate on the bill.
The defendant told reporters he carried the knife “for protection” in lieu of a handgun on campus. A new state law allows students to carry a concealed firearm on a college campus.
As a result, Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) worked to clarify that location-restricted knives would be illegal on college and university campuses. Her district includes the University of Texas-Austin. Rep. John Frullo (R-Lubbock), the bill’s author, countered that knife blades greater than 5-1/2 inches long would be illegal for on-campus carry.
Texas’ Current Open Carry and Knife Laws
According to the Lone Star Gun Rights group, the current law in effect until September 1, 2017, prohibits any knife with a blade length of greater than 5-1/2 inches. Under Texas Penal Code Chapter 46 Title 10 (“Weapons”), the term illegal knife refers to a knife with a blade longer than 5-1/2 inches and/or a “hand instrument designed to cut and stab another.”
The law specifically refers to daggers, dirks, stilettos, poniards, Bowie knives, swords, switchblade knives, and spears as illegal knives. In other words, it is illegal to openly carry these knives under current law.
- Under Tex. Penal Code § 46.01 (2012), it’s legal to own these knives, along with throwing stars (and any other type of throwing knife), swords, spears, switchblade knives, pocket knives, and Balisongs (butterfly knives).
- Under Tex. Penal Code § 46.02 (2012), it’s illegal to “intentionally,” “knowingly,” or “recklessly” carry an illegal knife (or handgun or club) if the individual isn’t on his or her own premises or on premises that are under his or her control, or inside (or directly traveling to) a motor vehicle/watercraft owned by him or her or under his or her control.
- If convicted of an offense under § 46.02 (c), the offender faces a Class A misdemeanor and a maximum one-year jail sentence in county jail and/or a maximum $4,000 fine. If the offense occurs on a premises licensed or permitted by the state of Texas for the sales of alcoholic beverages, the offender faces a third-degree felony charge, or a minimum two to a maximum 10-year prison term and a maximum $10,000 fine.
Transition from Current Weapons Laws to H.B. 1935
Article 1, Section 23 of the Texas State Constitution specifically recognizes the individual’s right to possess and bear arms but simultaneously empowers the legislature to regulate these to reduce crime.
The current law doesn’t really consider concealment as a major issue. However, the law says it’s an offense to carry illegal knives, regardless of their length:
- An individual commits an offense if he or she “intentionally,” “recklessly,” or “knowingly” carries on his or her body an “illegal knife” or “club” if he or she isn’t:
- On his or her own premises (or premises under his or her control) or
- Inside of (or “directly en route”) to a vehicle/watercraft owned by him or her, or under his or her control
Section 46.02 (Unlawful Carrying Weapons) defines illegal knife as any knife with a 5-1/2 inch blade or longer, or: 1) a dagger (including, but not limited to poniards, dirks, and stilettos), 2) Bowie knives, 3) sword, or 4) spear.
The current law in Texas provides that an illegal knife is illegal to carry. Because the statutory definition is vague (and antiquated knife terms like dirk, dagger, poniard, and stiletto are used), carrying any of these knives, regardless of blade length, is currently against the law.
Although the statute offers an objective standard—a knife with a blade longer than five and one-half inches is illegal to carry—the new legislation effective on September 1st, 2017 removes illegal knife and replaces it with location-restricted knife. The new law clearly defines the location-restricted knife as a knife with a blade over 5-1/2 inches. Current vague definitions will be removed from the statute.
If You Have Been Charged with a Weapons Crime in Houston, TX
Texans enjoy freedom in all its forms but, as you can see, the law is sometimes complex and imprecise where weapons are concerned. If you have been charged with owning or carrying an illegal knife, or if you have been accused of a crime involving a weapon, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Matthew Sharp has the criminal justice experience you need. Contact The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp to arrange an initial case evaluation now.