Why Are Butterfly Knives Illegal And Where?

are butterfly knives illegal

Ever wondered why are butterfly knives illegal? If you haven’t known the reason yet, then this is the right time to be acquainted with the knife laws so that you don’t end up in trouble later. Butterfly knives, otherwise called Balisongs or Batangas knives are folding & portable pocket knives, which are known to have originated from the Philippines.


When a butterfly knife is closed, the blades are fully concealed. It has two handles, which counter-rotates around the tang. When closed, the blade stays hidden inside the handle groove. Due to these factors, a butterfly knife is practically as strong as a fixed blade knife.


In 1710, Butterfly knives were mentioned in a French book named “Le Perret.” It described these tools as utility knives in the 1500s. Commonly called “Balisong” in the Philippines, the term is known to have originated from Tagalog words called “baling sungay” (meaning – broken horn). In olden days, balisongs were carved out of animal horns.

Why Are Butterfly Knives Illegal?

Butterfly knives have been a potential weapon to threaten someone. It’s intimidating nature and rapid deployment are two primary reasons they are illegal for use in various countries. The knife’s dangerous qualities have made them banned or illegal in different Western nations, even including a few regions in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Germany, and Australia.

Note: It is a criminal offense to send balisongs or butterfly knives via USPS (United States Postal Service). You will be surprised to read that a popular knife manufacturer Spyderco, pleaded for mercy in the United States Federal court for sending these knives through the mail between June 2005 & January 2007. The corporation was asked to pay a fine of $75,000.

Where Are Butterfly Knives Illegal?

It is illegal to use butterfly knives in public spots of the following places:

why are butterfly knives illegal

1. United Kingdom

The government of UK has lawfully classified them as offensive weapons since January 1989. Though it is officially permitted to possess a Butterfly knife in the United Kingdom, carrying it in a public place is a big offense. This is clearly stated under the UK’s 1953 Prevention of Crime Act.

According to the United Kingdom’s Criminal Justice Act of 1988, lending, importing, hiring, giving, or selling butterfly knives in the UK is a crime. The authorities have complete rights to seize a butterfly knife that is being imported and can follow it with a prosecution. However, the case is an exception if the particular knife ages more than 100 years because it comes under the classification of antiques.

2. Switzerland

Like the United Kingdom, and other Western countries, even Switzerland prohibits the use of balisongs or butterfly knives. You cannot lend, carry, trade, buy, or give when you are here.

3. Germany

During July 2003, the Germany’s Weapons Law (Waffengesetz) was tightened after the consequences of Erfurt massacre. It was only then that these knives were made illegal. So, whenever you are in Germany, it is against the law to buy, lend, possess, carry, use, alter, trade, or craft the Balisong knives.

If you violate the rules, the knife will be confiscated with a penalty of €10,000. Besides all this, you will be put into jail for 1-10 years.

4. Australia

Often classified as a proscribed weapon, you need a special lawful excuse if you want to possess a butterfly knife in Australia. According to the Australian law, flick knives or anything that has blades that automatically opens via gravity, pressure, button, device, or a centrifugal force is illegal to use.

5. Philippines

Due to its prevalent use in crimes and altercations, it is illegitimate to carry Butterfly knives without an appropriate permit or identification in the Manila streets. Whether you want to prepare meats & fruits, wish to cut grass, a knife vendor, or a professional martial arts trainer, you still have to demonstrate the necessity to carry these knives. According to the Philippine rules, any pocket knife is considered as a utility knife (not a weapon), if:

  • The blades don’t exceed the length of a palm.
  • The knife can be opened with one hand.

The good news is that a Swiss Army knife is legal to use in the Philippines.

6. United States

It is against the law to possess or carry a Butterfly knife (in the public) in various states of United States. They are classified as “dagger,” “switchblade,” or “gravity knife”, in the following jurisdictions:

  • California: Any knife is illegitimate to carry or bear if its blade is more than 2 inches in length. However, an automatic knife is legal to possess if you keep it in your home.
  • Hawaii: Balisong knife or Butterfly knife is illegal to sell, possess, transport, manufacture, or transfer in Hawaii. The violation is punishable for at least 3-5 years in prison.
  • New York: In this city, Balisong knife is not considered a “gravity knife”.
  • Kansas: In Kansas, a “Gravity knife” has legal restrictions too.
  • Utah: Balisongs or Butterfly knives are legal as long as they aren’t covered or concealed.
  • Oregon: Butterfly knives are illicit to carry in “concealed state” in Oregon.
  • Wisconsin: This state has made Balisongs legal even if they are concealed but only inside your property and not outside the property.
  • Texas: Under the Chapter 46 penal code of Texas, a Balisong knife is considered as a “switchblade.” Hence, are illegal to intentionally or knowingly possess, sell, transport, repair, and manufacture switchblades within the Texas state. It is illegal.

7. Canada

Butterfly knives are prohibited in Canada as well. The courts have categorized them under the classification of “gravity knife” and therefore are illegal to use unless exempted before prohibition.

Why Are There Laws For Butterfly Knives?

For some reasons, there has always been a stigma on butterfly knives. This makes many of us ponder as to what has made a few states to outlaw this knife entirely?  Unhappily, the answer isn’t easy or straightforward. According to a few studies, it seems to be an apotheosis of different things, which has made this splendid knife to be treated negatively.

Primarily, there is a stigma that butterfly knives are synonymous to crime. Well, from 1981 to 1984, butterfly knives were imported in thousands all over the United States. The manufacturers shipped from Japan, Philippines, Korea, and China.  Sadly, with the sudden arrival of knives, crimes related to knives rose drastically in those times, and in order to control the knife-based crimes, many states outlawed the used of these knives, hoping to stop the tide.

Luckily, when they were banned, its use in misdeeds also dropped off. This made lawmakers firm in their decision that they cannot be used further, as they perceived these knives to be nothing more than a criminal weapon. It might seem a little ridiculous, but Hollywood is also responsible for keeping this stigma in limelight.

Frequently, balisong or butterfly knives are utilized for cruel reasons in movies.  For example, the Hit-Girl in the movie Kick-ass.  She’s a vigilante who uses this knife in extremely violent ways.  So, the way these knives have been portrayed in the films is well known. They are depicted in either the hands of gangsters or muggers, cementing the thought that they are used only for crime, which of course, is wrong.

Last but not the least, the idea that this knife poses a danger to the user using it is completely wrong too.  During the years 1981 to 1984, when these knives entered the United States, many people were visiting the emergency room.  After some investigations, the authorities found that this was due to knife injuries but all were self-inflicted.

This happened because these knives were new in the market and people were trying to learn to flip them for recreation.  During this learning curve, users were cutting themselves.  The authorities concluded that the sole way to prevent this is by forbidding these knives.  Even today, people flip and cut themselves while using these knives. But, with the fear of getting into trouble, they stay home and never meet the doctor.

The laws on butterfly knives are miss-informed and outdated for some reasons.  Nevertheless, they are laws and cannot be broken until the universal populace shows that these are not that dangerous, as they seem to be.

Check this Wikipedia page to know about the butterfly knife law in your area. It has good information regarding what is legal, how, and where.

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