Transporting or merely possessing a firearm in a motor vehicle brings with it both serious responsibilities as well as serious consequences if done improperly. The information provided here is a summary of the laws with regard to the proper transportation and possession of firearms in motor vehicles. This information is provided as a summary of the motor vehicle transport laws only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice. Please consult with legal counsel before relying on any information provided herein.
OHIO LEGAL DEFINITIONS
- “C.H.L.” – Concealed Handgun License
- “Motor Vehicle” – Means every vehicle propelled or drawn by power other than muscular power or power collected from overhead electric trolley wires, except motorized bicycles, road rollers, traction engines, power shovels, power cranes, and other equipment used in construction work and not designed for or employed in general highway transportation, hole-digging machinery, well-drilling machinery, ditch-digging machinery, farm machinery, and trailers designed and used exclusively to transport a boat between a place of storage and a marina, or in and around a marina, when drawn or towed on a street or highway for a distance of no more than ten miles and at a speed of twenty-five miles per hour or less. (This includes Motorcycles.) See Ohio Traffic Laws R.C. §4511.01.
- “Electric All purpose Vehicle” – Any battery-powered self-propelled electric vehicle that is designed primarily for cross-country travel on land, water, or land and water and that is steered by wheels, caterpillar treads, or a combination of wheels and caterpillar treads and includes vehicles that operate on a cushion of air, vehicles commonly known as all-terrain vehicles, all-season vehicles, mini-bikes, and trail bikes. “Electric-powered all-purpose vehicle” does not include a utility vehicle as defined in section 4501.01 of the Revised Code, any vehicle that is principally used in playing golf, any motor vehicle or aircraft that is required to be registered under Chapter 4503. or 4561. of the Revised Code, or any vehicle that is excluded from the definition of “motor vehicle” as provided in division (B) of section 4501.01 of the Revised Code. See Ohio Wildlife Laws R.C. §1531.01.
- “Firearm” – Means any deadly weapon capable of expelling or propelling one or more projectiles by the action of an explosive or combustible propellant. “Firearm” includes an unloaded firearm, and any firearm that is inoperable but that can readily be rendered operable. See Ohio Firearm Laws R.C. §2923.11.
- “Handgun” – Means any firearm that has a short stock and is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand or any combination of parts from which a handgun can be assembled. See Ohio Firearm Laws R.C. §2923.11.
- “Unloaded” – With respect to a firearm employing a percussion cap, flintlock, or other obsolete ignition system, when the weapon is uncapped or when the priming charge is removed from the pan. With respect to all other firearms when no ammunition is in the firearm in question, no magazine or speed loader containing ammunition is inserted into the firearm in question , and one of the following applies: (1) There is no ammunition in a magazine or speed loader that is in the vehicle in question and that may be used with the firearm in question, or (2) Any magazine or speed loader that contains ammunition and that may be used with the firearm in question is stored in a compartment within the vehicle in question that cannot be accessed without leaving the vehicle or is stored in a container that provides complete and separate enclosure. Ammunition held in stripper-clips or in en-bloc clips is not considered ammunition that is loaded into a magazine or speed loader. See Ohio Firearm Laws R.C. §2923.16.
- “Container that Provides Complete and Separate Enclosure” – A Container that Provides Complete and Separate Enclosure includes, but is not limited to, (1) a package, box, or case with multiple compartments, as long as the loaded magazine or speed loader and the firearm in question either are in separate compartments within the package, box, or case, or, if they are in the same compartment, the magazine or speed loader is contained within a separate enclosure in that compartment that does not contain the firearm and that closes using a snap, button, buckle, zipper, hook and loop closing mechanism, or other fastener that must be opened to access the contents or the firearm is contained within a separate enclosure of that nature in that compartment that does not contain the magazine or speed loader, or (2) a pocket or other enclosure on the person of the person in question that closes using a snap, button, buckle, zipper, hook and loop closing mechanism, or other fastener that must be opened to access the contents. See Ohio Firearm Laws R.C. §2923.16.
- “Long Gun(s)” – A firearm that is at least twenty-four inches in overall length as measured from the muzzle to the part of the stock furthest from the muzzle and if the barrel is at least eighteen inches in length. See Ohio Firearm Laws R.C. §2923.16.
- “Dangerous Ordnance” – Any automatic or sawed-off firearm, zip-gun, or ballistic knife; Any explosive device or incendiary device; Nitroglycerin, nitrocellulose, nitrostarch, PETN, cyclonite, TNT, picric acid, and other high explosives; amatol, tritonal, tetrytol, pentolite, pecretol, cyclotol, and other high explosive compositions; plastic explosives; dynamite, blasting gelatin, gelatin dynamite, sensitized ammonium nitrate, liquid-oxygen blasting explosives, blasting powder, and other blasting agents; and any other explosive substance having sufficient brisance or power to be particularly suitable for use as a military explosive, or for use in mining, quarrying, excavating, or demolitions; Any firearm, rocket launcher, mortar, artillery piece, grenade, mine, bomb, torpedo, or similar weapon, designed and manufactured for military purposes, and the ammunition for that weapon; Any firearm muffler or suppressor; Any combination of parts that is intended by the owner for use in converting any firearm or other device into a dangerous ordnance.
TRANSPORTING FIREARMS IN OHIO (R.C. §2923.16)
- A person may not transport or have a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle when the firearm is accessible to that person without having to leave the vehicle. In other words a person violates this section of Ohio law if the loaded firearm is accessible to the person from within the vehicle. Violation of this conduct is a Felony of the 4th degree.
- A person may transport or have an unloaded firearm anywhere in a motor vehicle, whether accessible or not, as long as the person may otherwise lawfully possess the firearm under both Ohio and Federal law and it is carried in one of the following ways:
- In a closed package, box, bag, or case;
- In a compartment that can be reached only by leaving the vehicle;
- In plain sight and secured in a rack or holder made for the purpose;
- LONG GUNS: If it is a long gun the person may also transport or have the long gun in a motor vehicle if it is (1) in plain sight with the action open or the long gun stripped, (2) if the long gun is of the type that the action will not stay open and it cannot be easily stripped then just in plain sight.
- ***NOTE: There appears to be a conflict between carrying a firearm loaded or unloaded based on a strict reading of the law, however, case law has analyzed this apparent discrepancy to resolve any such conflict. Essentially, if someone carries a loaded firearm as accessible to the person without leaving the vehicle its a Felony of the 4th degree (See R.C. §2923.16 sections (B) and (C)(2) as well as (I)) however, if they violate the law by carrying a firearm anywhere, accessible or not, and it is loaded that person is violating the law governing carrying a firearm unloaded and is guilty of a misdemeanor offense. In sum, the offense is elevated to a felony if it is carried loaded and accessible to the person. See State v. Smith, 2015-Ohio-2769.
- Pursuant to §2923.16(F)(5) a properly licensed C.H.L. licensee may transport or have a loaded handgun on or about their person within a motor vehicle as an exemption to R.C. §2923.16(B) & §2923.16(C). A C.H.L. licensee has additional restrictions and duties when they have or transport a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle.
- Promptly inform any law enforcement officer who approaches the motor vehicle that the licensee has a C.H.L. and is currently in possession of a loaded handgun;
- Comply with all lawful orders from a law enforcement officer;
- Must remain in the motor vehicle unless otherwise directed by law enforcement;
- Must keep hands in plain sight unless otherwise directed by law enforcement;
- Must not touch or attempt to touch the firearm.
FEDERAL INTERSTATE TRANSPORTATION OF FIREARMS 18 U.S.C. §926A “SAFE PASSAGE”
- The Federal Government has also regulated the transportation of firearms. Pursuant to the Firearms Owner’s Protection Act a person, who is not otherwise prohibited from transporting firearms, may transport firearms for any lawful purpose without fear of legal action against them. This law protects such a person from unknowingly violating state restrictions. The law provides that notwithstanding any state or local law a person is entitled to transport a firearm from any place that person may lawfully possess the firearm to any other place that person may lawfully possess the firearm. The firearm must be (1) unloaded, and (2) not readily accessible (i.e. locked and out of reach) and (3) for vehicles without a trunk the firearm must be locked in a container other than the glove compartment or console of the motor vehicle. The law also provides the same for ammunition. If carrying both ammunition and a firearm the ammunition should be locked in a separate container from the firearm itself. Some states and local municipalities treat this as an affirmative defense requiring citizens to retain counsel and argue their rights before a court of law.
- The National Rifle Association has an excellent resource on this subject found here: NRA Guide to Interstate Transportation of Firearms and F.O.P.A.
MISCELLANEOUS OHIO LAWS
- Drugs & Alcohol: No person shall transport or have a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle if the person is intoxicated (alcohol or drugs). See Ohio Firearm Laws R.C. §2923.15 & R.C. §2923.16(D)
- Discharge: No person shall knowingly discharge a firearm from a motor vehicle. R.C. §2923.16(A). This does not apply to a person who meets all of the following requirements: (1) discharges a firearm from a motor vehicle at a coyote or groundhog, and (2) the discharge is not during deer gun season, and (3) the discharge is otherwise lawful, and (4) the motor vehicle is on real property located in an unincorporated area of a township, and (5) the real property is zoned agricultural or is used for agriculture, and (6) the person who discharged the firearm owns the real property or is the spouse, child or tenant of the person who owns the real property. See Ohio Firearm Laws R.C. §2923.16(F)(2)
- Seizure of Firearm: If a person surrenders their firearm to a law enforcement officer or said firearm is seized by a law enforcement officer, the firearm must be returned to the person at the termination of the stop or otherwise promptly returned to that person after the firearm’s seizure. The law enforcement agency must maintain the firearms integrity and identity while the firearm is in their possession so it is returned in the same condition it was seized. If the law enforcement agency fails in this regard it is liable for costs and attorney fees. See Ohio Firearm Laws R.C. §2923.163
- Criminal Conduct Exception: Ohio law prohibits a person who does not have a C.H.L. from knowingly carrying or having, concealed on the person’s person or concealed ready at hand a firearm; however, a persons transportation or storage of a firearm in a motor vehicle for any lawful purpose if the firearm is not on the person’s person is lawful. [This exception does not apply to certain dangerous ordnance firearms as defined under R.C. §2923.11(G) – (M)] See Ohio Firearm Laws R.C. §2923.12(C)(1)(c)
EXEMPTIONS/EXCEPTIONS UNDER OHIO LAW
- Law Enforcement R.C. §2923.16(F)(1): Any law enforcement officer is authorized to carry or have loaded or accessible firearms in a motor vehicle as long as the law enforcement officer is acting within the scope of the officer’s duties.
- Agriculture R.C. §2923.16(F)(4): A person may possess or have a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle if all the following apply: (1) the person is the operator or passenger of the motor vehicle, and (2) the motor vehicle is on real property located in an unincorporated area of a township, and (3) the real property is zoned agricultural or is used for agriculture, and (4) the person with the firearm owns the real property or is a tenant of the owner of the real property or is the spouse or child of the owner or tenant of the real property, and (5) the person with the firearm did not otherwise violate the law in transporting the firearm to the real property.
- Private Property R.C. §2923.16(G): This section operates as an affirmative defense that the person who allegedly violated the law under R.C. 2923.16(B) or (C) must raise when prosecuted. The defense states that if a person transported or possessed a firearm in a motor vehicle in violation of R.C. 2923.16(B) or (C) that person is exempted from the violation if they can prove that they transported or had the firearm in the motor vehicle for a lawful purpose and while the motor vehicle as on the persons own property. This defense is available only if the person who transported or possessed the firearm did not illegally transport or have the firearm in the motor vehicle immediately before arriving on their own property.
- Hunting R.C. §2923.16(F)(6): If a person meets the following requirements for hunting purposes they may transport or have a firearm in a motor vehicle as an exemption to the general laws. The person must meet all the following criteria: (1) the person possesses a valid electric all-purpose vehicle permit, and (2) the person is on or in the electric all-purpose vehicle or a motor vehicle during the open hunting season for a wild quadruped or game bird, and (3) the person is on or in an electric all-purpose vehicle or a motor vehicle that is parked on a road that is owned or administered by the division of wildlife, provided that the road is identified by al electric all-purpose vehicle sign.
- Statehouse Parking R.C. §2923.16(F)(7): A person is not prohibited from possessing, storing, or leaving a firearm in a locked motor vehicle that is parked in the state underground parking garage at the state capitol building or in the parking garage at the Riffe center for government and the arts in Columbus, if the person’s transportation and possession of the firearm in the motor vehicle while traveling to the premises or facility was not otherwise in violation of the law.
NATIONAL FIREARMS ACT (“N.F.A.”) FIREARM TRANSPORT
- Ohio law is not explicit as to whether a person can carry an N.F.A. regulated firearm within a motor vehicle. R.C. §2923.16 permits the carrying of “firearms” within a motor vehicle in the manners discussed above but does not specifically discuss N.F.A. regulated firearms or Dangerous Ordnance. R.C. §2923.12 indicates that carrying Dangerous Ordnance on the actor’s person or ready at hand is illegal within a motor vehicle. In sum, it is important first that a person legally acquires and registers Dangerous Ordnance. Arguably once registered the actor is permitted to carry the item(s) in a motor vehicle as with any other firearm; however, the law is unclear and the actor must be aware of the legal risk.
Do you have Firearms In Motor Vehicles Questions?
Contact us to schedule a consultation