Deadly Weapon Law & Legal Definition


A deadly weapon is generally defined as a firearm or anything manifestly designed, made, or adapted for the purposes of inflicting death or serious physical injury. The term includes, but is not limited to, a pistol, rifle, or shotgun; or a switch-blade knife, gravity knife, stiletto, sword, or dagger; or any billy, black-jack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles.

Use and carrying of deadly weapons are governed by state and federal laws. Generally, use of a deadly weapon in commision of a crime enhances the nature and penalty of the crime. Carrying concealed deadly weapons is governed by state laws, which vary by state. Some states allow licensing of qualified persons to carry a concealed deadly weapon. Because of differences in the laws of the various states, it is possible that a person who is lawfully permitted to possess a deadly weapon in another state may be prohibited from doing under the law of another state. A state permitting licenses to carry a concealed deadly weapon may typically prohibit such a license to the following:

  • any person previously convicted of any felony
  • any person previously convicted of any misdemeanor involving physical injury to another or domestic violence, unless more than 5 years has elapsed from the date of the conviction
  • any person previously convicted of any crime involving the unlawful use, possession or sale of any illegal drug
  • any person who has not yet reached his or her 25th birthday who has been previously convicted as a juvenile of a crime which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a felony
  • any person who is subject to a Protection From Abuse Order issued by a competent court
  • any person who has previously been committed to a hospital or mental institution for treatment for a mental disorder

The following is an example of an Ohio statute defining deadly weapons:

  1. "Deadly weapon" means 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.
  2. (1) "Firearm" means any deadly weapon capable of expelling or propelling one or more projectiles by the action of an explosive or combustible propellant. "Firearm" includes an unloaded firearm, and any firearm that is inoperable but that can readily be rendered operable.(2) When determining whether a firearm is capable of expelling or propelling one or more projectiles by the action of an explosive or combustible propellant, the trier of fact may rely upon circumstantial evidence, including, but not limited to, the representations and actions of the individual exercising control over the firearm.
  3. "Handgun" means any of the following: (1) Any firearm that has a short stock and is designed to be held and fired by the use of a single hand; (2) Any combination of parts from which a firearm of a type described in division (C)(1) of this section can be assembled.
  4. "Semi-automatic firearm" means any firearm designed or specially adapted to fire a single cartridge and automatically chamber a succeeding cartridge ready to fire, with a single function of the trigger.
  5. "Automatic firearm" means any firearm designed or specially adapted to fire a succession of cartridges with a single function of the trigger. 00"Automatic firearm" also means any semi-automatic firearm designed or specially adapted to fire more than thirty-one cartridges without reloading, other than a firearm chambering only .22 caliber short, long, or long-rifle cartridges.
  6. "Sawed-off firearm" means a shotgun with a barrel less than eighteen inches long, or a rifle with a barrel less than sixteen inches long, or a shotgun or rifle less than twenty-six inches long overall.
  7. "Zip-gun" means any of the following:

  8. (1) Any firearm of crude and extemporized manufacture; (2) Any device, including without limitation a starter's pistol, that is not designed as a firearm, but that is specially adapted for use as a firearm; (3) Any industrial tool, signalling device, or safety device, that is not designed as a firearm, but that as designed is capable of use as such, when possessed, carried, or used as a firearm.
  9. "Explosive device" means any device designed or specially adapted to cause physical harm to persons or property by means of an explosion, and consisting of an explosive substance or agency and a means to detonate it. "Explosive device" includes without limitation any bomb, any explosive demolition device, any blasting cap or detonator containing an explosive charge, and any pressure vessel that has been knowingly tampered with or arranged so as to explode.
  10. "Incendiary device" means any firebomb, and any device designed or specially adapted to cause physical harm to persons or property by means of fire, and consisting of an incendiary substance or agency and a means to ignite it.
  11. "Ballistic knife" means a knife with a detachable blade that is propelled by a spring-operated mechanism.
  12. "Dangerous ordnance" means any of the following, except as provided in division (L) of this section:

  13. (1) Any automatic or sawed-off firearm, zip-gun, or ballistic knife; (2) Any explosive device or incendiary device; (3) Nitroglycerin, nitrocellulose, nitrostarch, PETN, cyclonite, TNT, picric acid, and other high explosives; amatol, tritonal, tetrytol, pentolite, pecretol, cyclotol, and other high explosive compositions; plastic explosives; dynamite, blasting gelatin, gelatin dynamite, sensitized ammonium nitrate, liquid-oxygen blasting explosives, blasting powder, and other blasting agents; and any other explosive substance having sufficient brisance or power to be particularly suitable for use as a military explosive, or for use in mining, quarrying, excavating, or demolitions; (4) Any firearm, rocket launcher, mortar, artillery piece, grenade, mine, bomb, torpedo, or similar weapon, designed and manufactured for military purposes, and the ammunition for that weapon; (5) Any firearm muffler or silencer; (6) Any combination of parts that is intended by the owner for use in converting any firearm or other device into a dangerous ordnance.
  14. "Dangerous ordnance" does not include any of the following:
  15. (1) Any firearm, including a military weapon and the ammunition for that weapon, and regardless of its actual age, that employs a percussion cap or other obsolete ignition system, or that is designed and safe for use only with black powder; (2) Any pistol, rifle, or shotgun, designed or suitable for sporting purposes, including a military weapon as issued or as modified, and the ammunition for that weapon, unless the firearm is an automatic or sawed-off firearm; (3) Any cannon or other artillery piece that, regardless of its actual age, is of a type in accepted use prior to 1887, has no mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, or other system for absorbing recoil and returning the tube into battery without displacing the carriage, and is designed and safe for use only with black powder; (4) Black powder, priming quills, and percussion caps possessed and lawfully used to fire a cannon of a type defined in division (L)(3) of this section during displays, celebrations, organized matches or shoots, and target practice, and smokeless and black powder, primers, and percussion caps possessed and lawfully used as a propellant or ignition device in small-arms or small-arms ammunition; (5) Dangerous ordnance that is inoperable or inert and cannot readily be rendered operable or activated, and that is kept as a trophy, souvenir, curio, or museum piece. (6) Any device that is expressly excepted from the definition of a destructive device pursuant to the "Gun Control Act of 1968," 82 Stat. 1213, 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(4), as amended, and regulations issued under that act.
  16. "Explosive" means any chemical compound, mixture, or device, the primary or common purpose of which is to function by explosion. "Explosive" includes all materials that have been classified as class A, class B, or class C explosives by the United States department of transportation in its regulations and includes, but is not limited to, dynamite, black powder, pellet powders, initiating explosives, blasting caps, electric blasting caps, safety fuses, fuse igniters, squibs, cordeau detonant fuses, instantaneous fuses, and igniter cords and igniters. "Explosive" does not include "fireworks," as defined in section 3743.01 of the Revised Code, or any explosive that is not subject to regulation under the rules of the fire marshal adopted pursuant to section 3737.82 of the Revised Code."