A deadly weapon is something which has the capacity to inflict bodily harm, even if it is not explicitly designed to do so. Anything which someone uses to inflict serious harm or kill someone can be considered a deadly weapon, as can objects specifically designed for use as weapons, such as guns, swords, and knives. When a deadly weapon is involved in a crime, the offense may be treated more seriously under the eyes of the law.
Many deadly weapons statutes specifically provide a long list of examples of things which are classified as deadly weapons. These include objects and devices which are intended to be used for the purpose of inflicting injury or killing, or which would be reasonably repurposed to do so. In addition, statutes allow courts to consider objects which are not designed as weapons to be classified as deadly weapons when they are used to hurt people.
Items like baseball bats, boards, rocks, ice picks, and even banjos have been considered deadly weapons in individual cases. In some cases, people with AIDS have even been prosecuted for using a "deadly weapon" when they engage in unprotected sex with partners who are not aware of their disease status. The argument in such cases has been that when someone carries the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and knows it, exposing people to the virus is akin to assaulting them with a weapon.
Deadly weapons statutes may limit ownership of such objects or provide methods for registering and controlling them. For example, when people travel with deadly weapons, they may be required to keep them reasonably secured for safety. Likewise, people cannot bring weapons into settings such as courtrooms, unless the weapon is being presented as evidence in part of the prosecution of a case, in which case it will be controlled and secured while it is in court.
It is important to note that, in the case of something like a gun, disabling the weapon does not make it any less deadly. An unloaded gun, a gun fitted with a gun lock, or a gun with the firing pin disabled is still considered a deadly weapon and will be treated as such in legal disputes. Manufacturers may also be barred from making devices which look like deadly weapons, which is why toy guns often have bright markers on them to alert people to the fact that the weapon is a toy.