The Buckeye State maintains some of the most imprecise knife statutes to be found in the United States today, which simultaneously enable possession of any kind of knife or blade with the exception of ballistic knives, and essentially ban all such knives from concealed carry.
The law essentially declares all knives to be dangerous weapons at the discretion of an arresting officers or a sentencing judge. With no limits to the definition of a dangerous weapon, all knives are illegal to concealed carry. While this prohibition is relatively seldom enforced, it exists, has been used, and will be used again, meaning Ohio is a place where knife owners are well advised to carry their knives concealed as infrequently as possible.
Open carry is allowed in all places except the usual banned locations such as schools. Though its knife laws are already quite restrictive in some regards, Ohio also allows local governments at the town, city, or county level to pass their own knife ordinances, and makes no attempt at preemption in the matter of knives.
Legality of Knife Possession
Knives are treated the same way as any other ordinary piece of personal property for purposes of ownership. Ohio residents or visitors are fully entitled to own any blade they want, from humble pocket knives and utility knives, to exotic balisong knives, switchblades, or gravity knives, to large implements such as Bowie knives, machetes, and swords. KA-BAR knives, daggers, push knives, disguised blades such as belt-buckle knives, throwing stars, and many others are also completely lawful to own.
Only ballistic knives are forbidden by section § 2923.17, which forbids dangerous ordnance, which these knives are classified as. Many online sources fail to recognize this special status of ballistic knives, but Ohio law does, in fact, forbid them entirely.
However, section § 2923.20 of the Ohio Codes, “Unlawful transactions in weapons,” forbids the manufacture, sale, or transfer to any person – or ownership for the purpose of sale – of switchblades, gravity knives, and springblade knives. The only exemption is if the knives are being provided to a law enforcement agency for training reasons. Therefore, these knives can be owned in Ohio, but cannot be sold or given to another individual, nor owned for the purpose of selling them.
Ballistic knives are characterized as “dangerous ordnance” and are therefore both illegal to own and additionally illegal to carry while intoxicated.
Open carry of any legal knife (that is, any knife) is also completely legal in the Buckeye State. This is limited only by locations, with all knife carrying disallowed in courthouses or school zones (including the school buildings proper).
Knife Length Limit
Ohio enforces no length limits on knives for possession or open carry, while concealed carry is practically outlawed even without a length limit. Nevertheless, many municipalities in Ohio enforce a 2.5” blade length limit (or less than 2.5” limit) in addition to the state’s de facto prohibition.
Concealed Carry of Knives
Ohio state law bans the concealed carrying of any dangerous weapon, and section § 2923.11 defines dangerous weapons as “any instrument, device, or thing” that can injure or kill someone, that is designed as a weapon, or that is carried, used, or possessed as one.
Other Knife Law Considerations in Ohio
Many localities within Ohio maintain their own set of rules and regulations about legal and illegal knives within their jurisdiction. Unhindered by any preemption statute, many of these communities add further restrictions to concealed carrying, or even possession of certain kinds of knives.
For example, the city of Upper Arlington’s ordinances, section § 523.05 (A), forbids owning switchblade knives and other automatic knives, punishing violations as a fourth degree misdemeanor. This makes carrying and owning knives even more legally hazardous within the boundaries of the state of Ohio.
Resources and Further Reading