Ohio State Knife Laws


Ohio is a state with knife laws in an absolutely awful state of repair. Ohio is fairly unique among states in that most types of knives are legal for ownership and you may open carry any knife that is otherwise lawful based on the pertinent features.

But by happenstance, lack of attention or deliberate malevolence, the state statutes regarding concealed carry leave citizens nowhere to go; all concealed carry of knives in Ohio is potentially illegal thanks to some extremely choppy wording of statutes and their interactions between each other.

Ohio flag

This is obviously perilous for a citizen who just wants to carry a simple knife without worrying about where they are going or whether or not they could run afoul of the law.

With so much of the decision for the initial charge left in the hands of a police officer, it is far from inconceivable that a rookie cop or just one with a chip on his shoulder might wind up hauling you into jail over your ordinary knife because they could not correctly interpret the law.

It is a sad state of affairs, but we will do our best to help you make sense of it below.

What You Need to Know

  • What Kind of Knives Can I Own?: Any kind of knife except a ballistic knife.
  • Can I Carry a Knife Concealed Without a Permit?: Concealed carry of any type of knife is legally perilous in Ohio.
  • Can I Carry a Knife Concealed With a Permit?: Concealed carry of any type of knife is legally perilous in Ohio.
  • Can I Carry a Knife Openly?: Yes, any legal type of knife.

General Ownership

The only categories of knives that are expressly forbidden from ownership in the state of Ohio are ballistic knives. Ohio defines a ballistic knife as any knife with a detachable blade that is propelled by a spring operated mechanism.

For clarity, these are knives that launch their blades as projectiles. If you wanted to be cute or funny, you might obtain a ballistic knife that propels its blade via compressed air or some other gas, or even potentially chemical propellant instead of a spring, though I would bet any amount of money it would still be an expressly illegal weapon in the state so don’t try your luck.

Sadly, Ohio does not have anything in the way of preemption laws, so you will very likely have to contend with even more stringent regulations in various locales. Several cities with known restrictive knife laws are Clanton, Cleveland, and Columbus, though others abound.

Make sure you thoroughly investigate any relevant local laws when traveling throughout the state with your knife, even when carrying openly or just in basic possession. Ignorance of the law is never an excuse!

Though Ohio seems amenable to the ownership of most kinds of knives, it is the carrying of knives concealed that presents the biggest legal furball.

Concealed Carry, No Permit

Regarding the concealed carry of knives, it is always imperative that a citizen determine exactly what kinds of knives are or are not okay to carry concealed. As far as Ohio regulations are concerned, we only need worry about the concealment of what they call deadly weapons.

Ohio defines a deadly weapon as any instrument, device or thing capable of inflicting death and designed or adapted for explicit used as a weapon, or anything possessed, carried or used as a weapon.

Chances are you are already tracking on what the problem is. Almost any kind of knife except perhaps something intentionally dull like a butter knife is capable of being used as a weapon, and all knives are more than capable of inflicting great bodily harm or death.

The addition of the phrase “carried, or used” in the statutes (which you can reference below) is actually calamitous for citizens; its inclusion means that a person carrying a knife must affirmatively prove beyond doubt in the eyes of the law that they were not carrying the knife as a weapon.

Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of the law and legal procedure knows how perilous such a thing is.

Concealed Carry, With Permit

To compound matters, the statutes when read in their entirety leave no doubt that the concealed carry of any deadly weapon except a handgun is not allowed.

What’s more, they double-down on this fact by stating that a concealed handgun permit only gives one remit to carry a handgun, not a knife, and no other deadly weapon.

It is highly regrettable, but there is no other way to square it: As written, it is likely that concealed carry of virtually any knife except, perhaps, the smallest and most useless, could potentially get you charged with concealed carry of a deadly weapon.

Obtaining a concealed handgun license or possessing a concealed weapons permit that Ohio recognizes does not grant you any additional permissions, or provide any additional protection.

The only place that you may truly carry concealed without concern is your home, your place of business, or on any real property that you own.

Do not delude yourself into thinking that you will not reach a negative outcome because you are a “good guy” and you don’t break the law, and your knife isn’t a weapon and it isn’t that scary and, really, like everyone knows what the law means, and that’s not what it’s for blah, blah, blah.

The law says what it says, and there have been enough negative outcomes in court already concerning knives in the hands of citizens who otherwise did nothing wrong that you do not want to run that risk.

Open Carry

It is not much consolation compared to the absolute mess that Ohio’s concealed weapon laws are, but you may open carry any otherwise legal knife in the state of Ohio, though it is definitely your best interest to brush up on what is considered concealed versus unconcealed.

Prohibited Places

Though the statutes are incredibly long and detailed, I can save you some trouble and a little bit of reading by telling you definitively that you cannot carry any knife inside a school building, onto the grounds of a school, or into any courthouse.

Assessment

Ohio is a state of extremely stark contrast when it comes to the ownership of knives. On one hand, you may legally own nearly any kind of knife, save ballistic knives. You may open carry any legal knife.

But when it comes to concealed carry, you are placing your future, quite literally, on the line as Ohio’s poorly written statutes make potentially any kind of knife illegal due to the phrasing used to classify a deadly weapon. You must use the utmost caution if you plan to carry concealed absolutely any kind of knife in Ohio.

Important Ohio State Statutes

2923.11 Weapons control definitions.

(A) “Deadly weapon” means any instrument, device, or thing capable of inflicting death, and designed or specially adapted for use as a weapon, or possessed, carried, or used as a weapon.

(J) “Ballistic knife” means a knife with a detachable blade that is propelled by a spring-operated mechanism.

(N)

(1) “Concealed handgun license” or “license to carry a concealed handgun” means, subject to division (N)(2) of this section, a license or temporary emergency license to carry a concealed handgun issued under section 2923.125 or 2923.1213 of the Revised Code or a license to carry a concealed handgun issued by another state with which the attorney general has entered into a reciprocity agreement under section 109.69 of the Revised Code.

2923.12 Carrying concealed weapons.

(A) No person shall knowingly carry or have, concealed on the person’s person or concealed ready at hand, any of the following:

(1) A deadly weapon other than a handgun;

(2) A handgun other than a dangerous ordnance;

(3) A dangerous ordnance.

(C)

(1) This section does not apply to any of the following:

(…)

(2) Division (A)(2) of this section does not apply to any person who, at the time of the alleged carrying or possession of a handgun, either is carrying a valid concealed handgun license or is an active duty member of the armed forces of the United States and is carrying a valid military identification card and documentation of successful completion of firearms training that meets or exceeds the training requirements described in division (G)(1) of section 2923.125 of the Revised Code, unless the person knowingly is in a place described in division (B) of section 2923.126 of the Revised Code.

(D) It is an affirmative defense to a charge under division (A)(1) of this section of carrying or having control of a weapon other than a handgun and other than a dangerous ordnance that the actor was not otherwise prohibited by law from having the weapon and that any of the following applies:

(1) The weapon was carried or kept ready at hand by the actor for defensive purposes while the actor was engaged in or was going to or from the actor’s lawful business or occupation, which business or occupation was of a character or was necessarily carried on in a manner or at a time or place as to render the actor particularly susceptible to criminal attack, such as would justify a prudent person in going armed.

(2) The weapon was carried or kept ready at hand by the actor for defensive purposes while the actor was engaged in a lawful activity and had reasonable cause to fear a criminal attack upon the actor, a member of the actor’s family, or the actor’s home, such as would justify a prudent person in going armed.

(3) The weapon was carried or kept ready at hand by the actor for any lawful purpose and while in the actor’s own home.

(E) No person who is charged with a violation of this section shall be required to obtain a concealed handgun license as a condition for the dismissal of the charge.

2923.20 Unlawful transaction in weapons.

(A) No person shall do any of the following:

(1) Recklessly sell, lend, give, or furnish any firearm to any person prohibited by section 2923.13 or 2923.15 of the Revised Code from acquiring or using any firearm, or recklessly sell, lend, give, or furnish any dangerous ordnance to any person prohibited by section 2923.13, 2923.15, or 2923.17 of the Revised Code from acquiring or using any dangerous ordnance;

(2) Possess any firearm or dangerous ordnance with purpose to dispose of it in violation of division (A) of this section;

(3) Except as otherwise provided in division (B) of this section, knowingly solicit, persuade, encourage, or entice a federally licensed firearms dealer or private seller to transfer a firearm or ammunition to any person in a manner prohibited by state or federal law;

(4) Except as otherwise provided in division (B) of this section, with an intent to deceive, knowingly provide materially false information to a federally licensed firearms dealer or private seller;

(5) Except as otherwise provided in division (B) of this section, knowingly procure, solicit, persuade, encourage, or entice a person to act in violation of division (A)(3) or (4) of this section;

(6) Manufacture, possess for sale, sell, or furnish to any person other than a law enforcement agency for authorized use in police work, any brass knuckles, cestus, billy, blackjack, sandbag, switchblade knife, springblade knife, gravity knife, or similar weapon;

2923.122 Illegal conveyance or possession of deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance or of object indistinguishable from firearm in school safety zone.

(A) No person shall knowingly convey, or attempt to convey, a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance into a school safety zone.

(B) No person shall knowingly possess a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a school safety zone.

(…)

(1) Whoever violates division (A) or (B) of this section is guilty of illegal conveyance or possession of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a school safety zone. Except as otherwise provided in this division, illegal conveyance or possession of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a school safety zone is a felony of the fifth degree. If the offender previously has been convicted of a violation of this section, illegal conveyance or possession of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a school safety zone is a felony of the fourth degree.

2923.123 Illegal conveyance of deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance into courthouse – illegal possession or control in courthouse.

(A) No person shall knowingly convey or attempt to convey a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance into a courthouse or into another building or structure in which a courtroom is located.

(B) No person shall knowingly possess or have under the person’s control a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a courthouse or in another building or structure in which a courtroom is located.

(…)

(1) Whoever violates division (A) of this section is guilty of illegal conveyance of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance into a courthouse. Except as otherwise provided in this division, illegal conveyance of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance into a courthouse is a felony of the fifth degree. If the offender previously has been convicted of a violation of division (A) or (B) of this section, illegal conveyance of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance into a courthouse is a felony of the fourth degree.

(2) Whoever violates division (B) of this section is guilty of illegal possession or control of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a courthouse. Except as otherwise provided in this division, illegal possession or control of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a courthouse is a felony of the fifth degree. If the offender previously has been convicted of a violation of division (A) or (B) of this section, illegal possession or control of a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in a courthouse is a felony of the fourth degree.


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