The dictionary definition of a stun gun – a category that includes tasers – is a weapon designed to stun or immobilize a person through electric shock. This type of weapon is not designed to kill or injure a person. Ohio law and administrative rules regarding regional psychiatric hospital police also define stun guns as having this stated purpose.
The state of Ohio does not consider a stun gun a deadly weapon because the state defines deadly weapon as an instrument, device or thing capable of inflicting death. Although state law does not speak specifically on stun guns, the omission of stun guns from items listed as deadly weapons means that state law allows stun guns.
Ohio also does not consider a stun gun to be a dangerous ordinance like a sawed-off shotgun or an explosive or incendiary device.
Stun Batons and Pepper Spray
A stun baton is a carbon or steel stick-shaped instrument that uses a high voltage to deliver an electric shock to an individual. A person using a stun baton causes the instrument to be effective by touching another person with prongs on the baton.
Pepper spray is an inflammatory spray that negatively and temporarily affects the eyes and skin of an individual. Both a stun baton and pepper spray fit the definition of instruments that are not deadly weapons in Ohio, making them legal to carry in the state.
Concealed Weapon Laws Don’t Apply to the Use of Stun Guns
Ohio’s state laws regarding a concealed carry license for a handgun do not apply to pepper spray or stun guns, including stun batons. Ohio defines a handgun as a firearm with a short stock designed to be held and fired with one hand.
The stock is the back portion of a gun that holds the barrel and firing mechanism. A handgun can also be any combination of parts from which such a firearm can be assembled.
Obtaining a Permit to Carry
As of June 2022, Ohio allows its citizens to carry a concealed handgun without a permit, but the state’s concealed-carry licensing program has been preserved.
A license-seeker must complete eight hours of training and then apply for a concealed handgun license (CHL) from an Ohio county sheriff. They will receive a photo ID card from the sheriff that identifies them as a licensed concealed carrier.
The permitless carry option is available to Ohioans 21 or older. These individuals may carry guns without a license. There are state and federal laws in place that prohibit certain individuals from possessing a handgun and/or carrying a concealed handgun, such as the federal 1968 Gun Control Act, which prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from possessing a firearm.
Ohio’s Self-defense Laws
In Ohio, a person is allowed to act in self-defense, defense of another or defense of their own residence. A person can use an instrument such as a stun gun or pepper spray to act in self-defense without a permit or license.
They are presumed to have acted in self-defense or defense of another if they use force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another and the person against whom they use this force is in the process of entering their residence or vehicle, unlawfully and without privilege to do so.
A residence is a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently, or is visiting as a guest. A vehicle is a conveyance of any kind, motorized or not, that is used to transport people or property.
Getting Permission to Enter
Gaining privilege to enter a residence or vehicle includes getting permission from the person who is currently allowed to be in the residence or vehicle since that person owns or leases the property. If the owner or lessor is intoxicated, they may be incapable of giving their permission.
Further, an owner or lessor, whether sober or intoxicated, can terminate permission at any time if they communicate that they have terminated permission.
The presumption that a person acted in self-defense does not apply if the person:
- Against whom force is used has a right to be in, or is a lawful resident of, the residence or vehicle.
- Who uses the force does so while in a residence or vehicle and that person is unlawfully and without privilege to be in that residence or vehicle.
A university can place certain restrictions regarding firearms on the campus community and visitors. The definition of firearms does not include stun guns and pepper spray. For example, Ohio University permits lawful carry of firearms only in places where an individual has a right to be, as allowed by local, state and federal laws and university policy.
The university prohibits firearms in all campus buildings, so Ohio University students, faculty and staff may not carry or possess firearms on campus unless the university specifically authorizes them to do so.
Members of the public can openly carry firearms only if they are doing so in a manner that is not reckless or actively threatening. Concealed carry is prohibited on campus unless the weapon is in a locked motor vehicle. An individual who sees a person breaking the university’s rules should contact local law enforcement officers like the campus police.
School District Rules
A K-12 school can enforce a student code of conduct that prohibits students from carrying weapons, including stun guns and pepper spray, on campus. For example, Dayton Public Schools prohibits the possession and use of a dangerous weapon, look-a-like weapon or incendiary device other than a firearm.
The student code of conduct for this district provides that a weapon or substance designed or used as a weapon is not permitted. The list of prohibited items includes stun guns and chemical sprays.
This school district distinguishes stun guns and chemical sprays from firearms and dangerous weapons such as knives that are not a firearm or explosive, incendiary or poison gas.
Police Officers in Schools
City police officers at Ohio public schools are allowed to use pepper spray to disperse crowds and discourage students from fighting on campus. Officers are told to only use pepper spray as a last resort after they have tried to use other forms of intervention when dealing with large crowds. They typically do not direct the spray to, or point it at, any specific individual.
- Ohio Revised Code: Section 2923.11 Weapons Control Definitions
- Ohio Laws and Administrative Rules: Rule 5122-7-04 Responsibilities of ODMH Regional Psychiatric Hospital Police and Firearms Restrictions
- Merriam-Webster: Definition of Stun Gun
- Ohio University: Open and Concealed Carry FAQ
- Ohio Attorney General: Ohio's Concealed-carry Laws and License Application
- U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives: Gun Control Act
- Ohio Revised Code: Section 2901.05 Burden of Proof - Reasonable Doubt - Self-Defense
- Dayton Public Schools: Student Code of Conduct
- WTOL 11: TPS Officers Deploy Pepper Spray at Bowsher High School Following Several Fights
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.