Ohio Knife Laws: What You Need to Know

WARNING: This article is not to be treated as legal advice. The author is not an attorney. Neither this website, its principals, owners, operators, contractors or employees, or the author of this article, claim any criminal or civil liability resulting from injury, death or legal action resulting from the use or misuse of the information contained in this article. Any comprehensive self defense plan will include preparing for the legal aftermath of being caught carrying a knife in the state of New York. The reader should hire and consult with a competent attorney as part of your preparations.

The Essentials

Legal to Carry Openly

  • Any otherwise legal knife, see below

Legal to Carry Concealed

  • Concealed carry of a knife is potentially illegal in Ohio

Illegal Knives

  • Ballistic knives
Ohio knife laws featured

Ohio Knife Law Overview

Ohio is a treacherous state for those wanting to concealed carry knives, any knives, in fact! A seemingly perfect storm of widely implicating statutes, vague interpretations and no lawful defense or singularly approved class of knife means you might be one rogue cop away from getting slapped with a concealed weapons charge.

We’ll get into the breakdown of the statutes as best we can below.

Relevant Ohio State Statutes Covering Use and Ownership of Knives

  • 2923.11 Definitions
  • 2923.12 Carrying Concealed Weapons and affirmative defenses
  • 2923.122 Possession of Deadly Weapons in School Safety Zone
  • 2923.123 Possession of Deadly Weapon in Courthouse
  • 2923.20 Unlawful Transaction of Weapons

Let’s kick this thing off with definitions. In many states, definitions mean more than a word would in common vernacular. Entirely new classes of meaning can be assigned to ordinary words, or subtle changes in what they entail can have sweeping effects on laws as written. Slyly altering definitions is one of the politician’s favorite tricks.

Ohio’s definitions are found in 2923.11

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.

The chief concern of the above statutes is the definitions of “deadly weapon,” of which most knives will certainly be determined by judges and juries alike to belong to.

It states, “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.”

“Capable” will snare almost any knife all by itself. A scalpel with a ¾” blade will inflict death as surely as time used accordingly. “Carried, or used” means one must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were not, in fact carrying a knife as a weapon in the first place. Easier said than done in these times, and tough to do period in liberal areas.

The only other item of note is ballistic knife, which sets itself up for failure since chemical propellant and gas actuated ballistic knives exist. Here’s a tip: you don’t want to mess with either in Ohio. Leave them alone.

The real nuts and bolts of Ohio’s nefarious laws on knives are found in 2923.12, which covers the carry of concealed weapons:

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:

(a) An officer, agent, or employee of this or any other state or the United States, or to a law enforcement officer, who is authorized to carry concealed weapons or dangerous ordnance or is authorized to carry handguns and is acting within the scope of the officer’s, agent’s, or employee’s duties;

(b) Any person who is employed in this state, who is authorized to carry concealed weapons or dangerous ordnance or is authorized to carry handguns, and who is subject to and in compliance with the requirements of section 109.801 of the Revised Code, unless the appointing authority of the person has expressly specified that the exemption provided in division (C)(1)(b) of this section does not apply to the person;

(c) A person’s transportation or storage of a firearm, other than a firearm described in divisions (G) to (M) of section 2923.11 of the Revised Code, in a motor vehicle for any lawful purpose if the firearm is not on the actor’s person;

(d) A person’s storage or possession of a firearm, other than a firearm described in divisions (G) to (M) of section 2923.11 of the Revised Code, in the actor’s own home for any lawful purpose.

(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.

There are so many potential problems to be had in the above passages. The very first paragraph makes it crystal clear that concealing any deadly weapon other than a handgun is forbidden. The statutes go on to say that a concealed handgun permit is only valid for handguns, not knives. It is under (D) that we get into the really tricky stuff.

Specifically, the statute states that it is an affirmative defense to the charges of carrying a concealed deadly weapon if the carrier was going about or engaged in their business, and the business “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.”

Well, excuse the hell out of us! Who decides? Where is it codified what meets that standard? How can you prove it?

That’s right; an affirmative defense is one that must be proved after the fact, not before. That means you cannot say you are a bike-riding diamond salesman to the cop arresting you for carrying a knife, even if you have the company uniform, bike and serialized shank on you.

You’ll have to get ground up nice and pulpy in the gears of the legal system before you break that one out in court!

It gets worse in (D)(2), which provides another oh so helpful affirmative defense option if in the course of going about any lawful activity a person had “… had reasonable cause to fear a criminal attack upon the actor… as would justify a prudent person in going armed.”

Once more with feeling, who in the hell decides?! Are you really going to trust a jury of your peers* to have the same value system you do, think like you do, value the same things you do?

No, no you aren’t. Again, this is an affirmative defense; one that has to be used in court after you are charged… *Peers: shiftless idiots who could not think of a good excuse to get off of jury duty.

Lastly, about the only one you can count on, is that you can keep a deadly weapon on or about your person for defense while in your own home. That’s as far as I’d trust these yokels.

Folks, the outlook is grim: even with a permit, it is highly likely that carry of a knife concealed is a no-go in Ohio. The state also makes it clear they don’t want their serfs wheeling and dealing in any bad, nasty knives in 2923.20:

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;

(7) When transferring any dangerous ordnance to another, negligently fail to require the transferee to exhibit such identification, license, or permit showing the transferee to be authorized to acquire dangerous ordnance pursuant to section 2923.17 of the Revised Code, or negligently fail to take a complete record of the transaction and forthwith forward a copy of that record to the sheriff of the county or safety director or police chief of the municipality where the transaction takes place;

(8) Knowingly fail to report to law enforcement authorities forthwith the loss or theft of any firearm or dangerous ordnance in the person’s possession or under the person’s control.

(D) As used in this section:

(4) “Private seller” means a person who sells, offers for sale, or transfers a firearm or ammunition and who is not a federally licensed firearms dealer.

While the prohibition on transferring dangerous knives seems to be construed to switchblades, springblade likely implicates assisted opening knives, and the parting shot “similar weapons” may well make transferring knives in general a risky proposition.

No-Go Zones

Schools and courthouses, and these sections are intricate and lengthy:

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.

(C) No person shall knowingly possess an object in a school safety zone if both of the following apply:

(1) The object is indistinguishable from a firearm, whether or not the object is capable of being fired.

(2) The person indicates that the person possesses the object and that it is a firearm, or the person knowingly displays or brandishes the object and indicates that it is a firearm.

(D)

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

(3) This section does not apply to a person who conveys or attempts to convey a handgun into, or possesses a handgun in, a school safety zone if, at the time of that conveyance, attempted conveyance, or possession of the handgun, all of the following apply:

(a) The person does not enter into a school building or onto school premises and is not at a school activity.

(b) The person is carrying a valid concealed handgun license or the person 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.

(c) The person is in the school safety zone in accordance with 18 U.S.C. 922(q)(2)(B).

(d) The person is not knowingly in a place described in division (B)(1) or (B)(3) to (8) of section 2923.126 of the Revised Code.

(4) This section does not apply to a person who conveys or attempts to convey a handgun into, or possesses a handgun in, a school safety zone if at the time of that conveyance, attempted conveyance, or possession of the handgun all of the following apply:

(a) The person is carrying a valid concealed handgun license or the person 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.

(b) The person leaves the handgun in a motor vehicle.

(c) The handgun does not leave the motor vehicle.

(d) If the person exits the motor vehicle, the person locks the motor vehicle.

(E)

(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.

(2) Whoever violates division (C) of this section is guilty of illegal possession of an object indistinguishable from a firearm in a school safety zone. Except as otherwise provided in this division, illegal possession of an object indistinguishable from a firearm in a school safety zone is a misdemeanor of the first degree. If the offender previously has been convicted of a violation of this section, illegal possession of an object indistinguishable from a firearm in a school safety zone is a felony of the fifth degree.

Reading the above statute, you’ll see that there are no exceptions for deadly weapons if you are visiting the school, leaving it in the car and locking it up; only for handguns. The penalty for violating this law is harsh: it is a felony.

Courtrooms have similar proscriptions:

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.

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

(1) Except as provided in division (E) of this section, a judge of a court of record of this state or a magistrate;

(2) A peace officer, officer of a law enforcement agency, or person who is in either of the following categories:

(a) Except as provided in division (E) of this section, a peace officer, or an officer of a law enforcement agency of another state, a political subdivision of another state, or the United States, who is authorized to carry a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance, who possesses or has under that individual’s control a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance as a requirement of that individual’s duties, and who is acting within the scope of that individual’s duties at the time of that possession or control;

(4) Except as provided in division (E) of this section, a bailiff or deputy bailiff of a court of record of this state who is authorized to carry a firearm pursuant to section 109.77 of the Revised Code, who possesses or has under that individual’s control a firearm as a requirement of that individual’s duties, and who is acting within the scope of that individual’s duties at the time of that possession or control;

(5) Except as provided in division (E) of this section, a prosecutor, or a secret service officer appointed by a county prosecuting attorney, who is authorized to carry a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance in the performance of the individual’s duties, who possesses or has under that individual’s control a deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance as a requirement of that individual’s duties, and who is acting within the scope of that individual’s duties at the time of that possession or control;

(6) Except as provided in division (E) of this section, a person who conveys or attempts to convey a handgun into a courthouse or into another building or structure in which a courtroom is located, who, at the time of the conveyance or attempt, 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, and who transfers possession of the handgun to the officer or officer’s designee who has charge of the courthouse or building. The officer shall secure the handgun until the licensee is prepared to leave the premises. The exemption described in this division applies only if the officer who has charge of the courthouse or building provides services of the nature described in this division. An officer who has charge of the courthouse or building is not required to offer services of the nature described in this division.

(D)

(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.

Once again, there is more leeway, however limited, for handguns than knives in this case, with handguns being allowed to be checked with the law enforcement officer in control of the courthouse security situation assuming he provides the service. Fat chance of that, but it is accommodated in the law. Knives, again, are not. Do not take any knife to a courthouse!

Preemption

None. Ohio is made all the worse since, on top of their highly restrictive laws, they lack the fortitude to make sure all municipalities respect the citizens’ rights to carry weapons in defense of themselves and others.

Many Ohio counties, cities and towns employ their own restrictive laws governing knives in excess of what the state levies. A couple include Cleveland, Columbus and Clanton.

Bottom Line

Ohio is a perilous state for concealed carry of knives, if not ownership. While you are allowed to own just about any kind of knife you want, it is clear Ohio State does not want you to have it with you anywhere but your home, concealed handgun permit or not.

Any knife you do choose to carry in your pocket in Ohio will be subject to the strictest scrutiny, and you must accept the risk knowing that multiple phases of the law are written such as to make it easy to charge you with a crime.

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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