To Carry or Not to Carry: Open Carry Law in Ohio

By: Kyle B. Melling, Esq.

Openly Carrying Firearms in Ohio

Recently gun enthusiasts petitioned the Republican Party to allow attendees to carry firearms at this summer’s Republican National Convention. The Secret Service quickly rejected this request citing Title 18 USC §§ 3056 and 1752, which provides the Secret Service with the authority to preclude firearms from entering sites visited by their protectees, including those located in open-carry states.  While gun owners won’t be able to open carry at the RNC, many law enforcement personnel and private citizens find themselves at a loss when determining the specific laws regarding openly carried firearms in the state of Ohio.

Ohio is an “Open Carry” state and protects the right to bear arms under Article I, Section 4 of the state constitution.  This means that anyone who can legally possess a firearm can carry one, in the open, without a license, with some exceptions.

Who Cannot Open Carry in Ohio?

Only individuals who can legally possess firearms in Ohio can open carry.  Individuals who are not legally allowed to possess firearms include those who are fugitives from justice, those who are under indictment for or have been convicted of a felony, those who are drug dependent or intoxicated, and those who are mentally incompetent.

Where Can Individuals Open Carry in Ohio?

While Ohio generally allows its citizens to open carry fire arms, there are limitations to the locations in which citizens may open carry.  Ohio generally prohibits persons from openly carrying in liquor-serving establishments, within school zones, and within court houses.  Further, private business owners may prohibit any firearms from being brought into their establishments by posting a notice in a conspicuous location.  Finally, absent a Conceal and Carry License, Ohioans may not open carry loaded firearms in any type of vehicle.

Can Police Officers’ Stop and Detain Individuals who are Openly Carrying a Firearm?

The Fourth Amendment requires that in order for a police officer to detain a citizen to conduct an investigation he must have reasonably articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1. (1968). Recently the Sixth Circuit held that in Open Carry states, such as Ohio, the presence of an openly carried firearm alone is not enough to permit a police officer to detain and disarm the carrier.  See Northrup v. City of Toledo Police Dept., 785 F.3d 1128 (6th Cir. 2015).  The Court went on to clarify that this general rule only applies first when the Officer has no reasonable suspicion of any possible criminal activity, and second, when the firearm does not on its face appear to be an illicit firearm, such as an assault rifle, or other automatic weapon.  As such, in Ohio, police officers may not detain individuals who are otherwise behaving lawfully, who are openly carrying a firearm.

For questions or more information on the topic of this blog post, please contact:

Kyle B. Melling – MRR Cleveland
Phone: 440.287.8295
Fax: 440.248.8861