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New Jersey Law Restricts Sale of Certain Knives to Minors

New Jersey has a law, Section 2C:39-9.1, that makes it illegal to sell certain types of knives to minors. This law was passed to try to keep dangerous knives out of the hands of young people. But what exactly does the law say, and what are the penalties if you break it? This article will summarize Section 2C:39-9.1 and give some examples to help explain it.

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What the Law Says

The main parts of Section 2C:39-9.1 are:

  • It is a 4th degree crime to sell certain knives to someone under 18.
  • The knives included are hunting, fishing, combat, and survival knives with blades 5 inches or longer or an overall length of 10 inches or more.
  • There are some exceptions where selling these knives to minors is allowed.

So in basic terms, the law prohibits stores and individuals from selling large hunting, fishing, combat, or survival knives to anyone under 18.

The exceptions are things like if the minor has a valid hunting license and is buying the knife for hunting. Or if the minor is active military personnel buying the knife for official duties.

Penalties for Breaking the Law

As mentioned, selling a prohibited knife to a minor is a 4th degree crime. Here’s what the penalties for a 4th degree crime are in New Jersey:

  • Up to 18 months in jail
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Both jail time and fines

So breaking this law can result in serious criminal penalties. The judge takes factors into account like criminal history when deciding the punishment.

Examples of Illegal Knife Sales

Here are some examples to help explain what’s illegal under 2C:39-9.1:

  • A 17-year-old wants to buy a 6 inch hunting knife at a sporting goods store. The store can’t legally sell him this knife due to the length.
  • A man at a yard sale sells a survival knife with a 7 inch blade to a 14-year-old boy. This would be illegal under the law.
  • A 16-year-old girl wants to buy a tactical combat knife that’s 12 inches overall length. A website selling knives ships her the knife. They have violated the law prohibiting sale of longer knives to minors.

So in these examples, the minors were legally prohibited from buying those specific knives due to their size. The sellers also broke the law by selling them.

Valid Defenses

There are some defenses that can be used if you are charged with illegally selling a prohibited knife to a minor:

  • You reasonably believed the minor was over 18 based on their appearance or ID they showed you.
  • The minor presented a valid hunting license and was buying the knife for hunting purposes.
  • You are a licensed firearms dealer and believed the sale was lawful.
  • The characteristics of the knife sold did not actually meet the size restrictions in the law.

So if any of these defenses apply, you may be able to fight the charges and avoid being convicted. A criminal defense lawyer can help argue these defenses for you in court.

Policy Behind the Law

The main policy goal behind Section 2C:39-9.1 is to restrict access to dangerous knives for minors. Big hunting and combat knives can be easily used to threaten or injure others.

The hope is that by limiting sales of these knives to those under 18, it will reduce violence and injuries. Minors can more easily hurt themselves or others when wielding larger knives.

However, some argue the law is too restrictive on sales of useful tools to responsible youth. For example, an avid 15-year-old hunter may want a large hunting knife for legitimate purposes. The counterargument is that parental supervision could allow for legal purchase and use in appropriate cases.

Recent Changes and Future Outlook

Section 2C:39-9.1 was enacted in 1987 and has not seen substantial changes since then. There have been no recent legal challenges to the constitutionality or scope of the law.

It seems likely the prohibitions on selling bigger knives to minors will remain in place for the foreseeable future. However, exceptions could possibly be expanded to allow more sales to responsible youth involved in hunting, fishing, or military activities with proper supervision.

The legislature has shown a desire to keep youth safe from knife violence. But they may also look for ways to allow lawful knife use by mature minors under parental oversight. The law may evolve over time to reflect these interests.


New Jersey law Section 2C:39-9.1 prohibits the sale of hunting, fishing, combat, and survival knives over certain sizes to those under 18. There are exceptions for valid purposes like hunting. But in general, stores cannot sell larger knives to minors. Doing so can result in criminal penalties like fines and jail time. Understanding the law can help merchants stay compliant and also educate parents and teens about legal knife purchases.

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