Butterfly knives, also known as balisongs or fan knives, are a type of folding pocket knife with two handles around the blade. They open and close using a latch or pivot and have been used for centuries for everyday tasks such as cutting food and opening packages. However, due to their unique design and capabilities as a weapon, they’ve become highly regulated in many areas.
What are Butterfly Knives?
The butterfly knife, fan knife, balisong, or Batangas knife, is a folding pocket knife with two handles rotating around the blade’s base in opposite directions. When closed, the blade is hidden within the grooves in the handles, and a latch is usually mounted on the handle facing the cutting edge. The knife originated in the Philippines.
Self-Defense and Convenience
Filipinos, especially those in the Tagalog region, frequently used the balisong for self-defense and convenience. Before conventional razors were available in the Philippines, people used hollow-ground balisongs as straight razors. Skilled users can quickly bring the knife blade into action with just one hand. Additionally, people perform “flipping” manipulations with the knife for entertainment or artistic purposes. People can practice tricks with blunt “trainer” versions of these knives to avoid getting injured.
Some countries, like switchblades or concealed weapons, have made the knife illegal or restricted. Compared to the past, the Philippines has seen a decline in using knives in urban areas.
Brief History of Butterfly Knives
The origin of butterfly knives is unclear due to ambiguous historical records and legends. You might receive different answers when asking a knife enthusiast about their origin. France and the Philippines are the main countries associated with them, each with its evidence and supporters.
The butterfly knife is said to have originated in the Philippines, and it is more accurately referred to as a “balisong” knife. According to legend, this type of knife has existed since around 800 AD. Because it could be quickly opened with one hand and used as a weapon, it was a popular choice for self-defense and everyday purposes.
The Philippines has had a strong tradition of producing balisongs for over a hundred years. Nowadays, numerous merchants and vendors sell handcrafted butterfly knives, with Batangas province and the region of Balisong in Taal being prominent locations for these blades. While “balisong” is generally believed to have originated there, some dispute this claim due to a lack of concrete evidence.
It has been suggested that the butterfly knife may have originated in France from 1500 to 1700. This claim is based on the resemblance between the “Pied Du Roi” – a French measuring tool from the 1700s – and the butterfly knife. The “Pied Du Roi” features folding measurement handles and a blade that unfolds from one end, similar to a butterfly knife. However, whether the “Pied Du Roi” can truly be considered the first-ever butterfly knife is uncertain.
Those who believe that the butterfly knife has French origins argue that Spain, allied with France then, began using the knife and later brought it to the Philippines through sailors traveling to different countries. However, there is no solid evidence to support this claim.
Another argument favoring the French is that these knives are originally from Germany and England, where some butterfly knives can be traced back to before 1900. A collector’s item online showed that it was made in England and had markings dating back to 1873. This suggests that the butterfly knife did not originate in the early 1900s in the Philippines. However, as mentioned earlier, it has also been claimed that it was influenced by similar Filipino knife models dating as far back as 800 AD.
Design and Uses of Butterfly Knives
The design of the butterfly knife is highly versatile, allowing it to be used for various tasks. The main uses are self-defense and everyday utility, such as cutting food or opening packages. As mentioned, skilled users can quickly bring the blade into action using one hand.
Butterfly knives come in a range of sizes and styles. They generally have two handles that pivot around the knife’s base, with a latch or pin to hold them together when closed. Many also have a blade guard that helps keep the user’s fingers away from the blade’s sharp edge when in use.
Why Are Butterfly Knives Illegal: Status in Different Countries
The balisong, also known as a butterfly knife, has been banned in multiple countries because it is commonly used for criminal activities and can be easily hidden. It may also be categorized as a knife used for unlawful purposes in certain places.
One of the biggest concerns is that the balisong may be used as a weapon. Skilled users can quickly draw and retract the knife, making it a popular choice among thieves. Between 1981 and 1984, there was an increase in emergency cases due to self-inflicted knife injuries. Many people were experimenting with new butterfly knives and playing games with them but ended up hurting themselves. Lawmakers believed banning these knives could help reduce self-harm, although some individuals may still injure themselves.
Status of the Butterfly Knife in Different Countries
- Australia – In Australia, owning a balisong is illegal unless you have a valid reason. This type of knife is considered a prohibited weapon. It falls under a flick knife, a blade that opens automatically through gravity or centrifugal acceleration or by pressing a button, spring, or device on the handle.
- Canada – In Canada, the balisong knife is not specifically listed as a prohibited weapon. However, courts often classify it as a gravity or centrifugal knife, which is prohibited. If a balisong knife was grandfathered in before the prohibition, it is an exception to the rule.
- Finland – Balisongs are legal to buy, sell, and own in Finland. They are classified as regular knives and fall under the edged weapons law. It is allowed to carry a balisong in public if the person carrying it can demonstrate that it is being used as a tool.
- France – If you are over 18, you can own a balisong knife in France. However, it is illegal to carry one without official authorization.
- Germany – The balisong is illegal in Germany due to a weapons law that was tightened in April 2003 following the Erfurt massacre. You cannot purchase, own, lend, use, carry, create, modify, or exchange it. Possessing a knife may lead to a maximum of five years in prison, a fine of up to €10,000, and forfeiture of the knife. Using a butterfly knife for any criminal activity is also punishable by 1 to 10 years imprisonment, just like any other illegal weapon.
- The Philippines – Carrying bladed tools in the streets of the Philippines’ capital without proper identification or permit is now generally illegal due to their common use in crime and altercations. To carry them, one must demonstrate a professional or utilitarian need. Additionally, pocket knives should have a blade length that does not exceed the palm’s length and should not be openable by one hand to be considered a utility knife instead of a weapon. Swiss Army Knives are legal under these rules.
- United Kingdom – Since January 1989, the balisong has been categorized as an offensive weapon in the United Kingdom. It is considered illegal to carry one in public according to the law. The Criminal Justice Act 1988, amended by the Offensive Weapons Act 1996, prohibits the sale, giving, lending, or importing of the balisong. If imported, they may be seized, and prosecution can occur. However, knives over 100 years old of this type are considered antiques and are an exception.
- United States – Butterfly knives are regulated differently in each state of the United States. Some states have no restrictions, but others prohibit them or have limitations concerning blade length and other features. Before purchasing a butterfly knife, it is vital to research the laws in your area.
Butterfly knives are legal in most states in America, specifically in 42 states and the District of Columbia. However, some of the remaining eight states only allow ownership of butterfly knives with strict limitations on their usage.
California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Washington are states that prohibit butterfly knives. It is illegal to possess or use butterfly knives in these states, and doing so may result in harsh legal consequences.
Butterfly knives can be owned in some states, but their use is restricted. If you have a felony conviction, you cannot have a butterfly knife in Wisconsin. In Alaska, they can only be used for self-defense. Individuals must be over 21 to own a butterfly knife in Arizona. In New Hampshire, if you have felony drug or property/person charges, you cannot own a butterfly knife.
Laws and Regulations Affecting Butterfly Knives
Due to their potential use as a weapon, butterfly knives are regulated in many areas. In the United States, regulations differ from state to state, but it is generally illegal to sell or carry these types of knives without a permit. It is also important to note that some states may view them as an offensive weapon and impose harsher punishments for those caught carrying one in public.
Are Butterfly Knives Illegal?
The legality of butterfly knives depends on the state or country in which you reside. In many areas, owning and carrying one is illegal without a permit due to its potential use as a weapon. Before purchasing or using a butterfly knife, research your local laws and regulations to ensure you follow the law. Failing to do so could result in serious legal consequences. Additionally, it is crucial to practice knife safety and respect the blade. With the right precautions, butterfly knives can be a fun and useful tool.
Factors That Determine Butterfly Knives Legality
There are several factors that determine whether butterfly knives are legal or not. These may include the country or state’s laws, age restrictions, and other considerations such as the purpose of the knife and its length. Before purchasing one, you should also research any additional regulations or permits required to own a butterfly knife in your area. Additionally, it is essential to practice safe handling and respect the blade. With the right precautions, butterfly knives can be useful for self-defense or everyday tasks.
Exceptions and Restrictions on Butterfly Knives
Besides the general regulations on butterfly knives, additional restrictions and exceptions may also exist. In some areas, owning a butterfly knife is only allowed with special permits or can only be used for certain activities, such as self-defense. Additionally, some states may have age restrictions in place. Before purchasing one, it is important to research your local laws and regulations to ensure you are following the law. Failing to do so could result in serious legal consequences.
Consequences of Illegal Butterfly Knife Possession
Illegal possession of a butterfly knife can result in various legal consequences depending on the state or country where you reside. This may include fines, jail time, and confiscation of the knife. It is also important to note that some states may view them as an offensive weapon and impose harsher punishments for those caught carrying one in public. Therefore, it is essential to research your local laws and regulations before purchasing or using a butterfly knife to avoid any legal issues. Additionally, it is crucial to practice safe handling and respect the blade. With the right precautions, butterfly knives can be useful for self-defense or everyday tasks.
Tips for Legal and Responsible Ownership
Owning a butterfly knife can be an enjoyable and useful tool if done responsibly. Before purchasing one, research your local laws and regulations to ensure you follow the law. Additionally, here are some tips for owning a butterfly knife legally and responsibly:
Ensuring compliance with local laws and regulations
Compliance with local laws and regulations is essential to owning a butterfly knife legally. Research any additional permits or restrictions required in your area and ensure you follow the law.
Proper storage and transportation of butterfly knives
If you plan on owning a butterfly knife, ensure it is stored securely in an area that is out of reach from minors. Additionally, when transporting the knife, ensure it is not visible to others and consider storing it in a locked container or bag.
Responsible use and safety precautions
When using a butterfly knife, practice safe handling and respect the blade. It is also essential to be aware of your surroundings and consider wearing protective gear such as gloves or glasses if necessary. Additionally, never use it for criminal activities or any purpose other than self-defense or everyday tasks.
Here are some frequently asked questions about butterfly knives.
Is it illegal to carry around a butterfly knife?
It depends on the state or country where you reside. In many areas, owning and carrying one is illegal without a permit. Researching local laws and regulations is essential before purchasing or using a butterfly knife.
Is it safe to play with a butterfly knife?
Playing with a butterfly knife is not recommended, as it can be dangerous if handled incorrectly. It is important to practice safe handling and respect the blade. Additionally, wear protective gear such as gloves or glasses when using one.
What is the purpose of a butterfly knife?
The purpose of a butterfly knife is two-fold. They can be used for self-defense and everyday utility tasks such as cutting food or opening packages. Additionally, skilled users can quickly bring the blade into action using one hand.
Are butterfly knives practical?
Butterfly knives can be a practical tool for self-defense or everyday tasks. However, it is essential to research your local laws and regulations before purchasing or using one.
Can butterfly knives break?
Yes, butterfly knives can break if not handled correctly. It is important to practice safe handling and respect the blade. Additionally, never use it for criminal activities or any purpose other than self-defense or everyday tasks.
Butterfly knives are regulated differently in each state of the United States and other countries. Before purchasing a butterfly knife, research your local laws and regulations to ensure you follow the law. Additionally, it is crucial to practice safe handling and respect the blade. With the right precautions, butterfly knives can be a fun and useful tool for self-defense or everyday tasks. Ensure you are aware of any local restrictions or exceptions before purchasing one to avoid legal issues.