Carrying a knife is the most normal thing in the world for many people. Everybody knows the local knife law but carrying your favored knife abroad can get you in serious trouble. Many visitors and exhibitors flying in for anual IWA Outdoor Classics in Nuremberg, carrying illegal knives or banned tactical gear.
This article about German knife law will help not to clip the wrong knives at your belt when travelling to Germany.
(Hier klicken für deutsche Version)
To prevent travelers from walking straight into the trap, Knife-Blog.com provides brief notes on knife laws in European Countries. Knife laws may be significantly different between European countries as they differ from state to state in the United States.
Knives you buy legally in a French tobacco shop at a railway station can bring you behind bars in Germany, Belgium or the Netherlands. Also keep in mind, that many of the knives legally sold in German shops are illegal to carry in the public (ref section „Legal carry“). This article addresses knife people visiting Germany for business or vacation.
The German gun and knife laws have been amended in 2003. Tightening the laws was a political motivated reaction to an amok run of a highschool student who gunned down seventeen people. Although knife attacks haven’t been an issue at all, knife laws were also extremely tightened. The new law has left us knife people worse off, since some knife types are banned completely while others are restricted in size or blade length.
German Knife Law
German weapon laws are extremely complex and almost not understandable for non-lawyers. Regarding the knives I’ll keep things as simple as possible ignoring some minor details. Target is to provide all necessary information you do not violate the law when bringing knives to Germany.
German language knows no equivalent term for switchblades. Most knife types, such as flippers or semi-automatics, are subjected to individual regulations which creates some additional complication to the large number of rules.
The general frame of Germanys knife law defines three groups:
- Knives types that are completely banned
- Knives that can be legally owned but not carried in the public
- Knives than can be legally owned and carried in the public
German knife law: Banned knife types
Any kind of Balisong and OTF’s are strictly banned. Never bring one of those to Germany without an official permit, not even a press sample in a locked box. The possession of Butterfly knives and OTF’s is a penal offence, that can be penalized with up to one year in prison or financial penalty. Automatic knives, that eject the blade sideways, are banned if the blade length exceeds 8.5 cm or if the blade consists of more than one sharp edge.
A person is also guilty of criminal possession of a weapon when he or she possesses any firearm, electronic stun gun (Taser), gravity knife, pilum ballistic knife, metal knuckle knife, cane sword, plastic knuckles, metal knuckles, chuka stick, tear gas cartridge, sand bag, sandclub, wrist-brace type slingshot or slungshot, shirken or any type of edged fighting equipment i.e. “Kung Fu stars”.
All non-knife items with a concealed blade or spike are strictly banned! This includes even small blades in belt buckles, dog tags, credit card knives etc.
Are large number of knife types can be legally owned, produced and imported to Germany but you are not allowed to carry them in public. German law makes no difference between carrying a knife concealed or visible.
Banned knife type – Balisong
Balisong are strictly banned, you are not allowed to import, buy oder carry these knives!
Warning: Carring Balisong is a criminal offence, butterflies might get you in serious trouble!
Banned knife type – Stiletto
Switchblades, ejecting a blade to the side by force of a spring are illegal, if the blade exceeds a length of 85 millimeters. Below this margin, they can be legally owned but it is forbidden (criminal offence) to carry them in public areas.
Banned knife type – Cane Sticks
Carrying cane sticks containing a blade in public areas is forbidden, but you can own them legally.
Banned knife type – Belt buckle knives and hidden blades
Do not carry items that contain a hidden blade, such as belt knives.
Dog Tag Knives and credit card knives are not clearly defined in German knife laws, so it’s up to the whim of the police officer to trouble you or not.
Banned knife type – OTF
Knives ejecting a blade out the front (OTF) are strictly banned, you are not allowed to import, buy oder carry these knives!
Warning: carring an OTF is a criminal offence and might get you in serious trouble!
Banned knife type – Push dagger
Push dagger are strictly banned, you are not allowed to import, buy oder carry these knives!
Warning: Carring a push dagger is a criminal offence, these tools might get you in serious trouble!
Legal Possession – Illegal carry
Knife types that can be legally owned but are prohibited to be carried in the public:
- Karambit knives of any size
- Automatic knives with a blade length up to 8.5 cm (3.34 in.) and one sharp edge
- Semi-automatic knives with blade lock of any size
- Any folder with a blade lock mechanism which can be opened with one hand
- Fixed blades with blade length over 12 cm (4.72 in.).
- Fixed blades with more than one sharp edge of any size (incl. kitchen knives!)
- Dagger, swords and axes of any size
All knives listed above can be legally transported in a locked box or stowed in a locked suitcase or attaché case. The knife owner is responsible that neither he nor any other person has instant access to the knives.
Prohibited knives and weapons found in a car will be presumed to be owned by the driver unless it is found on one of the occupants. If the vehicle is one for hire, such as a cab, then the weapon is not presumed to be possessed by the hired driver.
German knife laws: Legal carry
Knives that can be legally possessed and carried
- Fixed blades with blade length under 12 cm (4.72 in.) can be carried visible or concealed. The measurement is taken from the tip to the most forward parts of the scales, the length of the sharp edge is not important.
- Folding knives that can be opened with one hand and do not lock the blade.
- Folding knives that ca be opened with two hands only and lock the blade.
German Knife law provides some funny details. It is illegal to carry a 5 inch kitchen knife but you can legally carry any bad-ass fighting knife as long as the blade length does not exceed the 12 cm (4.72 in.) limit (except Karambits!).
There is no restriction on the blade length for most folding knives. You can legally carry folder of any size if they cannot be opened with one hand AND lock the blade.
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