Lots of people rely on brass knuckles (or knuckle dusters) for self-defense and like to carry them around when traveling for extra security.
But can you bring brass knuckles on a plane or will that land you in legal trouble?
In this article, we will take a look at the TSA policy for brass knuckles and talk about whether or not you can bring these to the airport in your carry-on or checked baggage. Plus, we will provide an overview on some of the laws you might encounter in different states.
Can you bring brass knuckles on a plane?
You cannot bring brass knuckles in your carry-on but you can bring them in your checked baggage. However, many states outlaw brass knuckles so you definitely want to make sure you are in compliance with state laws so that you don’t risk getting arrested.
Note: Nothing in this article contains legal advice.
Brass knuckles in a carry-on
As mentioned above, brass knuckles will NOT be allowed in your carry-on.
The reason for this is pretty clear: brass knuckles can be used as a weapon to inflict serious damage on people.
You can imagine the disaster situation that could arise by an angry passenger using brass knuckles to take out their frustration on a flight attendant. And of course, there is always the threat of terrorists using these.
At that point, it’s possible that you could be referred to law-enforcement and especially if brass knuckles are illegal in that state you are departing from, you could face criminal consequences.
If you have brass knuckles that come in a different form like a necklace charm or bracelet, you might want to reconsider wearing those, even if they seem like decorative jewelry. That’s because TSA may not allow them and you could also be in violation of the law in that state (more on that below).
Some brass knuckles may actually come in plastic form. For example, these could be stealth knuckles.
Airport x-ray scanners can pick up non-metal objects such as plastics so they still could be detected in the x-ray.
While TSA does not specify if non-metal brass knuckles count as “brass knuckles,” I would assume that they do because they could be used as dangerous weapons in lots of cases.
Plus, some states define brass knuckles as just consisting of “hard substances.”
However, the big consideration here is whether or not it is legal for you to possess brass knuckles where you are departing and landing.
You also want to think about the risk at the airport.
Your checked bag will be screened after you hand it over to the airlines and it’s possible that your brass knuckles could be discovered then. During these checks, TSA agents are mostly concerned with finding dangerous substances which are basically explosives.
If a TSA agent discovered your brass knuckles in your checked baggage they could track you down and refer you to law-enforcement if they knew it was illegal to possess them but that would probably be rare.
The reason is they are trying to find explosives — not weapons like brass knuckles. In a more realistic worst-case scenario, they could throw them out but more than likely the TSA agent would probably just leave them alone.
So the biggest legal concern you probably have when traveling with brass knuckles is transporting your luggage to and from the airport and also transporting it around the airport.
For example, if you were to get pulled over on your way to the airport and an officer discovered brass knuckles in a state that outlaws them that could get you in trouble.
And that is when the state and local laws become important.
The law and traveling with brass knuckles
There is no federal law in the US regarding the legality of brass knuckles.
Instead, the legal status of brass knuckles is determined on a state basis which means that you need to get familiar with the state law of your departure and destination.
You can find a breakdown of brass knuckle state laws here. However, keep in mind that these laws are constantly changing.
So it’s best to always verify with official government sources what the current law is on brass knuckles. That’s because the penalty for unlawfully possessing brass knuckles could be a hefty fine or could even be imprisonment.
In addition, you could be looking at a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of your arrest.
Once you take a look at some of the laws for brass knuckles, you will find that the laws have a few patterns.
There is often a minimum age at which you can possess brass knuckles legally. For example, the minimum age could be 21.
Lots of states have laws about concealing brass knuckles. If you want to conceal your brass knuckles you likely have to have a license. Make sure you understand what concealment means under that jurisdiction.
Some states make it very clear that it doesn’t matter if your brass knuckles are made up of metal or hard plastic. If they are capable of serious bodily damage chances are they will count as brass knuckles under the law.
Different types of brass knuckles
Brass knuckles could actually come in a lot of different forms.
You can have brass knuckle belt buckles, brass knuckle necklaces, brass knuckle knives, charms, keychains, coffee mugs, etc. Some state lawmakers have recognized this and specifically called out that many of these different forms of brass knuckles are still illegal.
In some situations, it will be clear that some of these different forms of brass knuckles could still be used as weapons.
For example, some keychains may look somewhat innocent but when you take a close look you see that they could be used as a way to apply serious force. In those situations, you should probably expect the law to consider your keychain to qualify as brass knuckles.
I’m not sure how they would apply the law for some of these things, though.
For example, there are brass knuckle pendants that are so small they would probably not even fit on the first of an infant. However, since brass knuckle pendants are explicitly mentioned in statutes, they are technically illegal. For the states, it may come down to what you could realistically do with these (i.e., intent).
Some states may not have laws that specifically apply to brass knuckles.
The states probably have laws that apply to dangerous weapons and it would not be hard to argue that brass knuckles could be classified as a dangerous weapon so while you may not find a law directly on point, certain laws could still apply to you using them.
Often, it will come down to the context of your possession and what you are using the brass knuckles for.
For example, if you get into an altercation with an airline agent over a delayed flight and you pull out your brass knuckles, you’re likely going to jail. If you’re just walking through the airport and brass knuckles fall out of your bag, that’s a very different scenario.
Specific use scenarios
Some states may allow you to possess brass knuckles if you have a specific use for them.
For example, if you have an educational purpose, you are collecting them, or perhaps they are being used in some type of media production.
In these instances you obviously want to have as much proof that you can have about the specific use for the brass knuckles. It would probably be a good idea to have some kind of paperwork to support that in your checked baggage in the event you were inspected.
International travel with brass knuckles
If you want to travel out of the country with brass knuckles be aware lots of countries ban brass knuckles.
Countries where you might run into trouble include: Hong Kong, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Bosnia, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Ireland, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Turkey, Sweden, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
Each country may have a nuanced approach so always keep that in mind. For example, some may allow plastic knuckles or they may be allowed for collections.
So always check the laws in the country you are heading to!
Brass knuckles are never allowed in your carry-on. They are allowed in your checked baggage but you want to make sure that you are complying with state laws when transporting them. Try not to push things with the gray areas when it comes to brass knuckles that come in different forms like jewelry because TSA and many states make count lots of those items as “true” brass knuckles.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.