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Knife Law


The legal situation in Germany

The legal situation naturally plays a decisive role when buying a knife. All items sold by us within Germany are allowed according to German weapons law. The buying, selling and owning of all knives sold by us here is definitely legal. The carrying of fixed knives with a blade length of more than 12 centimetres, cutting and stabbing weapons as well as knives that can be locked with one hand is, however, legally regulated in the Weapons Act. The transport in a closed container is not classified as carrying.

The paragraph § 42a WaffG

Within the Weapons Act, paragraph 42a explains the prohibition of the carrying of apparent weapons and certain portable objects in Germany:

  1. It is illegal
    1. Apparent weapons,
    2. Slash and strike weapons Annex 1 chapter 1 subparagraph 2 No. 1.1 or
    3. Knives with one-hand lockable blade (one-hand-folder) or fixed blade knives with a blade length over 12 cm.
  2. Annex 1 not applies
    1. for the use to take photo-, shoot films-, or television features theatre performance,
    2. use for the transport in an enclosed space,
    3. for the carrying of the objects (paragraph 1, nos. 2 and 3), provided that a legitimate interest exists. Further regulations remain unaffected.
  3. A legitimate interest (paragraph 2 No. 3) is, when the lead of this objects connected with a professional practice, heritage, sport or a general accepted purpose.

Knives that can be "opened and locked with one hand" are knives that have a device for opening with one hand and a blade lock. If a knife has only one of these features, it is not affected by § 42a.

"Slash and strike weapon" are objects the purpose of which is to be used as a weapon, as is the case, for example, with double-edged daggers or bayonets. A simple 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 its intended purpose is decisive for its classification as an object of use, which is why a kitchen knife is not classified as a weapon.

For all these objects (fixed knives with blade lengths over 12 centimetres, knives that can be locked with one hand and cutting or stabbing weapons), the law only allows them to be carried if there is a justified interest. This legitimate interest is defined as carrying "in connection with sport, the practice of traditional customs or a generally recognised purpose".

The generally recognised purpose

The so-called "generally recognised purpose" is nowhere specified in more detail. At this point we would like to expressly point out that the legislator does not speak of an "officially recognised" or "legally recognised" purpose. The wording "generally recognised purpose" suggests that this refers to the normal sense of the people or common sense according to which the use of a pocket knife, for example, is customary and appropriate in various situations. Self-defence is not recognised by the legislator as such a purpose.

Since this definition is very broad and vague, it cannot be ruled out that a controlling official, for example, might present a different, more restrictive interpretation. However, the legislator has included this "generally recognised purpose" in the law. Therefore, general statements such as "one-hand knives are generally forbidden" or "the use of one-hand knives is generally forbidden" are clearly wrong.

Anyone wishing to avoid a dispute about this definition or its scope can, of course, remove the opening aid from a one-hand knife as far as technically possible. If the knife in question can no longer be opened with one hand, in our opinion it is also no longer subject to the restriction of § 42a. Many of our knives therefore come 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 disassembly of the thumb stud has the slightly bland aftertaste of premature obedience, which is due to the inaccuracy of the law. The carrying of the knives in question should be legal under the circumstances defined in the text of the law.

Weapon Free 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 19 February 2020 and came into force one day later. The provisions relevant to the carrying of knives are contained in the newly inserted paragraph 6 of § 42 WaffG:

  1. The Federal State governments shall be authorised to provide by statutory order that the carrying of weapons as defined in § 1 paragraph 2 or of knives with a fixed or lockable blade with a blade length of more than four centimetres may be prohibited or restricted at the following locations if facts justify the assumption that the prohibition or restriction is necessary to prevent threats to public safety:
    1. on certain public roads, paths or squares where crowds of people may gather
    2. in or on certain buildings or areas with public transport, in or on which gatherings of people may occur and which are subject to domestic law, in particular in public transport facilities, in shopping centres and in venues for events,
    3. in certain youth and educational institutions, and
    4. on certain public roads, paths or squares adjacent to the places or facilities referred to in points 2 and 3.
  2. The statutory instrument referred to in the first sentence shall provide for an exception to the prohibition or restriction in cases where there is a legitimate interest in the carrying of the gun or knife. A legitimate interest exists in particular in the following cases:
    1. holders of a licence to carry weapons
    2. local residents, residents and delivery traffic,
    3. tradesmen and their employees or persons authorised by the tradesmen to handle knives in connection with their work,
    4. persons who carry knives in connection with the cultivation of customs or the practice of sport,
    5. persons who carry a weapon or knife from one place to another in an inaccessible manner; and
    6. persons who carry a weapon or a knife with the consent of another person in the latter's domestic authority in accordance with sentence 1 number 2, if the carrying serves the purpose of the stay in the domestic authority or is connected with it.

    The Federal State Governments may transfer their authority pursuant to sentence 1 in conjunction with sentence 2 by statutory order to the competent supreme Federal State authority; the latter may further transfer the authority by statutory order.

Even before the amendment of the law, the german federal states were able to establish weapons prohibition zones at proven crime hotspots, in which the carrying of any kind of knife is prohibited. For example, a general ban on weapons has been in force in the area of Hamburg's Reeperbahn since December 2007.

The new regulation makes it possible to create additional weapon free zones wherever many people come together. The authorities do not need to prove that repeated offences using weapons have been committed in these places. In these weapon free zones, the carrying of knives is not prohibited in general, but is subject to restrictions that tighten the provisions of § 42a. The above-mentioned § 42 Para. 6 explicitly states that in such areas knives "with a fixed or lockable blade with a blade length of more than four centimetres" are prohibited. As a reminder: Outside weapon free zones, the use of fixed knives with a blade length of up to 12 centimetres is permitted. Furthermore, § 42a does not make any statement about the maximum blade length of pocket knives with a lockable blade.

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

As can be read in the cited Section § 42 (6), the text of the law lists six exceptional cases in which a "legitimate interest" exists. It should be particularly emphasised that holders of a licence under arms law (WS, WBK or KWS) may carry a knife conforming to § 42a in a weapon free zone without further justification. The fact that local residents and delivery traffic as well as tradespeople are covered by the exceptions should offer sufficient legal security to all those persons who live in a weapon free zone or who travel there or who need a knife for the exercise of their profession. The exceptions within the framework of the cultivation of customs and the practice of sport are already known from § 42a. The concession to be allowed to transport a knife "not ready for access from one place to another" is also reminiscent of the permitted "transport in a closed container" from § 42a. The circumstances under which a knife is considered to be "not ready for access" remain open, however.

The legal situation in other countries

Other countries in Europe and the world of course have different legal regulations. For deliveries to customers outside Germany, further country-specific restrictions or prohibitions for certain items may apply. The customer himself is responsible for ensuring that the import and possession of the items ordered by him do not conflict with the laws of his country. Unfortunately, we cannot know, explain and interpret all the different laws of the different countries. For example, you can find useful information on German and international weapons law on the Knife Blog.

Legal advice

We would also like to point out that this summary is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice in the strict sense. An individual and binding legal advice, which deals with your specific situation, cannot and should not replaced. All information provided is therefore without guarantee of correctness and completeness.