Massachusetts Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

The Essentials

Illegal to Possess on Person or in Vehicle:

  • Dagger
  • Dirk
  • Stiletto
  • Double-edged knife
  • Ballistic knife
  • Any automatic knife with blade over 1 ½”
  • Any device which allows folding knife to be drawn with blade locked in place
Massachusetts flag

Massachusetts Knife Law Overview

Massachusetts lives up to its “paragon of nanny states” reputation when it comes to knives.

While they do not outright ban the ownership of any particular kinds of knives, their statutes use such broad and easily overreaching language that almost any kind of knife you can think of is effectively illegal to carry, a hungry pair of handcuffs in waiting.

In keeping with the rest of New England, you’ll have not even preemption laws to unify the statutes’ effect throughout the land, meaning major cities and many coastal tourism destinations will have their own laws you’ll need to learn and obey if you want to ensure you’ll not be inadvertently breaking the law.

We’ll sift through this bureaucrat’s dream in the next section.

Relevant Massachusetts State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • 269 Section 10
  • 269 Section 12

We don’t have a definitions section for the knives and terms regulated by Chapter 269 of the MA state statutes, so we delve right into this trainwreck in 269 Section 10, which covers possession of various weapons:

Chapter 269 CRIMES AGAINST PUBLIC PEACE Section 10 Carrying dangerous weapons; possession of machine gun or sawed-off shotguns; possession of large capacity weapon or large capacity feeding device; punishment

(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 a slung shot, blowgun, blackjack, metallic knuckles or knuckles of any substance which could be put to the same use with the same or similar effect as metallic knuckles, nunchaku, zoobow, also known as klackers or kung fu sticks, or any similar weapon consisting of two sticks of wood, plastic or metal connected at one end by a length of rope, chain, wire or leather…

a shuriken or any similar pointed starlike object intended to injure a person when thrown

…or any armband, made with leather which has metallic spikes, points or studs or any similar device made from any other substance or a cestus or similar material weighted with metal or other substance and worn on the hand, or a manrikigusari or similar length of chain having weighted ends; 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 nor more than five years in the state prison, or for not less than six months nor more than two and one-half years in a jail or house of correction

…except that, if the court finds that the defendant has not been previously convicted of a felony, he may be punished by a fine of not more than fifty dollars or by imprisonment for not more than two and one-half years in a jail or house of correction.

(d) Whoever, after having been convicted of any of the offenses set forth in paragraph (a), (b) or (c) commits a like offense or any other of the said offenses, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than five years nor more than seven years;

…for a third such offense, by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than seven years nor more than ten years; and for a fourth such offense, by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than ten years nor more than fifteen years.

The sentence imposed upon a person, who after a conviction of an offense under paragraph (a), (b) or (c) commits the same or a like offense, shall not be suspended, nor shall any person so sentenced be eligible for probation or receive any deduction from his sentence for good conduct.

(e) Upon conviction of a violation of this section, the firearm or other article shall, unless otherwise ordered by the court, be confiscated by the commonwealth.

The firearm or article so confiscated shall, by the authority of the written order of the court be forwarded by common carrier to the colonel of the state police, who, upon receipt of the same, shall notify said court or justice thereof.

Said colonel may sell or destroy the same, except that any firearm which may not be lawfully sold in the commonwealth shall be destroyed, and in the case of a sale, after paying the cost of forwarding the article, shall pay over the net proceeds to the commonwealth.

Massachusetts clearly believes in longwinded and verbose statutes. All of the named types of knives at the beginning of this section are out, and you can take that to mean any knife even remotely like them, too:

Massachusetts considered a sharpened clip point or any false edge to be “double-edged.” This has borne out in court cases, don’t test your luck.
Likewise, the passage that mentions “any knife having an automatic spring release device” implicates assisted opening knives as well as switchblades, since they are distinctly covered by “switch knife.”

Of even greater concern are any design elements a knife may have that assist in opening the knife as it is drawn, even if it is not a separate gadget.

Think the “wave” feature found on Emerson and similar knives, simply a projection machined out of the blade’s shape to snag the pocket and pop the knife open as it is secured by the hand. This feature in all likelihood is specifically illegal under MA law.

The only knives that could be said with any certainty to be alright for everyday carry are completely conventional, plain folding pocketknives with a strong bias toward closure and lacking in anything remotely close to a false-edge or symmetrical tapering blade profile for optimized for penetration.

Near the end of the above section you can see that the fines and terms of imprisonment for first time offenses in Massachusetts can be quite steep. MA does indeed have a history of harshly punishing weapons offenses great and small, so take no chances.

MA also features staunch prohibitions against the selling of dirk knives, ballistic knives, sword canes, shuriken, blade-opening devices, switchblades and assisted opening knives with blades over 1 ½”. See 269 Section 12:

Chapter 269 CRIMES AGAINST PUBLIC PEACE Section 12 Manufacturing and selling knives, slung shots, swords, bludgeons and similar weapons

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…

…slung shot, sling shot, bean blower, sword cane, pistol cane, bludgeon, blackjack, nunchaku, zoobow, also known as klackers or kung fu sticks, or any similar weapon consisting of two sticks of wood, plastic or metal connected at one end by a length of rope, chain, wire or leather…

a shuriken or any similar pointed starlike object intended to injure a person when thrown, or a manrikigusari or similar length of chain having weighted ends; or metallic knuckles or knuckles of any other substance which could be put to the same use and with the same or similar effect as metallic knuckles…

…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; provided, however, that sling shots may be manufactured and sold to clubs or associations conducting sporting events where such sling shots are used.

No-Go Zones

Schools, as always. In MA, school is classed all the way from pre-school through post-graduate and specialist schools. The statute specifically uses “other dangerous weapon” alongside firearms in this case to afford maximum discretion to the state when it comes to prosecuting violators. I wouldn’t even carry nail clippers to a school in MA. See 269 Section 10 again, at subsection (j):

Chapter 269 CRIMES AGAINST PUBLIC PEACE Section 10 Carrying dangerous weapons; possession of machine gun or sawed-off shotguns; possession of large capacity weapon or large capacity feeding device; punishment

(j) For the purposes of this paragraph, ”firearm” shall mean any pistol, revolver, rifle or smoothbore arm from which a shot, bullet or pellet can be discharged.

Whoever, not being a law enforcement officer and notwithstanding any license obtained by the person pursuant to chapter 140, carries on the person a firearm, loaded or unloaded, or other dangerous weapon…

in any building or on the grounds of any elementary or secondary school, college or university without the written authorization of the board or officer in charge of the elementary or secondary school, college or university shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or both.

A law enforcement officer may arrest without a warrant and detain a person found carrying a firearm in violation of this paragraph.

Any officer in charge of an elementary or secondary school, college or university or any faculty member or administrative officer of an elementary or secondary school, college or university that fails to report a violation of this paragraph shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and punished by a fine of not more than $500.

Notice how steep the fines and penalties are. Don’t even think about it in Massachusetts.

Preemption

None. There is no statewide preemption in MA, and it is known that major cities and plenty of smaller towns have their own prohibitions covering weapons of all kinds and knives especially. Nantucket, Cape Cod, Boston and Martha’s Vineyard are just a few known examples.

Bottom Line

The Puritan State certainly remains puritanical on the issue of weaponry, not trusting its citizens and visitors to even carry a letter opener under the eyes of the ever-present police and other government watchdogs.

You’ll need to be extremely conservative in your knife choices and pay close attention to local and municipal laws if you want to carry a knife in MA without running into trouble.

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About Tom Marlowe

Tom Marlowe
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.

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