Iowa Knife Laws [Complete Guide For Legal Rules On Knife Usage]

Iowa State borders the Mississippi River in the Midwestern region of the United States. From iconic bridges and parks to charming climate, Iowa State is an incredible place for tourists and locals.

While a knife is handy within this agricultural-rich State, there is always the possibility of gangsters using them to harm other people. Thus, Iowa has several knife laws that every visitor and resident must follow for safety reasons.

Iowa has friendlier knife legislation than other states in the U.S. The restricted knife types are few, but the consequences of violating the regulations are hefty. This article discusses the Iowa knife laws you should be aware of before having a blade on you.

Relevant Statutes

  • 702.7: Defines dangerous weapons
  • 724.1: Defines offensive weapons
  • 724.4: Carrying weapons
  • 724.4A: Defines weapons-free zones and the enhanced penalties for violation
  • 724.4C: Restricts possession or carrying of dangerous weapons while intoxicated
  • 724.28: Prohibits political subdivisions from creating opposing regulations
  • 724.32: Prohibits weapons in county courthouses

Discussion on Iowa Knife Laws

Legal Knife Types to Own In Iowa

  • Balisong (butterfly) knives
  • Switchblades and automatic knives
  • Dirks, daggers, razors, stilettos, and other stabbing knives
  • Bowie and other large knives
  • Disguised knives such as lipstick, belt, and cane knives

What Is Illegal To Own In Iowa

  • Ballistic knives

Restrictions On Carrying

While most knife types are legal to own in Iowa State, there are restrictions on carrying several blade types around. Depending on the knife’s primary functions, such as those designed for easy stabbing, Iowa defines legality or illegality to open or concealed carry.

The State v. Newsom, 563 N.W.2d 618(1997) case illustrated the importance of open carrying knives. The jury, in this case, reasoned that having a weapon discernible made other people cautious or prepared for self-defense in the presence of a dangerous weapon carrier.

Iowa knife laws make it legal to open carry all the knife types legal to own. And the “open carry” adopts the definition of the Supreme Court in State v. Newsom case, ‘as having the knife discernible from different view angles.’

Section 724.4 outlaws concealed carrying of switchblades, daggers, stilettos, balisongs, disguised knives (such as cane and lipstick knives), and any knife whose blade’s length exceeds 5 inches. Violating this restriction has serious consequences, and they get heftier if done in weapon-restricted areas.

Definition Of Dangerous Weapons

Generally, Iowa State allows gifting, display, buying, and selling all knife types except those restricted by Code 702.7. According to section 702.7, any dagger, razor, switchblade knife, or knife whose blade is longer than five inches is dangerous. Ideally, a dangerous weapon includes any device designed to stab or injure to death quickly.

There is no definition for daggers or other listed blade types in the clause. And, different unnamed blade types automatically become dangerous weapons once their blades exceed five inches in length. Technically, a stiletto or a razor with a blade length of an inch falls under dangerous weapons.

Section 724.1 also prohibits possession of defined offensive weapons such as ballistic knives. You cannot own, sell, or carry around any ballistic knife, either powered or unpowered.


Owning a concealed dangerous weapon contravenes Code 724.4 and makes one liable for punishment. Unless the prosecution presents evidence to prove concealment, the aspect definition falls under the court’s jurisdiction. And in most concealment cases in Iowa courts, the jury defined a concealed weapon as ‘totally indiscernible by the ordinary observation of the carrier.’ For example, the State v. Newsom, 563 N.W.2d 618(1997) case, the Supreme Court decided if the offender had violated concealment law based on the perceptions of people who had met the offender in close range.

Read also: Michigan Knife Laws: A Guide for Knife Carriers!

Typically, the intention of carrying the knife never plays any role in concealment tests. In some cases, open carrying a knife like in a pocket clip qualified as concealed carrying to some extent. For instance, the State v. Newsom case, the jury further clarified that if a knife was indiscernible from one or more vantage points, the concealment test depended on which side an observer approached the offender. Hence, the prosecution had to prove the following elements:

  • The exact date the defendant had carried the weapon
  • The weapon was dangerous as per the legal definition
  • That the defendant concealed the knife on or about their person


There are several exceptions to the concealed carry general restriction captured under subsection 4 of 724.4 as follows:

  • Any person permitted to have a dangerous knife displays a valid permit upon request by a peace officer will be exempted. And their conduct is within the permissible limits according to 724.4(4) (i).
  • 724.4(4)(h) allows individuals whose jobs require sharp knives, such as hunters and anglers, to possess any knife type but under a valid permit.
  • Any individual is allowed to have a dangerous weapon within their place of dwelling or business or on land they own, rented, or possessed, as stated in 724.4(4)(a).
  • Under 724.4(4) (b, c, d, j, and k), peace officers, U.S. Military, Reserves, corrections officers, National Guards, and other law enforcement officers are exempted.

Weapon-Free Zones

Iowa knife laws restrict the carrying of knives and other weapons in:

  • Courtrooms and other areas for judicial functions
  • Public places such as airports, parks, buildings, and transport facilities
  • Private and public schools and neighborhoods within 1000 feet of their compound
  • Any property under other political subdivision weapon regulations as provided under 724.28(4)


While Iowa has among the most lenient knife laws in the U.S, the consequences of violating the set restrictions are high. The punishments are as follows:

  • Having an offensive weapon lands you in jail for up to five years and a fine of between $750 and $7,500 US.
  • Concealed carrying of a dagger, stiletto, razor, switchblade or a knife whose blade exceeds the length of 8 inches is punishable by up to 2 years in jail and a fine of between $625 and $6,250 US.
  • Concealed carrying of knife with a blade length of fewer than 8 inches but more than 5 inches is punishable by one year in jail and a fine between $315 and $1,875 US.
  • Section 724.4A places the punishment to double that of public offense if the violation happens within weapon-free zones.
  • The penalty is $12,500 US if found in possession of a concealed switchblade or knife with a blade 8 inches and above in length.


Iowa State offers fantastic historical monuments, and charming climate, and some of the most lenient knife laws. You can have your blade around as long as it doesn’t fall under dangerous weapons or have a blade length of more than five inches.

Understanding the above Iowa State knife laws lets you know the legal knives to own and keeps you away from the hefty consequences. Generally, there is no limitation on open carrying any knife type.

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