Quick Legal Facts
Yes, constitutional preemption.
Not an issue.
Possession of dangerous weapons is prohibited on school property, school buses and/or school buildings.
Three inches - Automatic knives may not have a blade length over 3 inches.
At a Glance:
Knives, apart from a switchblade having a blade longer than three (3) inches, may be carried openly or concealed. Dangerous or deadly weapon restrictions obtain in specific locations and to persons with criminal intent as discussed below. A knife may be a dangerous or deadly weapon, however, there is no indication in the body of Vermont law that simple possession of a knife by a law-abiding individual aged sixteen (16) or older is restricted.
13 V.S.A. § 1021. Definitions
13 V.S.A. § 4003. Carrying dangerous weapons
13 V.S.A. § 4004. Possession of dangerous or deadly weapon in a school bus or school building or on school property
13 V.S.A. § 4007. Furnishing firearms to children
13 V.S.A. § 4013. Zip guns; switchblade knives
13 V.S.A. § 4016. Weapons in court
15 V.S.A. § 563. Powers of school boards
24 V.S.A. § 2291. Enumeration of powers
It is unlawful to possess a “switchblade”/automatic knife having a blade more than three (3) inches in length.
Not an issue.
Restrictions on Sale or Transfer:
It is unlawful to sell a “switchblade” knife having a blade more than three (3) inches in length. It is unlawful for anyone other than a parent or guardian to sell or furnish a dangerous weapon to a minor under the age of sixteen (16).
Restrictions on Carry in Specific Locations / Circumstances:
Dangerous or deadly weapons may not be possessed in schools or courts. See discussion below.
State law does not grant power to regulate the possession of weapons to local municipal governing bodies.
A prohibition on the possession or sale of any “switchblade” knife having a blade more than three (3) inches in length has existed in Vermont since 1959. The term “switchblade” is not defined. No reported appeal level cases in Vermont address § 4013. Zip guns; switchblade knives.
The American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI) supports H 201 as recently introduced in the 2021-2022 legislative session. The proposed bill would remove the existing restriction. AKTI will continue to advocate for the removal of the automatic knife restriction.
13 V.S.A. § 1021. Definitions provides the following definition for “deadly weapon.”
“Deadly weapon” means any firearm, or other weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance, whether animate or inanimate that in the manner it is used or is intended to be used is known to be capable of producing death or serious bodily injury.
“Deadly weapon” is used interchangeably with “dangerous weapon” in Chapter 85 captioned Weapons of the Vermont Crime Code. In the case of State v. Kuzawski, 118 A3d. 62 (2017) a conviction in which the deadly weapon was a box cutter was upheld on appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court.
The Kuzawski case does not stand for the proposition that all box cutters or similar tools are deadly or dangerous weapons. The defendant had threatened the daughter (age 6) of his girlfriend by holding the item against her torso and telling her that he would “kill her in her sleep.” Moreover, it is not the object itself:
Whether an object is a deadly weapon is not tied to the object”s intrinsic use or purpose—as an object intended to be used to injure or an object intended for some other purpose—but only to the way the object “is used” or “is intended to be used” in the particular incident giving rise to a charge. (Under lining / emphasis in original)
Dangerous and Deadly Weapon Restrictions
It is not unlawful to simply possess or carry an item, such as a knife, that may be a dangerous and/or a deadly weapon. § 4003 Carrying dangerous weapons provides:
A person who carries a dangerous or deadly weapon with the intent to injure another shall be imprisoned for not more than two years or fined not more than $2,000.00, or both. It shall be a felony punishable by not more than 10 years of imprisonment or a fine of $25,000.00, or both, if the person intends to injure multiple persons.
The “intent to injure another” is an essential element of the offense in general application.
The possession of dangerous and deadly weapons on school grounds and on school buses, restricted by 13 V.S.A. § 4004. Possession of dangerous or deadly weapon in a school bus or school building or on school property, is complicated by state legislation that empowers School Boards to regulate or prohibit the same on school premises. 15 V.S.A. § 563. Powers of school boards provides:
Shall keep the school buildings and grounds in good repair, suitably equipped, insured, and in safe and sanitary condition at all times. The school board shall regulate or prohibit firearms or other dangerous or deadly weapons on school premises. . .
This suggests that regulations are not likely to be uniform across all school districts. We suggest that local school district policy be reviewed.
Chapter 1 Article 16 of the Vermont State Constitution recognizes and memorializes “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence [sic] of themselves and the State.”
Chapter 2 Section 2 of the Vermont State Constitution provides: The Supreme Legislative power shall be exercised by a Senate and a House of Representatives.
The Vermont legislature per 24 V.S.A. § 2291, Enumeration of powers, has delegated limited regulatory power to municipalities. Regulating the possession of dangerous or deadly weapons is not among the powers delegated. In State v. Rosenthal, 55 A. 610 (1903), the Vermont Supreme Court invalidated a City of Rutland ordinance that prohibited the carry of “any steel or brass knuckles, pistol, slung shot, stiletto, or weapon of similar character” for the reasons that it was both repugnant to the Vermont Constitution and not among the powers of cities as authorized by the legislature.
The simple possession of a dangerous or deadly weapon on school grounds is punishable by confinement for not more than one (1) year, and/or a fine of up to $ 1,000. Possession of a dangerous weapon in a court facility is punishable by confinement up to one (1) year, and/or a fine of up to $500.
Various exceptions for law enforcement and school officials are provided in 13 V.S.A. § 4004. Possession of dangerous or deadly weapon in a school bus or school building or on school property.
Law enforcement officers certified by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council are exempt from the restriction in 13 V.S.A. § 4016 Weapons in court.
Updated December 1, 2020, by Daniel C. Lawson