When can you carry a knife - The Loose Cannon

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I have a confession to make, like many shooter’s, I collect knives.  Not to look at, but to use. 

Every time I see one that takes my fancy I tend to acquire it, consequently, out kitchen has an entire draw full of a different types of kitchen knives, featuring about three examples of each type, of different brands, my hunting gear box is similarly equipped with a large variety of hunting knives, and I also have a great assortment of pen knives and lock knives, multi-function knives such as Swiss army knives and Leatherman tools.

Above my desk as I type, is a pen holder containing a Gerber ‘Trout and Bird’, it’s fine blade makes for an excellent letter opener.

To me the ‘Nannyfication’ of Australia’s knife laws is a major irritation.  I understand that knifings have become a problem in the community, but I cannot understand why the general population should have to suffer. To my generation, if a fight occurred, one would never pull a knife.  Such an unsporting and despicable act, would not be the done thing, and would immediately mark one as a cad, and such a person would then become a social outcast. 

The law across Australia broadly parallels the law in NSW, which provides as follows:

s11C provides "a person must not, without reasonable excuse (proof of which lies on the person), have in his or her custody a knife in a public place or a school." A 'knife' includes a knife blade, a razor blade and any other blade.

     Summary of Offences Act 1988.

Queensland legislation is the only legislation that permits a Swiss Army Knife or Pen Knife for general utility use.  The Queensland law is broadly consistent with that of the United Kingdom, where non-locking utility type pen knives with a blade under three inches may be carried for this purpose.

To me, the British or Queensland approach is more logical, as this type of knife is hardly suitable for fighting, and there is nothing in any legislation that is going to stop a person with murder on their mind from carrying whatever weapon suits their purpose.

Having said that, the British or Queensland approach in this instance is inconsistent with the Nanny / Police state ‘ban it’ ethos so common in Australia.

Enforcement of knife laws is very much at the discretion of the local Police command.

I live in a regional centre, and the laws in Country areas tend to be more practically applied, with some country Police Districts turning a blind eye to the carriage of this type of utility knife unless the knife is carried by someone who they do not think should carry a knife, or unless one does something to illegal or look as though one might.    

This contrasts with the position in cities, where a ‘zero tolerance policy’ on any sort of blade may be taken as a given.

While I cannot recommend that one break the law, if you do choose to take advantage of the more tolerant attitude adopted by Police in some areas, you do so at your own risk, and I would nevertheless strongly counsel against carrying even a pen knife onto licensed premises, in a Court House, or School grounds or while intoxicated. 

I would also counsel against carrying a knife in a manner where it is concealed, so if you are wearing a pen knife keep it in a pouch on your belt where it can be seen.

One should note that where it applies, this more tolerant approach applies only to pen knives or multi-function knives that are not really suitable for fighting, and not to larger lock knives or sheath knives that clearly are.

Even if one resides in an area where the law is applied strictly, a tradesman is not going to have any difficulty demonstrating a reasonable need for a multi-function tool.  Nor would a person shopkeeper or storeman, as they could clearly justify carrying a small knife for opening stock packaging and a Sikh, who carries a Kirpan for religious reasons could do so. 

I have handled a matter, where a devotee of Wicca, a form of witchcraft, had a legitimate reason to possess an Athame, a ceremonial knife.

Bushwalkers, fishermen, hunters and campers would appear to have legitimate reasons to carry knives. 

Note also that the onus is on you to justify your reason for carrying a knife and that in order to do so the knife needs to be consistent with the purpose. For example, an electrician is hardly likely to need to carry a knife like to Crocodile Dundee’s large bladed Bowie.

As self-defence is not a reason for carrying a knife, and I would be particularly careful about carrying a knife that has a ‘Tactical’ look or name, or one that has assisted opening, or that would fail the ‘drop test’ or be able to be opened with one hand unless you are involved in an activity that legitimately calls for a knife that can be opened with one hand. 

Thus, if you have a knife that has a blade that will deploy at the flick of the wrist, I strongly suggest that you have the bolsters tightened so that this does not occur.

My comments about carrying the knife on licensed premises on school grounds or into Court Houses also apply to Trades people and those with a demonstrable need to carry a blade, unless they are there for work, and need to use the tool on the premises.

If you have just purchased a knife, I suggest it be carried in the wrapping with the shop receipt, so that if you are stopped, you can demonstrate that it has just been acquired and you are taking it home.

Even if a legitimate reason is held, for example you are going on a hunting trip, I would never put a sheath knife on my belt until I was about to commence my hunt.  I would also remove it from my belt at the end of the hunt and I would take care to remove it from my vehicle at the end of the hunt.

Sadly, I have noticed that many Scots, when wearing a kilt, have ceased to wear what a Scotsman traditionally wears under his kilt- the Skien Dhu, the little black handled short bladed knife that a highlander wears in his sock.  This type of politically correct cultural erosion is sad to see, because a Scot, while wearing the full Highland regalia, would appear to have a reasonable excuse to wear the wee knife.

Note that there are a range of knives that are prohibited under the NSW Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 (Schedule 1) and these include flick knives, ballistic knives, sheath knives where the sheath withdraws into the handle and that can be operated by button, push dagger’s, trench knives, Butterfly knives / Balisong’s and star knives and that there are slight variations between what is prohibited and permitted in various states and territories.

In writing these articles I receive ideas from readers, client’s, from my work, from other writers, editors, line Police, Licensing Sergeant’s, Game Management staff and on occasion Registry staff.  All tips are treated with the strictest confidence.

I need some more inspiration to help keep these articles flowing, and to keep them focussed on what you want to read. 

Please call or email me any suggestions- either now, or in the future.

I have made a small message to the firearms registry regarding their flood affected area. 

Simon Munslow


National Firearms Lawyer
P: (02) 6299 9690
M: 0427 280 962
E: solicitor@bigpond.com
W: firearmslawyer.com.au

Simon Munslow is a lawyer who has a lifelong interest in shooting, having acquired his first firearm at the age of nine, and has had an active interest in firearms law since writing a thesis on the topic over thirty years ago at University.
Simon Munslow practices extensively in Firearms Law matters throughout Australia. 

He is a regular contributor to the Australian Sporting Shooter magazine’s website on Firearms law matters, has published articles on firearms reviews and firearms law, and occasionally is asked to comment in the broader media on firearms matters.


This article is written for general information only and does not constitute advice. 
He can assist you with:

Criminal law & Administrative law and in particular that related to Firearms

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