Ohio Gun and Weapon Laws and Restrictions

Learn about Ohio’s restrictions on possessing, carrying, and using guns and other weapons—and the charges you could face for violating the laws.

By , Legal Editor

Ohio is an "open carry" state, where most adults may carry guns openly without a license. However, the state does require a license for carrying concealed handguns. It also regulates who can have guns, where they can bring firearms, and the types and uses of weapons that aren't allowed. As a general rule, these laws make exceptions for on-duty law enforcement officers, military personnel, and other officials authorized to have guns as part of their jobs.

Ohio Laws on Carrying Concealed Guns and Other Deadly Weapons

Under Ohio law, it's a crime to carry a concealed handgun on your person unless you have a license, are on active duty in the military, or are a law enforcement officer. With or without a license, it's against the law to carry any other type of concealed firearm or deadly weapon on you. You'll generally be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor for illegally carrying a concealed weapon, but the penalties increase if you've had a previous conviction for the same offense. It's a fourth-degree felony if the concealed weapon was loaded. (See the sentence ranges for different classes of Ohio misdemeanor crimes and felony crimes.)

If you're charged with carrying a concealed weapon—other than a handgun or certain dangerous weapons or explosives—you're allowed to raise the defense that you were doing so in order to protect yourself, your family, or others while you were something that was legal but put you at particular risk of attack.

Ohio has separate rules for carrying guns in vehicles. It's a fourth-degree felony to have a loaded gun that's accessible to anyone in the car—or an unloaded gun that's not either in a case or in plain sight in a gun rack—unless you have a concealed carry license, or it's hunting season and you have the proper permits.

Even if you have a valid license, you may not carry a concealed handgun in certain places (except as specifically permitted), including:

  • places where all firearms are prohibited under Ohio law (discussed below)
  • colleges and universities (other than when kept in a locked vehicle)
  • places of worship
  • government buildings, and
  • any private property with a posted sign prohibiting guns or concealed firearms.

If you're carrying a concealed handgun when you're stopped by police, you must immediately tell the officer that you have a license and currently have the gun on you or in your car. (Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2923.12, 2923.126, 2923.16 (2019).)

Illegal Gun Possession by Felons and Others

Ohio law makes it a third-degree felony to possess any gun if you:

  • have been convicted of, or are under indictment for, a violent felony or drug crime (or an equivalent juvenile offense)
  • have fled to avoid arrest or punishment
  • are a chronic alcoholic or dependent on drugs, or
  • have been found by a court to be mentally ill or incompetent.

Even if you fit in one of these categories, however, you may be able to get your gun rights restored if you meet the qualifications. (Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2923.13, 2923.14 (2019).)

Federal Charges for Illegal Possession of Dangerous Weapons

Federal weapons prohibitions cover a larger group of people than Ohio law, including anyone convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor or subject to a domestic violence restraining order.

Providing Guns to Youth

Ohio aims to keep guns away from children, but it focuses the penalties (for a fifth-degree felony) on those who provide guns to the youth (under 21 for handguns or under 18 for all guns), except for legal hunting, sporting, marksmanship, or other educational purposes. (Ohio Rev. Code § 2923.21 (2019).)

Possession of Weapons in Schools, Bars, and Courthouses

Along with restrictions on carrying concealed handguns in certain places (discussed above), Ohio prohibits any guns or other deadly weapons in courthouses and school safety zones (which include K-12 school property, school buses, and school activities). However, you're allowed to have a handgun in your vehicle while on school property if you have a concealed carry license. First offenses will generally be charged as a fifth-degree felony. It's a first-degree misdemeanor to have a fake gun at school if you said or otherwise indicated that it was real.

It's also a fifth-degree felony to have a gun in an establishment with a liquor permit—unless you're the permit holder or have a concealed carry license, and you aren't drinking or under the influence. (Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2923.121, 2923.122, 2123.123 (2019).)

Illegal Gun Use

You can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor for using or carrying a firearm or explosive while under the influence of alcohol or an illegal or dangerous drug. The penalty is the same for having a gun with altered or removed identification marks.

It's a crime in Ohio to fire a gun in various places, including:

  • at or into someone's home or a school safety zone—or even near school property if you intended to hurt someone, create panic, or force an evacuation (second-degree felony)
  • on a public road (with penalties ranging from a first-degree misdemeanor to a second or third-degree felony, depending on the resulting damage)
  • on grounds next to schools, churches, and other buildings with people in them, unless it's your own property (fourth-degree misdemeanor); and
  • in or from a vehicle (fourth-degree felony)

Finally, you may face increased penalties for various crimes, like assault or robbery, if you used or brandished a gun or other deadly weapon while you were committing the crime. (Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2903.12, 2911.01, 2923.15, 2923.161, 2923.16, 2923.162, 2923.201 (2019).)

Prohibited Weapons

It's a fifth-degree felony in Ohio to possess any of the following weapons (called "dangerous ordinances" in state law):

  • automatic and sawed-off firearms
  • ballistic knives
  • explosives
  • bombs, rocket launchers, grenades, mines, or other military weapons and ammunition; and
  • silencers, unless they're attached to guns that are authorized for hunting.

(Ohio Rev. Code §§ 2923.11, 2923.17 (2019).)

Getting Legal Help for Weapons Charges

If you're facing weapons charges in Ohio, you should talk to a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A criminal conviction can result in serious consequences, from fines to time in jail or prison, as well as difficulty securing future employment or passing a background check. An experienced local attorney can explain how Ohio law applies to your situation, let you know what to expect in the criminal proceedings, and help you present the strongest possible defense.

Changes in the Law

States can change their laws any time, but you can check the current Ohio statutes using this search tool. Court decisions may also affect how laws are applied and interpreted—another good reason to speak with a lawyer if you're concerned about actual or potential weapons charges.

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