The laws on pocket knives in France

steel kitchen knives image by Warren Millar from

The French are famous for knives. Several famous knife brands, such as the Opinel, have long been a part of everyday French life. However, French knife laws can present problems for those who wish to, or need to, use them. So what knives are legal and illegal in France?

It is dependent on the type of knife, the purpose you are using it for, and whether or not you have a licence.

History of knives in France

The everyday use of pocket knives has been a part of French culture for over two hundred years. The Opinel, for example, has been produced since the 19th century and is considered a staple of French culture. Other famous knives include the Laguiole and Nontron. For a while, these knives were regarded as cutlery and not considered to be a danger. However, some types of Opinel are regarded as weapons.

The law

In official terms, carrying any knife with a fixed blade, or a folding blade with a locking system, or any blade length in a public place, is illegal. Knives of this variety are known as "Category 6" weapons under French law. These weapons are defined as "any weapon that can constitute a danger to public safety." This means that it is illegal to carry these in a public place unless you have a sporting license, or a very good reason for doing so, such as needing it for your work. However, knives without a locking mechanism that are of a "reasonable size" are legal. The law does not specify what constitutes reasonable size. Knives of every shape and size can be bought and sold in France. People can transport them in France provided they are securely stored while in transit, and it is easy for people to build and maintain private collections. It is best for tourists that they avoid bringing a knife into the country at all.

Knife crime in France

Because of the stringent laws about carrying knives in France, there is comparatively little knife crime in the country. Although there is some intermittent knife crime, it is at a lower level than that in the UK or the USA. According to a BBC article from 2008, French criminologist Alain Bauer claims that more and more people in poorer neighbourhoods are carrying knives, apparently because of a loss of faith in authority figures such as the police. Although France has a low homicide rate, Mr. Bauer claims that people are becoming more willing to use these weapons.