Box cutters are useful tools for opening boxes and cutting various types of materials. However, they are sharp and potentially dangerous when not used safely. They can even be used as weapons if placed into the wrong hands. This brings up an important question, are box cutters legal to own and use? We discuss the answer below.
Are Box Cutters Knives?
Box cutters are a type of knife, often called utility knives or Stanley knives. Knives are designed to cut and pierce things, and box cutters definitely fall into this category.
Do Police Consider Box Cutters A Weapon?
Box cutters were never designed or intended to be a weapon or used as such. Many everyday objects and tools can be used as weapons in certain hands and situations. These include hammers, crowbars, pencils, shovels, screwdrivers, chairs, etc. However, most states do not have laws that label these as outright weapons.
If a crime is committed or an assault takes place and the perpetrator has box cutters or uses them during the act, they may be admitted as evidence of use (or intended use) as a deadly weapon. This also depends on the state laws where the crime took place.
For more information, see Legalmatch’s post about what constitutes a deadly weapon.
Can You Buy Box Cutters Easily?
Box cutters are available to anyone who wants to buy them and are usually not hidden behind glass in stores. You can get them online and have them shipped to you.
States Box Cutters Are Legal In
In nearly all states, it is legal to carry certain forms of knives either concealed or open carry. These include:
- Swiss Army knives and folding knives
- Utility knives and box cutters
- Knives with blades that are shorter than 2.5 inches
Since box cutters are not considered illegal weapons in most states, they can be bought and carried like any other tool. Automatic extension knives, or switchblades, may also be allowed in some states.
For more information, see this guide on state knife laws.
Knife Ownership And Carry Laws
Certain types of knives can be carried or concealed in states without breaking the law. However, some locations do not allow knives on the premises under any circumstances. These include:
- Government buildings
Ownership and carry laws forbid certain types of dangerous knives. Home ownership differs from conceal and carry and each state has different laws regarding these. The term “carry” can vary from state to state laws as being carried on the person or just inside a vehicle or nearby and within grasp.
When inside a vehicle, a knife could be considered open carry if it is easily seen and accessible through a door or window.
Folding knives are mostly allowed in the 50 US states. Fixed knives, however, may require an openly worn waist sheath to carry in. Fixed blade length limits range from a maximum of 1.5 inches up to unlimited in length in some states.
Can You Bring Box Cutters On Airplanes?
Airplanes have limits as to what items can be taken on the plane, as carry-on or stored luggage. Knives, including box cutters, are limited to checked bags only. Since 9/11 in the US, this rule (which already was in place prior) is even more greatly enforced at international airports. This is a very serious consideration for airlines and countries as it can put the lives of passengers and civilians at risk if a terrorist attack occurs using box cutters as a weapon to hold the people onboard a flight hostage.
What Happens If You Try To Take Box Cutters Onboard A Flight?
The TSA agents checking passengers and luggage will prevent you from taking a knife or box cutters on board a plane. X-ray detection can spot a knife hidden inside a backpack or shaving kit. Your box cutters will be likely be taken from you or you will be forced to put them into your checked bag (but that might be too late). There are few (if any) good reasons to take box cutters with you on a plane flight. It is recommended to simply leave your knives or box cutters at home or have them shipped separately to your destination.
United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA):
The TSA forbids the carry-on of box cutters on the person or in luggage. However, checked bags can bring box cutters on a plane. The TSA agent who checks the bags has the final decision as to if a box cutter is allowed on that particular flight.
The TSA allows certain sharp items or knives in checked bags only including:
- Bows and arrows
- Ski poles
- Pool cues
- Box cutters
- Spare blades
- Martial arts weapons
- Carpet knives
- Ice picks
- Metal scissors (blades bigger than 10 cm)
Box cutters are not difficult to obtain at stores, so if you travel consider just purchasing a pair at your destination instead of trying to bring them on board your flight.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.