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Improper Handling of a Firearm in a Motor Vehicle in Ohio

UPDATE: As of March 14, 2022 SB215 has been signed by Governor Mike DeWine, but has not yet taken effect.  Until SB215 takes effect in June 2022, the information in this article is correct and up to date.


Ohio law allows the transport of weapons in cars both by those with a concealed carry license and those without. There are, however, laws regulating the handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle, and failure to adhere to these laws could result in serious fines, jail time, loss of a concealed carry license, or even the right to open carry.

Common Violations of Firearms Handling in Motor Vehicle

Driver stores gun in the glove compartment or other storage cubby without a CCW license.

Driver does not alert police officer that there was a gun in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop.

Gun is loaded and driver does not have a CCW license.

Gun is not loaded, but ammunition is carried in close proximity to the weapon.

Driver does not keep hands in plain sight of the police officer at a traffic stop.

Driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs while carrying a weapon in the vehicle.

If you have been charged with any of these offenses or have other charges involving your firearm in Ohio, give us a call, and we can help.

Open Carry: Handling of Firearm in Motor Vehicle 

Open carry of an unloaded weapon in a car is allowed as long as the firearm is carried in one of the following ways:

(1) In a closed package, box, or case;

(2) In a compartment that can be reached only by leaving the vehicle;

(3) In plain sight and secured in a rack or holder made for the purpose;

(4) If the firearm 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, either in plain sight with the action open or the weapon stripped, or, if the firearm is of a type on which the action will not stay open or which cannot easily be stripped, in plain sight (ORC 2923.16 (C)).

Loaded vs. Unloaded Firearm in Ohio Law

The definition of “unloaded” in Ohio is not as simple as it seems. For most firearms, to be considered fully unloaded, the following conditions must be met:

  • There is no ammunition in the gun, and no magazine or speed loader containing ammunition inserted into the firearmAND
  • EITHER there is no ammunition in a magazine or speed loader in the vehicle that can be used with the firearm in the vehicle
  • OR a loaded magazine or speedloader in the vehicle is kept a compartment that cannot be accessed from inside the vehicle or is in a completely closed separate container.

CCW Holders: Handling a Firearm in a Motor Vehicle 

 If you possess a CCW license , you are able to carry your concealed weapon anywhere in the state that does not specifically post signage stating that it is a a gun-free zone. This includes your car. You still must alert any officer that approaches you immediately that you are carrying a concealed weapon.  Do not draw your weapon or even touch it while being approached or interacting with the officer conducting the stop.

All Gun Owners: Carrying Firearms in a Motor Vehicle

If you are ever pulled over while carrying a weapon, do not draw it or touch it prior to your interaction with the officer conducting the stop.

As the law stands now, you must alert the officer immediately if you are in possession of a concealed weapon and ask how the officer wishes to proceed, but that will change in Ohio when the Constitutional carry bill (which we write about here) goes into effect. Until the new law goes into effect in June, you must obey the law as it is now. In March of 2022, you still must alert the officer immediately and ask how the officer wishes to proceed under Ohio law.

If you were pulled over for any act involving violence, alcohol, or use of your weapon, a charge stemming from the traffic stop may very well put your gun rights in jeopardy.

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Other Articles by Jim Dearie:

How Can an OVI Affect My Gun Rights in Ohio?

How Can a Domestic Violence Charge Affect My Gun Rights?

Contact Us for Help In Handling Your Weapons Charge

Swift response to your charges will help you get the best result for your case.

To reach us, fill out the information on our Contact page or call us any time day or night:

In Lebanon, Warren County and Butler County, Ohio call our office.

In Beavercreek, Montgomery County and Greene County, Ohio email us.

The information contained herein does not represent the full extent of Ohio firearms law and does not constitute legal advice. For weapons charges, every individual’s circumstance is unique. Call us so we can evaluate your case.



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