Quick Legal Facts
See information on conceal/ carry in entire article.
Knives are prohibited from all schools, from the elementary level to university campuses. M.G.L.A. 269 § 10(j).
Major Cities with Knife Ordinances:
One-and-a-half inches--maximum blade length for an automatic knife.
The Massachusetts State Constitution recognizes the right to keep and bear arms.
The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence. And as, in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature; and the military power shall always be held in an exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it.
M.G.L.A. Canst. Pt. 1, Art. 17
The Massachusetts statutes which apply to knives and carrying dangerous weapons may be found at Part IV, Title I, and in particular, Chapter 269–Crimes Against Public Peace.
Massachusetts law does not make it illegal to own or possess any particular knife. Instead, Massachusetts makes it illegal to carry, manufacture, or sell specific types of knives.
Regulated knives include “dirk knife,” switchblades having a blade longer than one-and-a-half (1 ½) inches, and ballistic knives which cannot be manufactured, sold or offered for sale in Massachusetts.
Whoever manufactures or causes to be manufactured, or sells or exposes for sale, an instrument or weapon of the kind usually known as a dirk knife, a switch knife or any knife having an automatic spring release device by which the blade is released from the handle, having a blade of over one and one-half inches or a device or case which enables a knife with a locking blade to be drawn at a locked position, any ballistic knife, or any knife with a detachable blade capable of being propelled by any mechanism, … shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty nor more than one thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not more than six months, …
M.G.L.A. 269 § 12
Unlike most other states, Massachusetts law focuses on the act of carrying the knife, and not on concealment:
(b) Whoever, except as provided by law, carries on his person, or carries on his person or under his control in a vehicle, any stiletto, dagger or a device or case which enables a knife with a locking blade to be drawn at a locked position, any ballistic knife, or any knife with a detachable blade capable of being propelled by any mechanism, dirk knife, any knife having a double-edged blade, or a switch knife, or any knife having an automatic spring release device by which the blade is released from the handle, having a blade of over one and one-half .inches, . . . or whoever, when arrested upon a warrant for an alleged crime, or when arrested while committing a breach or disturbance of the public peace, is armed with or has on his person, or has on his person or under his control in a vehicle, a billy or other dangerous weapon other than those herein mentioned and those mentioned in paragraph (a), shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than two and one-half years …
M.G.L.A. 269 § 10(b)
With regard to those particular knives, the preceding statute makes it a crime punishable by a term of imprisionment (a minimum of six (6) months confinement, to a maximum of five (5) years confinement), if one carries, or has under his possession or control in a vehicle, any:
c. Device or case which enables a knife with a locking blade to be drawn at a locked position;
d. Any ballistic knife or knife with a detachable blade;
e. Dirk knife;
f. Any knife having a .double-edged blade; and
g. Any knife having any switch knife (switchblade/automatic) having a blade of over one-and-one-half (1 ½) inches in length.
Knife owners should operate on the assumption that the phrase “control in a vehicle” means that a knife located anywhere in the vehicle, including the trunk or the spare tire well, will be treated as being under the owner’s control.
The terms dagger, dirk knife, and double-edged knife are not statutorily defined. Although criminal statutes are to be strictly construed, Massachusetts courts construe the definitions expansively and erroneously.
For instance, in Commonwealth v. Albert Smith, 667 N.E.2d 1160 (1996), the court expanded the definition of double-edged blade to include knives with a sharpened clip point or a false edge. The case involved a prison inmate who was found to be in possession of an improvised knife commonly referred to as a “shank.” The court seized the opportunity to note that the shank was at least partially sharpened on both edges, and thus was an illegal double-edged knife.
In Commonwealth v. Miller, 497 N.E.2d 29 (1986), the defendant was convicted of carrying a “dirk knife.” The Court could not delineate exactly what combination of characteristics defines a dirk-like blade and recommended that the Massachusetts Legislature provide more specific guidelines. The Miller Court stated only that dirk knives are generally described as having tapered blades ranging in length from 7.9 to 11.9 inches, having a width from one to one and a half inches, and are designed and useful almost exclusively for stabbing.
Following Miller, in Commonwealth v. Garcia, 972 N.E.2d 40 (2012), the Court confused the definition of “dirk knife” by holding that one of the prerequisites for a weapon to be considered a “dirk knife” is that its blade folds into its handle. This contradicts the standard view that a dirk is a fix blade weapon.
In Massachusetts, knives are prohibited from all schools, from the elementary level to university campuses; in other words, K through post-graduate. M.G.L.A. 269 § 10(j).
No. Knife owners should check local laws, particularly in larger cities such as Boston and the resort towns in Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard. Also, because Massachusetts is a small state geographically, it is easy to travel beyond its borders and into neighboring states.