What makes a knife legal

Gun Law

The legal situation in Germany

The legal situation naturally plays a decisive role when buying a knife. In principle, all items we sell within Germany are permitted under the German Weapons Act. Buying, selling and owning all of the knives we sell here is definitely legal. The use of fixed knives with a blade length of over 12 centimeters, cutting and thrusting weapons and knives that can be locked with one hand is regulated by law in the Weapons Act. Transport in a closed container is not classified as guiding.

The paragraph § 42a WaffG

Within the Weapons Act, Section 42a explains the ban on carrying fake weapons and certain portable objects in Germany:

  1. It is forbidden
    1. Apparent weapons,
    2. Cutting and thrust weapons in accordance with Appendix 1, Section 1, Subsection 2, No. 1.1 or
    3. To use knives with blades that can be locked with one hand (one-hand knives) or fixed knives with a blade length of over 12 cm.
  2. Paragraph 1 does not apply
    1. for use in photo, film or television recordings or theater performances,
    2. for transport in a closed container,
    3. for carrying the objects according to paragraph 1 nos. 2 and 3, provided there is a legitimate interest. Further regulations remain unaffected.
  3. A legitimate interest according to Paragraph 2 No. 3 exists in particular if the objects are carried in connection with the exercise of the profession, the maintenance of customs, sport or a generally recognized purpose.

"One-hand lockable" knives are knives that have a one-handed opening device and a blade lock. If a knife has only one of these characteristics, it is not affected by § 42a.

"Cut and thrust weapons" are objects whose purpose is to use them as weapons, as is the case with double-edged daggers or bayonets, for example. The mere suitability of an object does not make it a weapon. For example, a kitchen knife can of course also be used as a weapon, but the intended use is decisive for the classification as a commodity, which is why a kitchen knife is not classified as a weapon.

For all these objects (fixed knives with a blade length of over 12 centimeters, knives that can be locked with one hand, and cutting or thrusting weapons) the legislature only allows them to be carried if there is a legitimate interest. This legitimate interest is defined as leading "in connection with sport, the practice of traditional customs or a generally recognized purpose".

The generally recognized purpose

The so-called "generally recognized purpose" is not specified here. At this point we would like to expressly point out that the legislature does not speak of an "officially recognized" or "legally recognized" purpose. The phrase "generally recognized purpose" suggests that this refers to the common sense of the people or common sense, according to which the use of a pocket knife, for example, is common and appropriate in various situations. The legislature does not recognize self-defense as such a purpose.

Since this definition is very broad and vague, it cannot be ruled out that, for example, a controlling officer may propose a different, more restrictive interpretation. However, the legislature has now included this "generally recognized purpose" in the law. Therefore, general statements such as "one-hand knives are generally prohibited" or "using one-hand knives is generally prohibited" are clearly wrong.

If you want to avoid a dispute about this definition or its scope, you can remove the opening aid from a one-hand knife as far as technically possible. In our opinion, if the knife in question can no longer be opened with one hand, it no longer falls under the restriction of Section 42a. Many of our knives are therefore already supplied with the appropriate tool to remove the thumb pin, at least temporarily.

As a responsible citizen, you can decide for yourself how you want to use your knife. Of course, the dismantling of the thumb button has the slightly bland aftertaste of anticipatory obedience, which is due to the inaccuracy of the law. Carrying the knives in question should be legal under the defined circumstances according to the legal text.

Gun prohibition zones

An amendment to the Weapons Act (3rd WaffRÄndG) passed by the Federal Council in December 2019 was published in the Federal Law Gazette on February 19, 2020 and came into force one day later. The relevant provisions for carrying knives are contained in the newly inserted paragraph 6 of Section 42 WaffG:

  1. The state governments are authorized to provide by ordinance that the carrying of weapons within the meaning of Section 1 (2) or of knives with fixed or lockable blades with a blade length of more than four centimeters can be prohibited or restricted in the following places if facts justify the assumption, that the prohibition or restriction is necessary to avert threats to public safety:
    1. on certain public streets, paths or places where crowds of people may occur,
    2. in or on certain buildings or areas with public traffic, in or on which crowds of people can occur and which are subject to house rules, in particular in public transport facilities, in shopping centers and in event locations,
    3. in certain youth and educational institutions as well
    4. on certain public roads, paths or places that border on the places or facilities mentioned in numbers 2 and 3.
  2. The statutory ordinance pursuant to sentence 1 shall provide for an exception to the prohibition or restriction for cases in which there is a legitimate interest in carrying the weapon or knife. In particular, there is a legitimate interest
    1. Holders of weapons law permits,
    2. Residents, neighbors and delivery traffic,
    3. Tradespeople and their employees or those commissioned by tradespeople who run Messer in connection with their professional activities,
    4.Persons who use knives in connection with the cultivation of customs or the practice of sport,
    5. People who transport a weapon or knife from one place to another in such a way that they are not accessible, and
    6. Persons who, with the consent of another, carry a weapon or knife in the domiciliary rights area according to sentence 1 number 2, if the carrying serves the purpose of staying in the domiciliary authority area or is related to it.

    The state governments can transfer their powers according to sentence 1 in conjunction with sentence 2 to the competent highest state authority by ordinance; the latter can transfer the authority further by means of an ordinance.

Even before the amendment to the law, the federal states were able to set up gun prohibition zones in proven criminal areas, in which the use of any kind of knives is prohibited. A general gun ban has been in effect in the Hamburg Reeperbahn area since December 2007.

The new regulation enables the creation of additional weapon prohibition zones wherever many people come together. The authorities do not need to prove that criminal offenses involving the use of weapons have been committed repeatedly in these locations. The use of knives is not generally prohibited in these weapon prohibition zones, but is subject to restrictions that tighten the provisions of Section 42a. Section 42 (6) cited above explicitly states that knives "with a fixed or lockable blade with a blade length of more than four centimeters" are prohibited in such areas. As a reminder: outside of weapon prohibition zones, the use of fixed knives with a blade length of up to 12 centimeters is permitted. In addition, Section 42a does not make any statement about the maximum blade length of folding knives with a lockable blade.

Pocket knives without a blade lock are not affected by the change in the law. That means: Slipjoint and friction folders with any blade length may be carried outside and inside weapon prohibition zones. In addition, the legislature has formulated a number of exceptions if there is a "legitimate interest" in using a knife. To avoid misunderstandings: The exception regulations do not mean that in such cases any knife may legally be used in a weapon prohibition zone. Of course, the provisions of § 42a still apply!

As can be read in the cited section 42 (6), the text of the law lists six exceptional cases in which there is a "legitimate interest". It should be particularly emphasized that holders of a gun license (WS, WBK or KWS) are allowed to use a § 42a-compliant knife in a gun ban zone without further justification. The fact that residents, residents and delivery traffic as well as tradespeople fall under the exemptions should offer all those people sufficient legal certainty who live in or use a gun ban zone or who need a knife for their work. The exceptions in the context of traditional customs - the famous Jagdnicker in lederhosen! - and the practice of sport are already known from § 42a. Even the admission that a knife is "not ready to be transported from one place to another" is reminiscent of the permitted "transport in a closed container" from § 42a. Under which circumstances a knife is considered "not accessible" remains open.

The legal situation in other countries

In other countries in Europe and around the world, of course, different legal framework conditions apply. For deliveries to customers outside Germany, further country-specific restrictions or prohibitions for certain articles may apply. The customer is responsible for ensuring that the import and possession of the items he has ordered do not violate the legal provisions of his home country. Unfortunately, we cannot all know, explain and interpret the multitude of different laws in the various countries.

Legal advice

We would also like to point out that this summary is for non-binding information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice in the strict sense of the word. Individual and binding legal advice that addresses your specific situation cannot and should not replace it. All information provided is therefore without guarantee of correctness and completeness.