Transporting Firearms In A Motor Vehicle
In order to approach this topic in a logical manner we start with the relative prohibitive sections of Ohio Revised Code 2923.16 and then explore the exceptions. Due to the complexity of the transportation law and the definition of an unloaded firearm in Ohio this page will not address the "discharge or a firearm while in or on a motor vehicle" or the Obligation to Inform Police Officers that is addressed in the same section of Ohio Revised Code.
Prohibited Transportation of a Firearm
Ohio Revised Code 2923.16(B) states that no person shall knowingly transport or have a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle in such a manner that the firearm is accessible to the operator or any passenger without leaving the vehicle. 2923.16(C) states that no person shall knowingly transport or have a firearm in a motor vehicle, unless the person may lawfully possess that firearm, the firearm is unloaded, and the firearm is carried in one of the following ways:
- In a close package, box, 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;
- If the firearm is at least 24 inches in overall length (measured from the muzzle to the part of the stock furthest from the muzzle)
- ...and the barrel is at least eighteen inches
- ...and either in plain sight with the action open or the weapon stripped, or,
- ...if the firearm action will not stay open or can not be easily stripped, in plain sight.
Ohio Revised Code 2923.16(D) states that no person shall knowingly transport or have a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle if, at the time of that transport or possession, any of the following apply:
- The person is under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or a combination of them.
- The person's blood, breath or urine contain a concentration of alcohol, a controller substance, or a listed metabolite of a controlled substance prohibited for persons operating a vehicle under 4511.19
Law Enforcement Exemption
For the sake of simplicity law enforcement authorized to carry or have loaded or accessible firearms in motor vehicles and acting within the scope of their or their employer's duties are exempted. For a more detailed analysis of this topic see 2923.16.(F)(1)
Private Property Agriculture Exemption
This exemption is likely very rarely used but would apply to a person possessing a firearm on agricultural property in certain specific instances. Divisions (B) and (C) do not apply to a person if all of the following apply. Reference: 2923.16.(F)(4)
- At the time of the alleged violation the person is the operator OR a passenger in a motor vehicle
- The motor vehicle is on "real property" located in an unincorporated area of a township that is either zoned or agriculture or is used for agriculture.
- The person owns the property, is the spouse or child of the property owner, is a tenant of another person who owns the property, or is the spouse or child of a tenant of the property owner.
- Prior to arriving at the property the person did not transport or possess a firearm in the motor vehicle in a manner prohibited by either (B) or (C) while on a street, highway or other public or private property used by the public for vehicular traffic or parking.
Concealed Handgun Licensee Exemption
Divisions (B) and (C) do not apply to a person if all of the following apply to a person carrying a concealed handgun license if that person is not knowingly in a place described in 2923.126(B) which are the enumerated "no guns" locations. We've documented those locations here: Ohio Revised Code Statutory Locations
Motor Vehicles & Hunting Exemption
Divisions (B) and (C) do not apply to a person in certain circumstances for electric all-purpose vehicles and motor vehicles. For details refer to 2923.16.(F)(6)
Statehouse Parking Garages Exemption
Anyone parking at the state capitol building or the parking garage at the Riffe Center in Columbus is not prohibited or restricted from possessing, storing, or leaving a firearm in a locked motor vehicle so long as the transportation and possession of the firearm in the motor vehicle while traveling to the premises or facility was not in violation of any other laws. Reference 2923.16.(F)(7)
Private Property Affirmative Defense
2923.16.(G) defines an affirmative defense, which is used in a court of law if you are charged with a violation of (B) or (C) above, provided that the person charged transported or had the firearm in the motor vehicle for any lawful purpose and while the motor vehicle was on the actor's own property.
If the person transported or possessed the firearm in a motor vehicle in a manner prohibited by (B) or (C) while the vehicle was being operated on a street, highway, or other public or private roadway used by the public for vehicular traffic. Note: This affirmative defense is unnecessary for a person in possession of a concealed handgun license if the firearm in question were a handgun as the license would permit that possession.
Definition of Unloaded in Ohio
For firearms that employ a percussion cap, flintlock, or other obsolete ignition system the firearm is "Unloaded" when the weapon is uncapped or when the priming charge is removed from the pan.
For the remaining vast majority of firearms in a motor vehicle "Unloaded" means that for the firearm in question:
- There is no ammunition in the firearm
- There is no magazine or speed loader containing ammunition inserted into the firearm and one of the following is true:
- There is no ammunition in a magazine or speed loader in the vehicle in question that may be used with the firearm in question
- Any magazine or speed loader that contains ammunition 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.
Definition of a container
For the purposes of the container referenced above those containers include, but are not limited to, any of the following:
- 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;
- 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.
Stripper clips and en-bloc clips exemption
2923.16(5)(c) provides an exemption for loaded stripper clips and en-block clips.
For the purposes of an unloaded firearm in a motor vehicle if you have preloaded stripper clips or en-block clips these are not loaded magazines or speed loaders and are permissive. There is no requirement that you have a concealed handgun license in order to transport loaded striper-clips or en-banc clips.
The Concealed Handgun Licensee Exemption
The definition of unloaded and container above do not affect the authority of a person with a concealed handgun license to have one or more magazines or speed loaders containing ammunition anywhere in a vehicle, without being transported as described above.
- No ammunition may be in a firearm (other than a handgun) in the vehicle other than as permitted as defined above
- A person who is carrying a concealed handgun may have one or more magazines or speed loaders containing ammunition anywhere in a vehicle without further restriction as long as:
- No ammunition is in a firearm, other than a handgun.
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