Massachusetts ratified the United States Constitution on February 6th, 1788, just three days after Connecticut did so. It’s not surprising, then, that their knife laws are fairly similar.
Bur first a short disclaimer: As I have to mention in every installment of ‘Know Your Knife Laws’, I’m not licensed in any state except Washington and none of this is meant to be relied on as legal advice. If you need to know what you can or can’t get away with under any state or local law, you’ll need to hit the law books yourself or call a lawyer in that state. This series is intended to be a comparative survey of U.S. knife and carry laws. I can’t advise you how to obey the law in a particular state, unless that state is Washington. Which didn’t join the Union until pretty late in the game, so I won’t get to it for several months.
Banned Knives In Massachusetts
There aren’t any. When it comes to edged weapons you can own whatever you want; you just can’t necessarily carry it.
What can you carry?
(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…
Blah blah blah. When you say “Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 269, Section 10” you’ve said a mouthful. The language of Massachusetts’ knife carry law is not exactly a model of succinct eloquence, so we’ll try and parse it out a little.
None of the terms of this verbose and Byzantine statute are actually defined anywhere in the MA General Laws, but Massachusetts appellate court decisions give some guidance. Since this isn’t legal advice and it isn’t a law review article, I’ll omit the case citations.You can search the terms at www.masscases.com and read the cases for yourself.
Daggers and stilettos are generally interpreted as being knives designed primarily for stabbing. A dirk is discussed in caselaw as being ‘a long straight-bladed dagger or short sword,’ similar to a Highlander’s knife or a naval officer’s ceremonial knife, usually with a double-edged symmetrical blade. A dirk knife is a ‘large folding or clasp knife’ with a blade similar to that of a dirk.
Ballistic knives, double-edged knives, automatics and knuckle knives also cannot be carried. Note that any sharpening of the reverse side of a knife can make that knife ‘double-edged’ under MA law, so avoid reverse-sharpened spear points and Bowies with sharpened clip points.
Internet lore suggests that some true automatics (‘bar-action’ autos) escape the Massachusetts switchblade ban. I couldn’t verify that in the time allotted for this research, so you’ll have to track that down for yourself.
Locking folding knives cannot be carried ‘in a device which causes them to be drawn in a locked position.’ I wondered if this meant that you can’t wear a folding knife locked open. This would be nonsensical since MA law does not prohibit carry of fixed-blade knives, so I’m guessing that it refers to contrivances like the Kershaw Ripcord. That’s only my best guess, however.
In any case, nothing that fits in this list of ‘dangerous weapons’ can be carried on your person in public, or under your control inside a car. Massachusetts makes no distinction between concealed carry. open carry and car carry. If a ‘dangerous weapon’ is in a car, it had best be secured in the trunk or in a container that makes it not immediately accessible.
These are not considered switchblades, because you’ve got to push them to get them to start opening.
Knives are not allowed on school grounds. No shocker here.
MA allows the carry of large fixed blades when hunting or fishing, or traveling directly to and from hunting and fishing.
There’s another odd exception which seems to allow carrying little tiny switchblades and daggers with blades of no more than 1.5 inches. Perhaps they’re considered so useless as weapons that they’re not worth banning.
Massachusetts state law does not preempt local knife ordinances. This lets Boston impose a 2.5″ blade length limit, and other municipalities and counties have their own idiosyncratic rules as well. Good luck looking those up, if you plan on carrying anything useful around Massachusetts.
If not for the patchwork of restrictive local laws, Massachusetts knife laws don’t stray terribly far from common sense.The switchblade ban is silly, and the broad definition of ‘double-edged’ is even sillier, but the majority of useful knives can still be carried in most parts of the state.
I’ll never understand most states’ prohibitions on ‘dirks and daggers’ since I’d argue that the 2nd Amendments covers all knives great and small, but I’ll never feel compelled to carry a foot-long Bowie either. And the state-law phobias about Japanese martial-arts weapons makes me wonder if all their legislators’ parents were murdered by Ninja. That would explain a lot.
But just like its neighbor to the southwest, it’s not Massachusetts knife laws that offend me, it’s their gun laws. Until they start to recognize the same Constitution that they ratified all those years ago, MA and CT and NY and NJ can all FOAD.