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Is It Legal to Carry a Sword in Public?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Not many Americans walk around carrying swords -- at least, not nearly as many who want to carry guns.

But if you are fantasizing about loitering like a modern-day ronin, you'll want to consider a few legal pointers first.

Are Swords Just Big Knives?

Swords come in many shapes and sizes, but most are considered "bladed weapons" under the law.

And like their shorter cousins -- knives -- swords typically fall under state laws prohibiting the carrying of bladed weapons over a certain length. However, the law can be different depending on whether the blade is sheathed. Here are a few state examples:

  • In California, anything with a fixed blade (like a sword) must be worn in plain view. But sheathed knives worn openly are not considered illegal concealed weapons. However, if you're carrying a cane sword, you can be charged with a misdemeanor.
  • In Texas, illegal knives are described as knives with blades longer than 5.5 inches, along with swords. Still, swords are legal to carry if they are being used in historical demonstrations or ceremonies in which the sword is "significant to the performance of the ceremony."
  • In New York, possession of a cane sword is a misdemeanor, but it can become a felony if it is a sword-carrier's second or third offense.

Federal law has similar prohibitions about carrying bladed weapons in public, although you may be able to pack a sword in your checked luggage if you follow the rules.

Potential Issues With Sword Laws

There are many instances in which carrying a sword would be considered a religious/cultural practice or part of a sport or martial art.

For example, for religious Sikhs, laws preventing the public wearing of a kirpan -- a small sheathed sword -- may be seen as barring a religious and cultural right. According to The Times of India, a January 2014 change in Pentagon policy should now permit Sikh soldiers to wear a kirpan and other articles of faith.

Those who enjoy fencing may wish to carry an épée, sabre, or foil, but even if sheathed, it may be illegal to carry in public on your person. Same goes for any other martial arts weapon that resembles a sword. Depending on your state and local laws, it may be best to store these blades at the recreational location at which you practice.

So while it may be legal in some specific circumstances, carrying a sword in public is typically illegal. If you are facing weapons charges, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

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