What SB184 means to you: Part IV – Transportation of Unloaded Firearms

By Jim Irvine

SB184 is 75 pages. It will go into effect on September 09, 2008. This is part of a series of articles looking at specific sections of the bill and how it will affect you. Keep in mind that I am not an attorney and this does not constitute legal advice. Concealed carry license holders are required to read the Attorney General guide. I highly recommend “The Ohio Guide to Firearms Laws” by Ken Hanson, Esq. (NOW AVAILABLE: Update for SB184).

Most gun owners think they understand the laws about transporting guns in cars, until they find their explanation of how they complied with one section of the law was actually an admission that they violated a different section of law. Guilty as charged.

We documented the problem with our unloaded transportation “white paper” which concluded:

Action Needed: The Ohio General Assembly needs to fix the unintended change made by H.B. 12. Legislation should be passed, as soon as possible, restoring the ability of gun owners living in, or traveling in, Ohio to transport unloaded handguns. Further, the General Assembly should take this same opportunity to correct 25 years of bad case law by providing that only one statute, R.C. § 2923.16, controls the transportation of unloaded firearms in motor vehicles, and by further providing for a concrete, reliable method, not open to interpretation and including definitions, to transport unloaded firearms with a statutory “safe harbor” provision.

You helped us take our case to the legislature by sending emails through our Write to Legislators system and making countless phone calls and personal contacts with your legislators. They listened.

2923.12 will no longer be used to prosecute transportation of firearms that are not on your person in a vehicle.

The applicable section will be 2923.16.

Sec 2923.12 (C)(1) This section does not apply to any of the following:

(c) A person's transportation or storage of a firearm, other than a firearm
described in divisions (G) to (M) of section 2923.11 of the Revised Code, in
a motor vehicle for any lawful purpose if the firearm is not on the actor's
person;

Clear guidance is given for legal transport of firearms by persons without a CHL. The unloaded firearm must be carried in one of the following ways:

Sec 2923.16 (C)
(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) In 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.

Note that item number 4 has changed. This is no longer permitted for handguns. While some find this troubling, the reality is that it has not been permitted for some time because of restrictions in other sections. A history of convictions and case law has made this abundantly clear. Just because “you were taught” one way and have “always carried your guns this way” does not make it legal.

Don’t ask others if they were ever charged, ask those who were prosecuted how they defended their actions. Ignorance is no excuse, and this has been a painful lesson for many otherwise law-abiding gun owners.

A definition of a “loaded” gun is included. Note that loaded speed loaders and magazines stored anywhere in the vehicle count as loaded guns if combined with a compatible gun.

Sec 2923.16 (K)(5) "Unloaded" means, with any of the following:
(a) No ammunition is in the firearm in question, and no ammunition is loaded into a magazine or speed loader that may be used with the firearm in question and that is located anywhere within the vehicle in question, without regard to where ammunition otherwise is located within the vehicle in question.

While this is not a perfect definition from a law-abiding gun owner’s point of view, it is far better than the law we have been living under. We have one easy to understand section that details how to legally transport firearms.

For anyone who has both a CHL and a spouse, I highly recommend your spouse obtain their CHL even if they never plan to carry a gun. It is the cheapest form of insurance you will find for being charged with your loaded gun if you must leave your weapon with them in a vehicle.

Gun owners should be aware that they may still make use of the Federal statute dealing with interstate (from one state to another state) transportation of firearms. This federal statute allows someone to transport a firearm and ammunition so long as they "are legal" where they depart and where they arrive. For those worried about military surplus ammo in "enbloc" clips or stripper clips being a "loaded magazine", this method is still available to you. 18 USC 926(A):

§ 926A. Interstate transportation of firearms
Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console. (emphasis added)

Hanson's "The Ohio Guide to Firearms Laws” updated to reflect SB184 changes

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