Recent changes to Ohio’s gun laws – what you need to know

By Nadia A. Klarr - For The Ohio State Bar Association

In December, Governor John Kasich signed Ohio Senate Bill 199, also referred to as Ohio’s “campus carry” bill, into law, which took effect on March 21, 2017. The law makes a number of amendments to Ohio’s gun laws, which include expanding places where Ohioans can lawfully carry, permitting active duty military members to carry a handgun without a concealed handgun license, and eliminating the ability of employers to prevent their employees from transporting guns to and from work. Not surprisingly, these changes come with restrictions. Despite expanding the list of places where carrying is permitted, the law places several requirements on how to carry and how to store a handgun in certain places, such as school zones. Thus, it is important to know exactly what the law requires before carrying a handgun into one of these places.

Q: Is Ohio still an open-carry state?

A: Yes. Ohio remains an open-carry state, meaning that individuals who legally possess a firearm can openly carry in Ohio with or without a concealed handgun license. However, there are restrictions on transporting firearms without a concealed handgun license. An unloaded firearm may be transported in a vehicle only if it is (1) in a closed package, box, bag, or case; (2) in a compartment that can only be reached by leaving the vehicle; or (3) in plain sight and secured. A long gun may only be transported in a vehicle if the gun is in plain sight with the action open or the long gun stripped (taken apart). As there are long guns which cannot be easily stripped and for which the action will not stay open, in those cases, the gun must simply be in plain sight.

Q: Can I carry a concealed handgun in a school safety zone?

A: Yes. The law allows persons carrying with a valid concealed handgun license or active military members to carry in a school safety zone if the person does not enter a school building or school premises, and is not knowingly in a place prohibited under Ohio law. The handgun must be left inside a motor vehicle at all times. If the person gets out of the vehicle, he or she must lock the vehicle. A school safety zone includes schools, school buildings, school premises, school activities, and school buses.

Q: Can I carry a concealed handgun on a college campus?

A: Yes, if the school allows for it. The law permits an individual with a valid concealed handgun license to carry if the board of trustees or other governing body of the public or private college, university, or other institution of higher education has adopted a written policy or rule authorizing individuals to carry a concealed handgun on school premises. If, however, the college or university does not have a written policy or rule authorizing a person to carry a concealed handgun on the school’s premises, then carrying a concealed handgun – even with a license – is prohibited.

Q: Can my employer prohibit me from carrying my handgun to work?

A: Your employer can lawfully restrict your ability to carry your handgun inside your office or place of employment, but your employer cannot prohibit you from transporting your handgun to work and storing it in your motor vehicle. The firearm must be kept and locked inside an enclosed compartment or container within your privately-owned vehicle and the vehicle must be in a location it is otherwise permitted to be, such as a designated employee parking lot.

Q: How does Senate Bill 199 affect active duty military members?

A: The law permits active duty members of the armed forces to carry handguns without a concealed handgun license, pursuant to all other Ohio handgun laws, if he or she is carrying a valid military identification card, as well as documentation of his or her completion of firearms training that meets Ohio’s training requirements. If the active duty member meets the criteria to carry, he or she is bound by the same laws, and enjoys the same rights, applicable to persons carrying pursuant to a valid concealed handgun license.

This “Law You Can Use” consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by attorney Nadia A. Klarr of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

By Nadia A. Klarr

For The Ohio State Bar Association