Central Ohio municipalities share knife laws, plans

ThisWeek Staff
ThisWeek

Leaders of central Ohio communities explain their local laws related to knives in light of Senate Bill 140, which was signed into law Jan. 11 and goes into effect April 12:

New state law not likely to affect Bexley, city attorney says 

Although the passage of Senate Bill 140 loosens concealed-knife restrictions and sales at the state level, the city of Bexley is among the state’s municipalities that have local ordinances that prevent people from carrying concealed weapons, according to the city attorney.

Even after SB 140 goes into effect April 12, Bexley will maintain the ability to prevent people from carrying concealed knives within the city limits, city attorney Marc Fishel said.

He cited Section 672.02 of the city code, which states, “No person shall knowingly carry or have, concealed on the person’s person or concealed ready at hand, any of the following: (1) A deadly weapon other than a handgun.”  

“I think a knife could qualify as a deadly weapon under the code,” Fishel said. “I think SB 140 is designed to allow certain knives that are not designed or intended to be used as a weapon.”  

Fishel said he does not expect the new state law to lead to any changes in how Bexley Police Department officers administer city code in regard to concealed weapons.  

“I am not sure SB 140 will change the enforcement of this ordinance,” he said. “I am not sure how or if this will impact law enforcement in the city.” 

–Chris Bournea

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Canal Winchester code not likely to change, mayor says 

Canal Winchester’s and Groveport’s city ordinances are identical in their sections regarding general offenses, even using the same ordinance numbers and sections throughout. 

Canal Winchester Mayor Mike Ebert said he doesn’t think the city would amend its code. 

Groveport city law director Kevin Shannon did not respond to an email seeking comment. 

For both cities, one specific reference to the criminality of certain knives is under a section called “Unlawful transactions in weapons” (549.06).  

“No person shall do any of the following: … Manufacture, possess for sale, sell or furnish to any person other than a law enforcement agency for authorized use in police work, any brass knuckles, cestus, billy, blackjack, sandbag, switchblade knife, springblade knife, gravity knife or similar weapon,” the section reads, also noting that a violation is a second-degree misdemeanor in both cities. 

Ballistic knives are listed under the two cities’ “general offenses” section called “Definitions” (549.01), which, in addition to ballistic knives, defines deadly weapons, dangerous ordnances, firearms, explosive devices, incendiary devices, etc.  

In that section, a ballistic knife is defined under 549.01(j) as a “knife with a detachable blade that is propelled by a spring-operated mechanism.”  

The next section below it is a definition to dangerous ordnances (k) and includes any “automatic or sawed-off firearm, zip-gun or ballistic knife.”

In the section called “Carrying concealed weapons” (549.02), the text states: “No person shall knowingly carry or have, concealed on the person’s person or concealed ready at hand … a dangerous ordnance.”

–Scott Gerfen

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Columbus weighing need to tighten laws

Columbus city attorney Zach Klein’s office is in the process of considering the impact of the new law and what effect, if any, it will have on the ability for the city to pursue tougher weapons-control laws than what the state prescribes, according to Faith Oltman, communications director for Klein’s office.

Oltman confirmed the city’s applicable laws regarding knives as follows:

2323.20 – Unlawful transactions in weapons; failure to report loss.  

(A) No person shall manufacture, possess for sale, sell, or furnish to any person other than a law enforcement agency for authorized use in police work, any brass knuckles, cestus, billy, blackjack, sandbag, switchblade knife, springblade knife, gravity knife, or similar weapon.

Violation of the law is a second-degree misdemeanor.

In addition, like Canal Winchester and Groveport, ballistic knives are listed within the same section that defines deadly weapons, firearms and dangerous ordnances, with ballistic knives listed among dangerous ordnances.

–Scott Hummel

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Delaware police captain sees no ‘significant impact’ in his city 

"We are not anticipating the change in state law, through SB 140, having a significant impact in Delaware," Delaware Police Department Capt. Adam C. Moore said.  

The city ordinance addressing knives includes:  

549.06 – Unlawful transactions in weapons. – (a) No person shall: (1) Manufacture, possess for sale, sell or furnish to any person other than a law enforcement agency for authorized use in police work, any brass knuckles, cestus, billy, blackjack, sandbag, switchblade knife, springblade knife, gravity knife or similar weapon ...  

"The Delaware Police Department has not made any arrests in the last five years for unlawful transactions in weapons under either the local ordinance or state statute,” Moore said. “Regarding carrying-concealed-weapons arrests, most charges filed by our agency involve the carrying of a concealed firearm.

"We did file carrying-concealed-weapon charges related to knife possession three times in the last five years. However, each of those incidents involved criminal activity beyond simple possession of the knife," Moore said.

–Paul Comstock

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Dublin reviewing local laws, which have matched state’s

Dublin's laws concerning deadly weapons largely defer to Ohio Revised Code when defining such offenses, said Rebecca Myers, a public-information officer for Dublin. 

In Dublin's code, the definition of deadly weapon matches the definition in state law and criminalizes the carrying of a deadly weapon.  

Dublin Code 137.06(A)(1) states that no person shall: “Manufacture, possess for sale, sell, or furnish to any person other than a law enforcement agency for authorized use in police work, any brass knuckles, cestus, billy, blackjack, sandbag, switchblade knife, springblade knife, gravity knife, or similar weapon.” 

"Dublin code does not currently include the new language from SB 140 excluding knives not used as weapons from the definition of ‘deadly weapons,’” Myers said. “While SB 140 doesn’t take effect until April 12, 2021, the city is currently reviewing the legislation and will determine any necessary revisions."

–Kevin Corvo

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Gahanna’s police chief sees little effect on city’s enforcement 

Gahanna Division of Police Chief Jeff Spence said he doesn’t believe the new law will have an impact locally.   

“Handguns (often stolen or otherwise illegally obtained) are the primary threat we encounter,” he said.  

Spence said Gahanna has Ordinance 549.06, “Unlawful Transactions in Weapons,” that generally applies.

The ordinance prohibits “manufacture, possess for sale, sell or furnish to any person other than a law enforcement agency for authorized use in police work, any brass knuckles, cestus, billy, blackjack, sandbag, switchblade knife, springblade knife, gravity knife or similar weapon.”

“This is more about Ohio’s complex knife laws that essentially make knives that are legal to carry and possess illegal to manufacture,” Spence said. “I do not know of any manufacturers in Gahanna. It does clarify the definition of a deadly weapon and provides for the possession of knives used as tools not leading to criminal prosecution.”

–Marla K. Kuhlman

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Grandview Heights in process of amending code to reflect state law 

The change in state law has led Grandview Heights to consider legislation to amend Section 549.02 of its code that prohibits people from knowingly carrying or having a weapon concealed on their person or concealed ready at hand.

"We (are planning to amend) the ordinance to reflect the intent of the state-law change that if a knife was not directly involved in the commission of a crime, the charges should not reflect that it was, and its presence should not be used to enhance the charges," city attorney Joelle Khouzam said. "Hypothetically, if a robbery were committed without showing or implying the presence of a weapon and the suspect who is apprehended is found to have a knife on his or her person, this change means the suspect cannot be charged with armed robbery."

The ordinance introduced at the Feb. 1 Grandview Heights City Council meeting would add a provision in the Carrying Concealed Weapons section to state, "'Weapon' does not include any knife, razor or cutting instrument if the instrument was not used as a weapon."

The measure would bring Grandview's regulations in line with the new state law, Khouzam said.

Grandview police officers review each matter on a case-by-case basis before any charges are issued, so the legislation likely would not change the police department's current practices when determining what charges are proper, she said.

The legislation also would remove a portion of section 549.06 Unlawful Transactions in Weapons. 

The provision that would be eliminated reads that "no person shall do any of the following: (1) Manufacture, possess for sale, sell or furnish to any person other than a law enforcement agency for authorized use in police work, any brass knuckles, cestus, billy, blackjack, sandbag, switchblade knife, springblade knife, gravity knife or similar weapon."

Council is expected to give the ordinance three readings and approve the measure March 1, Khouzam said.

The amendments would not go into effect until April 12, after the changes in the state law become effective, she said.

–Alan Froman 

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Grove City: New law not expected to have much impact 

Grove City has two ordinances in place that directly address knives, Grove City Division of Police Patrol Sgt. Justin Gallo said.

Section 549.02(a)(1) addresses carrying concealed weapons.

"It states no person shall knowingly carry or have concealed on their person or concealed ready at hand a deadly weapon other than a handgun," Gallo said. "A knife is considered concealed when no part of the knife is visible. If you can see any part of the knife, including a clip, it is not considered concealed."

A violation of this section is a first-degree misdemeanor, Gallo said.

Section 549.11 states that "no person shall possess, sell, exhibit for sale or carry on or about his person any knife with a blade fitted with a mechanical device for automatic release of the blade, opening the knife and locking the knife in the open position, commonly known as a switch or automatic spring knife."

"This ordinance does not specify concealed but focuses on possessing a certain type of knife," Gallo said.  

A violation of this section is a third-degree misdemeanor, he said.

The new state law should not affect how officers do their job, Gallo said.

"An officer's personal thoughts should be kept out of policing," he said. "Our job is to remain neutral when investigating any violations of local, state or federal law. Law updates are common in our line of work, and officers understand they will be responsible for adapting to those changes.

"This law update should not make it more or less challenging for officers when they discover a concealed knife on a subject."

–Alan Froman 

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Hilliard amends local ordinances in response 

Hilliard is among the central Ohio municipalities with a local ordinance concerning the possession of deadly weapons, and the city amended it in response to the new Ohio statute. 

Ohio Senate Bill 140 added Section H in Section 2923.12 of Ohio Revised Code, which changed the definition of a “deadly weapon” or “weapon” in that statute to include a knife, razor or cutting instrument only if that item had been used as a weapon, said Dawn Steele, a staff attorney for the city of Hilliard.

"The city removed 549.02 to avoid conflicts between local and state law regarding firearms, so the city would defer to the state code for violations of this statute on carrying concealed weapons," Steele said.

However, Hilliard has not changed its definition of “deadly weapon” in 549.01, and the city definition still includes items “possessed, carried or used as a weapon,” and that definition still could be applied in other statutes, such as the negligent-assault and aggravated-menacing statutes, Steele said.

For example, Hilliard's local ordinance still includes Section 549.10, Carrying Dangerous Weapons, which states, “No person shall carry on or about his person any weapon known or designated as a slingshot, slungshot, brass knuckles, billy, blackjack or other weapon of similar character."

This statute would prohibit within city limits the non-firearm weapon possession allowed under ORC 2923.12, according to Steele.

"The city has a more restrictive law in place on knives and other such weapons that remains in effect, so SB 140 does not make it legal to carry those items in the city of Hilliard, Steele said.

SB 140 amended 2923.20 to remove the language that previously stated no person shall “manufacture, possess for sale, sell, or furnish to any person other than a law enforcement agency for authorized use in police work, any brass knuckles, cestus, billy, blackjack, sandbag, switchblade knife, springblade knife, gravity knife, or similar weapon.”  

Hilliard City Code 549.10 still would prohibit those actions within city limits, Steele said.

–Kevin Corvo

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For New Albany, new state law merely mirrors city’s 

The city of New Albany does not automatically classify knives as deadly weapons, city spokesman Scott McAfee said.

"The new law memorializes what (the New Albany Police Department) has been practicing – that many people carry knives as tools,” he said. "The NAPD’s practice is to look at the totality of the circumstances and only charge if the knife is either used as a weapon or threatened to be used as a weapon.”

The city will amend the municipal code in light of the new state law, though, he said.

“New Albany officers can cite under city code or ORC,” he said. “The difference in enforcement is what court the charge would go to. The citation would go to a county court – either Licking or Franklin – if the law is not part of the city’s municipal code.”

–Gary Seman Jr.

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Pickerington not likely to make changes 

Pickerington law director Philip Hartmann said he’s not aware of any laws specifically related to carrying knives in the city’s charter, nor is he aware of any plans for the city to add or amend weapons laws related to the new legislation.

Pickerington does have a section within its “unlawful transactions in weapons ordinance” that states no person shall “manufacture, possess for sale, sell or furnish to any person other than a law enforcement agency for authorized use in police work, any brass knuckles, cestus, billy, blackjack, sandbag, switchblade knife, springblade knife, gravity knife or similar weapon.”

Violators are deemed guilty of a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

The city defines a ballistic knife as a knife with a detachable blade that is propelled by a spring-operated mechanism.

Further, the charter states, “No person, except park employees or other law enforcement officers or other persons authorized under Ohio law, shall carry a firearm of any description, air or gas gun, bow, crossbow, or other missile-throwing device, within any park, or discharge any firearms, fireworks, explosive substances, or air or gas guns onto or over such park, or bring into such park any pistol, switchblade or hunting knife, dagger, metal knuckles, slingshot or other dangerous weapon.”

Violators are deemed to be guilty of a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

–Nate Ellis

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Powell sticking with ‘common-sense approach to the current CCW law’ 

The city of Powell does not have a knife ordinance and has not considered passing one at this time Powell Police Department Chief Stephen Hrytzik said.

He said the department employs a "common-sense approach to the current CCW law," saying individuals who use knives in their work and are not concealing knives for other purposes are not charged or investigated.

"The new law will simply provide a concrete legal base for our agency’s use of discretion to date, and we will no longer have to rely on officer discretion and common sense to provide exceptions to the technical elements of CCW law," Hrytzik said.

–Jim Fischer

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Reynoldsburg city attorney expresses concern about state preemption

Reynoldsburg city attorney Chris Shook said the city’s codified ordinances prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons and largely mirror Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.12, which was amended by Senate Bill 140.

Reynoldsburg defines “deadly weapon” as any “instrument, device, or thing capable of inflicting death, and designed or specially adapted for use as a weapon, or possessed, carried, or used as a weapon.”  

This definition has included knives that are used or possessed for protection or as a weapon, Shook said.

In addition, under city ordinances, it is unlawful to “(m)anufacture, possess for sale, sell, or furnish to any person other than a law enforcement agency for authorized use in police work, any brass knuckles, cestus, billy, blackjack, sandbag, switchblade knife, springblade knife, gravity knife, or similar weapon.”

This language has mirrored ORC 2923.20 and was repealed by SB 140, he said.

“Senate Bill 140 potentially preempts our local concealed-carry law, as well as the law prohibiting the manufacture and sale of ‘brass knuckles, cestus, billy, blackjack, sandbag, switchblade knife, springblade knife, gravity knife, or similar weapon,’” Shook said. "Reynoldsburg will not be enforcing the concealed-carry ordinance as to knives after the effective date of SB140. If the courts find that we retain home rule on such matters, we will revisit."

Shook mentioned the issue of home rule.

“While we do have home-rule powers under the Ohio Constitution, these powers are not unlimited. In situations where our local law conflicts with a state general law affecting police powers, the state law prevails,” he said. “Until we obtain some more clarity from the courts, it would not be in the best interests of the city of Reynoldsburg to pursue legislation in response to Senate Bill 140 or to enforce local laws that conflict with Senate Bill 140.”

–Kelley Youman 

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Upper Arlington still relying on local laws 

Upper Arlington city attorney Darren Shulman said the city still considers some knives as weapons.

“We do have an ordinance regarding possession of knives, which seems geared towards what you and I might refer to as a ‘switchblade.’ There is also something called a ballistic knife that basically has a detachable blade that shoots out, which is included in the definition of dangerous ordnance and is regulated as such,” he said. “Thus far, I am unaware of any plans to make any additions or changes to our existing code sections. Obviously, this could change in the future.”

Upper Arlington’s knife ordinances state, “No person shall possess or carry on or about their person any knife with a blade fitted with a mechanical device for automatic release of the blade, opening the knife and locking the knife in the open position, commonly known as a switch or automatic spring knife or any knife that is possessed for use as a weapon.”

Anyone who violates the law is deemed guilty of a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

It also is a fourth-degree misdemeanor to “manufacture, possess for sale, sell or furnish to any person other than a law enforcement agency for authorized use in police work, any brass knuckles, cestus, billy, blackjack, sandbag, switchblade knife, springblade knife, gravity knife or similar weapon.” 

–Nate Ellis 

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Westerville: Certain knives still illegal locally, regardless of state law 

Although Gov. Mike DeWine signed what’s known as the Ohio Knife Law Reform Bill, Senate Bill 140, from the law-enforcement perspective, knives used as weapons still are prohibited, said Charles Chandler, Westerville Division of Police chief.

Chandler said Westerville Ordinance 523.03 Switch Blade Knives, which was approved Dec. 18, 1973, supports that, as well.

The ordinance states no person “shall sell, exhibit for sale or carry on or about his person any knife fitted with a mechanical device for automatic release of the blade, opening the knife and lodging the knife in the open position, commonly known as a switch or automatic spring knife.”

Anyone who violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. 

“Scenarios for knives that are carried for personal or job-related use and not concealed as a weapon have always been considered when an officer would find a knife during a search incident to arrest,” Chandler said. “The spirit of the law was never to simply charge every individual carrying a knife with a crime.”

Chandler said he sees potential impacts on the criminal-justice system concerning the new state law, from prosecution and evidentiary perspectives, that could come into play, but that is the case when any criminal law or legal definition is adjusted.

“But local law enforcement is aware of the change, and it will be part of the considerations police officers take into the numerous encounters officers have with potential suspects across the state on a daily basis," he said. 

–Marla K. Kuhlman 

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Whitehall: No specific ordinances, no plans to change 

The city of Whitehall does not have a knife-specific ordinance; however, a city ordinance covers deadly weapons in general, Whitehall city attorney Brad Nicodemus said.

It is written to include a wide array of objects that could be weapons, Nicodemus said. For example, a toothbrush shaved to a point at one end would be a deadly weapon pursuant to the ordinance, as could a knife.

He said the city’s deadly-weapon ordinance is sufficient and that the application of the ordinance to law enforcement in Whitehall would not be in conflict with Senate Bill 140. 

The city has no immediate concern with the changes from a law-enforcement perspective, Whitehall Division of Police Chief Mike Crispen said.

Before the adoption of SB 140, if a police officer were to issue a citation or arrest someone for possession of a knife, it likely would have been used only in conjunction with other crimes, Crispen said.

Moving forward, the local ordinance will be applied only to crimes involving knives in which there is evidence of its use as a deadly weapon, he said.

–Gary Seman Jr.

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Worthington could update ordinances in light of new state law 

According to Worthington city law director Tom Lindsey, the city’s general-offense code mirrors the state’s criminal code in most cases.

Specifically, Lindsey said, the offense of carrying a concealed weapon under city Ordinance 549.02 is identical to the same offense under ORC 2923.12.

The city of Worthington does not have any local ordinances that treat knives differently from how they are treated under state law, he said. The city usually updates the general-offenses code and traffic code once a year to incorporate all the changes made to the state's criminal and traffic codes, he said.

Lindsey said he anticipates the Senate Bill 140 changes to knife laws will be included in the next round of changes to the city codes.

–Stephen Borgna

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