COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio House committee passed legislation Thursday that would block cities from passing local laws restricting whether people can carry switchblades and other knives within their borders.
The legislation passed the Senate in October in a party line vote with Republicans in support. It can now proceed to the House floor for a final vote before going to the governor for approval or veto. If passed, the state alone would control what kind of knives people can carry.
It follows legislation enacted last year allowing people in Ohio to carry an array of concealed knives and other similar weapons including brass knuckles, cestuses, billy clubs, blackjacks, sandbags, switchblade knives, springblade knives, gravity knives, and others. That law took effect last year.
Knife Rights, an advocacy organization that supports the bill, provided lawmakers with a list of Ohio cities with knife regulations on the book. Examples include:
- Akron doesn’t allow people to carry a blade more than 2.5 inches in length without “proper justification”
- Cleveland has a similar law, while also blocking the sale of switchblades, springblades, gravity knives, spring loaded weapon that can propel a knife, ballistic knives and others.
- Dayton doesn’t allow for the sale of switchblades, springblafes, gravity knives or similar weapons
Senate Bill 156 would supersede these local actions and give citizens who are affected by any local knife regulation standing to sue cities for damages.
The state law doesn’t apply, however, in areas zoned for residential or agricultural uses by their local governments.
The legislation could be challenged under the “home rule” provision of Ohio’s Constitution, according to analysis from the Legislative Service Commission. The bill might infringe upon city’s authority of its “police power,” which pertains to public safety regulations. However, separate LSC guidance on the subject notes home rule is an inconsistently applied concept.
This genre of legislation, known as preemption laws, appears in other policy arenas. A state law passed in 2006 blocks cities from enacting gun control measures stricter than those of the state. Another passed last year blocks cities from requiring electric only (no gas hookups) designs for new buildings as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Another from 2017 blocks cities from enacting a minimum wage higher than that of the state.
Alongside knives, Republican lawmakers passed legislation in March allowing for the concealed carrying of firearms without a permit. It’s set to take effect in June.