You could look for hours through the statutes of different states without finding much mention of samurai swords. That's because these ancient curved weapons of Japanese warriors are lumped into the general category of knives. Each state has its own laws on the legality of possession, carrying and concealed carrying of knives.
What Are Samurai Swords?
Samurai swords have curving, razor-sharp metal blades between three and five feet long. These swords, sometimes called kananas, were originally created for samurai warriors in Japan and are considered one of the most efficient cutting knives ever made. Only a few of the original samurai weapons still survive and these are protected in museums or private collections.
Today, you can find replicas of samurai swords available for purchase. They do not come close to matching the quality of the original swords, but they can still inflict cuts and even kill. Because criminals used these swords in violent crimes, England and Wales made it illegal to buy or sell them in those countries.
Are Samurai Swords Illegal in the U.S.?
The federal government leaves regulation of knives and swords to the states, and the laws differ. Very few, if any, states laws mention samurai swords by name, but almost every state regulates the types of knives you can buy, own, carry and open carry. California law is typical. In California, certain kinds of knives are completely illegal, and you cannot own, buy or carry them. These include switchblades and butterfly knives, among others. It is legal to own almost every other kind of knife and sword, but rules restrict what you can carry. You can only carry in your pocket, purse or briefcase knives with blades three inches or less that fold up. If a knife blade locks into the open position, it is considered a dagger or dirk. While state law allows you to open carry these weapons on your belt, some cities, like Los Angeles, forbid open carry of long blades.
Other Restrictions on Open Carry
Many states follow the California model. Texas used to make it illegal to carry a long knife or sword with a blade longer than 5.5 inches, but in 2017, the legislature changed the law to allow open carry if you are over 18 or supervised by an adult. However, there are significant restrictions as to where you can go if you open carry under this law. You cannot take a blade over 5.5 inches to:
- most bars and restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages
- amusement parks
- churches and synagogues
- polling places
Breaking this law is a crime, and you can be charged with a third-degree felony in Texas.
Very few state laws mention samurai swords by name, but most regulate knives longer than a few inches. Some states allow open carry of longer knives and swords, but others do not, and some city laws impact your sword-carrying rights as well.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.