Is It Legal to Carry a Knife in Wisconsin?

Knives have been important tools for millions of years. Today, virtually everybody uses a knife on a daily basis to cook or eat food. Many industries in the Milwaukee area require workers to use knives to do their jobs. Knives are also useful for hunting, fishing, camping, creating art and other recreational activities.

But knives can also potentially be weapons. State and federal laws regulate the sale, possession and use of guns in Wisconsin. Is there also a law that limits where and when you can bring a knife?

Concealed knives are mostly okay

Wisconsin judges and lawmakers had a tolerant attitude toward knives and did not introduce any knife-possession regulations until 1959, when a law passed that banned switchblades and, later, butterfly knives. But a more recent statute overturned those bans. The law also largely exempted knives from the language in the concealed carry law prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous weapons.” In other words, most people in Wisconsin can carry any type of knife as a concealed weapon.

The exception you need to know about

There is an important exception to this rule. Someone who is prohibited from carrying a firearm due to a prior felony conviction cannot carry a concealed knife if that knife is a “dangerous weapon.” But the statute does not define what a “dangerous weapon” knife is. It is unclear if someone with a criminal record in Wisconsin is allowed to carry a pocket knife, let alone a kitchen knife.

Courts usually resolve gaps in the law like this one, but it could be a while before an appellate court weighs in on this question. Until then, if you have a felony record, you are taking a chance of getting arrested if you leave the house with a knife concealed on your body somewhere.