Legal to Carry Openly or Concealed
- Any knife except a switchblade with a blade of 3” or long, or a knife with knuckleduster handle
Vermont Knife Law Overview
Vermont is a reasonably permissive state for knife owners, one that is more concerned with punishing those who carry knives with criminal intent or use them in commission of the same than regulating every permutation and variation of knife to kingdom come.
Vermont is noteworthy for their harsh punishment schedule for those who transgress: fines of multiple thousands of dollars and lengthy prison stays are the norm.
You can generally carry a knife without worry in Vermont, but you might get yourself in hot water if you are carrying a knife and run afoul of some other law. It will not do to be caught carrying a knife and judged an instigator of a fight, for instance. Aside from the harsh punishments for lawbreakers, a lack of preemption in the state means you’ll have to stay on top of learning local laws governing knives where you live, work and play.
Vermont’s knife laws are generally short and to the point (ha!), so let’s get into them.
Relevant Vermont State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives
Vermont ditches the typical definitions in weapons statutes, opting instead to dive right in with a prohibition on brass knuckles, blackjacks and similar weapons in Section 4001:
4001. Slung shot, blackjack, brass knuckles-Use or possession
A person who uses a slung shot, blackjack, brass knuckles or similar weapon against another person, or attempts so to do, or who possesses a slung shot, blackjack, brass knuckles, or similar weapon, with intent so to use it, shall be imprisoned not more than five years or fined not more than $1,000.00, or both. The provisions of this section do not apply to a law enforcement officer as to the possession and use of a blackjack, billy club, or night stick.
While knives are in no way implicated in this passage, I have included it here for completeness since Vermont’s otherwise permissive laws allow one to carry pretty much whatever kind of knife desired.
If you were to carry, openly or concealed, a knife with integrated knuckle duster or full handguard you would be in violation of this statute most likely.
Pretty much everything you do need to know about Vermont’s take on carrying dangerous weapons, knives included, is in Section 4003, short and sweet:
4003. Carrying dangerous weapons
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 above statute needs little in the way of explanation, but I must point out the qualifier “with the intent to injure another.” Ostensibly, if you carry any dangerous or deadly weapon with no intent to harm another no crime has been committed.
Of course, the tricky part is proving you had not intent to harm another if you do happen to get yoked up for weapons charges, but Vermont’s knife laws are written in the affirmative as far as citizens’ rights are concerned. Also take not of just how stiff the penalties can get, even for a first low-grade offense.
Vermont doubles down on this idea in Section 4005, stating that merely carrying a dangerous or deadly weapon if you commit a felony, even if you don’t employ it, is a crime all its own:
While committing a crime
Except as otherwise provided in 18 V.S.A. § 4253, a person who carries a dangerous or deadly weapon, openly or concealed, while committing a felony shall be imprisoned not more than five years or fined not more than $500.00, or both.
It is also a crime to give, sell or otherwise transfer a knife or other dangerous weapon to a minor who is under 16 years of age. It is a piddly fine, but a crime all the same:
Furnishing firearms to children
A person, firm, or corporation, other than a parent or guardian, who sells or furnishes to a minor under the age of 16 years a firearm or other dangerous weapon or ammunition for firearms shall be fined not more than $50.00 nor less than $10.00. This section shall not apply to an instructor or teacher who furnishes firearms to pupils for instruction and drill.
Lastly we come to the major prohibition of knives by characteristic for the State of Vermont, Section 4013, which prohibits the possession of switchblades with blades of 3” or longer. Not longer than 3”, measuring 3” or longer. More on this after the break:
Zip guns; switchblade knives
A person who possesses, sells, or offers for sale a weapon commonly known as a “zip” gun, or a weapon commonly known as a switchblade knife, the blade of which is three inches or more in length, shall be imprisoned not more than 90 days or fined not more than $100.00, or both.
Counter to popular opinion, you can own and carry switchblades in Vermont. But, as stated above, you cannot possess one with a blade that is 3” or longer.
That can net you a few months in jail and also a $100 fine. You might scoff at the fine, but doing any time in jail over weapons charges is a bad look for all your future public prospects.
Does the above statute affect assisted opening knives? We don’t know, but I would reckon an educated guess to say probably. Since Vermont is not big on statutory definitions for weapons, least of all knives, and there is nowhere found within any of the statutes on weapons the increasingly common “bias toward closure” language protecting them I’d say assisted opening knives of 3” or longer are a no-go in this state.
Simply put, they are operationally closely related, if not mechanically closely related. The “bias toward closure” language I mentioned is a modern conceit designed to insulate common, bog-standard assisted opening knives against statutory language that typically regulates switchblades, and by accident or design also affects assisted opening knives in quite a few states lacking it.
I am not an attorney, definitely not your attorney, and I don’t play one on TV, but would recommend constraining your choice assisted opening knives to the same length prohibition as a switchblade if you intend to carry one in Vermont. Make sure you consult a knowledgeable, practicing attorney or other legal professional in Vermont as part of your preparations.
Schools, including school vehicles, and courthouses. Vermont does not specify public schools or both public and private schools but does include “any property” referencing a school, so it is a safe bet that both public and private schools are included under the statute’s prohibitions.
4004. Possession of dangerous or deadly weapon in a school bus or school building or on school property
(a) No person shall knowingly possess a firearm or a dangerous or deadly weapon while within a school building or on a school bus. A person who violates this section shall, for the first offense, be imprisoned for not more than one year or fined not more than $1,000.00, or both, and for a second or subsequent offense shall be imprisoned for not more than three years or fined not more than $5,000.00, or both.
(b) No person shall knowingly possess a firearm or a dangerous or deadly weapon on any school property with the intent to injure another person. A person who violates this section shall, for the first offense, be imprisoned for not more than three years or fined not more than $1,000.00, or both, and for a second or subsequent offense shall be imprisoned for not more than five years or fined not more than $5,000.00, or both.
(c) This section shall not apply to:
(1) A law enforcement officer while engaged in law enforcement duties.
(2) Possession and use of firearms or dangerous or deadly weapons if the board of school directors, or the superintendent or principal if delegated authority to do so by the board, authorizes possession or use for specific occasions or for instructional or other specific purposes.
(d) As used in this section:
(1) “School property” means any property owned by a school, including motor vehicles.
(2) “Owned by the school” means owned, leased, controlled, or subcontracted by the school.
(3) “Dangerous or deadly weapon” shall have the same meaning as in section 4016 of this title.
(4) “Firearm” shall have the same meaning as in section 4016 of this title.
(5) “Law enforcement officer” shall have the same meaning as in section 4016 of this title.
(e) The provisions of this section shall not limit or restrict any prosecution for any other offense, including simple assault or aggravated assault.
4016. Weapons in court
(a) As used in this section:
(1) “Courthouse” means a building or any portion of a building designated by the Supreme Court of Vermont as a courthouse.
(2) “Dangerous or 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.
(3) “Firearm” means any weapon, whether loaded or unloaded, that will expel a projectile by the action of an explosive and includes any weapon commonly referred to as a pistol, revolver, rifle, gun, machine gun, or shotgun.
(4) “Law enforcement officer” means a person certified by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council as having satisfactorily completed the approved training programs required to meet the minimum training standards applicable to that person pursuant to 20 V.S.A. § 2358.
(5) “Secured building” means a building with controlled points of public access, metal screening devices at each point of public access, and locked compartments, accessible only to security personnel, for storage of checked firearms.
(b) A person who, while within a courthouse and without authorization from the court,
(1) carries or has in his or her possession a firearm; or
(2) knowingly carries or has in his or her possession a dangerous or deadly weapon, other than a firearm, shall be imprisoned not more than one year or fined not more than $500.00, or both.
(c) Notice of the provisions of subsection (b) of this section shall be posted conspicuously at each public entrance to each courthouse.
(d) No dangerous or deadly weapon shall be allowed in a courthouse that has been certified by the Court Administrator to be a secured building.
There is no preemption in Vermont. While Vermont’s state laws are pretty permissive, local county and city ordinances may not be, so you’ll be on the hook for all of them wherever you go and ignorance will never be an excuse!
This is pretty ornery considering how harshly Vermont punished weapons crimes, so make sure you do your homework and stay on your best behavior!
Vermont is a fairly permissive state when it comes to knives, with only a length restriction on switchblades and (probably) assisted opening knives.
Of course that might not count for much since your own municipal laws where you work and live might be highly restrictive; no preemption for Vermonters.
But assuming you can do your homework, read between the lines and choose accordingly, you should have no issues carrying most knives in Vermont.
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.