An Explanation of The Gun Laws in Colorado


Every country across the globe has to protect its citizens from the misuse of firearms by criminals; hence, gun laws were introduced. Unfortunately, the gun owners who abide by gun laws and safely own, use, and store their firearms are not the problem because it’s criminals who don’t follow, abide by, or listen to laws that are the problem with guns. Still, people have varied opinions on such gun laws. Famous actor Clint Eastwood once said that he has a strict gun control policy; if there is a gun around, he wants to be in control of it – as any good gun owner should be. Hillary Clinton even declared that if she became the president, she would ban handguns, which we all know would work wonderfully since criminals are so good at following laws and not using banned and illegal items on a regular basis, right? Firearms in the wrong hands have been misused and Colorado is one of the many states trying to ensure that does not happen. Let’s take a closer look at the gun laws in Colorado for a better understanding.

Law on Purchasing Firearms

According to H. Michael Steinberg, no permit is required to buy a shotgun, handgun, or rifle. Handguns are usually preferred by those seeking to purchase guns for self-defense, and the most common ones they go for are semi-automatic pistols and revolvers. They are small enough to be concealed and can be operated by one hand. Unless you are above 21 years, you cannot purchase a handgun in Colorado. You must also pass the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI) background check before legally purchasing a handgun. It is quite a quick process that requires you to fill out an ATF Form 4473, which the gun store will submit and wait for approval or rejection. Once approved, you can pay for the gun and carry it openly. The owner of the gun store still has the responsibility to keep proper records because an authorized police officer can inspect the books at any time. The records detail the name of the person to whom the handgun has been transferred, the age, occupation, and residence.

The other details are those of the gun, including the serial number, caliber, finish, and date of the transfer. Finally, the name of the person who has transferred the handgun has to be recorded. It is important to note that not all non-Colorado residents are prohibited from purchasing a gun in the state. According to Guns to Carry, permits are not issued to non-residents unless they demonstrate a good cause, perhaps frequently traveling to the state or owning property in Colorado. Since Colorado gun laws operate in the “Shall Issue” policy at the county level, residents get their permits from the local county sheriff’s office. Non-residents have to apply for a permit at the Department of Public Safety, and one of the requirements is demonstrating competency in handling a firearm. There is a reciprocity law in Colorado requiring another state to honor Colorado Carrying Concealed Weapons (CCW) permit first before Colorado can extend the same courtesy. Therefore, if you are above 21 years old and have an out-of-state permit, but your state honors Colorado’s permit, then Colorado automatically honors your permit.

Laws Regarding Possession of Guns in Colorado

Giffords Law Center lists the circumstances under which the CBI will reject an application to possess a firearm. You are not allowed to own a firearm if the transfer would violate federal or Colorado law. Also, if you are the subject of an indictment or any crime whose punishment includes at least a one-year sentence. Other considerations include if the transferee has been convicted of sexual assault, assault in the third degree, unlawful sexual contact, harassment, child abuse, animal cruelty, and possession of an illegal weapon, among many more. Before March 1, 2022, any person in Colorado with a prior felony conviction would be prosecuted if found to have a firearm. The law was considered unfair, considering there was no statute of limitations. Whether you robbed a bank 50 years ago or you were found guilty of fraud five years ago, the same law applied.

The SB21-271 bill passed by the legislature in 2021 is to reduce the number of felony crimes that made possession of a firearm illegal in Colorado. Now the law only illegalizes possession of a firearm by people convicted of felonies under Colorado’s Victim Rights Act. Before the bill was passed, a conviction of over 600 different felonies resulted in a penalty of 12-18 months in prison. With the change to convict those found guilty of felonies covered by the Victim Rights Act, the penalty increased to three years in prison. According to Denver Post, even after the SB21-271 law was enacted, there were still concerns about the long list of the felons who can be prosecuted for possession of firearms. For this reason, a new law, HB22-1257, was enacted to include even more felons among those who cannot be permitted to possess a firearm. Representative Matt Soper of Delta explained the law includes those who have proven they cannot be trusted with a weapon. The crimes added to the list include terrorism, aggravated animal cruelty, arson, and inciting a riot.

Carrying a Firearm in Colorado

Colorado is an open-carry state, meaning that you can carry a non-concealed forearm for so long as you are at least 18 years old and in good legal standing. However, not all places allow this open-carry policy; Denver county and other posted areas do not. If an area within a local government jurisdiction posts signs prohibiting the open carrying of firearms, the local government can enact such rules. Some of the areas you are prohibited from open carry include federal property such as courthouses and airports, public transportation if the gun is loaded, grounds of learning institutions( both public and private), and any business whose entryway denotes the prohibition of open-carry weapons. Since national parks and forests are created for recreation purposes, you are allowed to carry firearms for sporting purposes.

However, carrying is prohibited within federal buildings such as the administration blocks and maintenance buildings where federal employees frequent. Even when you carry a firearm to a national forest in Colorado, you are not allowed to discharge it within 150 yards of an occupied area. You also should not fire it if nearby a forest development road or in any manner that could damage property or injure people. There is no need for a license or permit to carry a non-concealed weapon. However, if you prefer carrying a concealed firearm, you must have the CCW permit since Colorado is a “Shall Issue” state. Remember that the CCW permit for residents is easy to obtain so long as you are above 21 years and are not prohibited to carry a firearm. As for a non-resident, you must be from a state whose CCW permits Colorado honors. Alternatively, you could get a CCW permit if you have a family member active in the armed forces and posted to Colorado.

For you to obtain that CCW permit, you must also demonstrate competence in handling a firearm. Such competence is proven by evidence that at the time of application you were a certified instructor. You can also provide evidence that you have experience in using firearms through current military service or competing in shooting tournaments. Alternatively, you should have been honorably discharged from the military within three years preceding the submission of the application. You can also submit an original training certificate or certified copy of the training certificate from a handgun training class. The certificate must have been obtained within ten years preceding the submission of the application.

Penalties for Carrying Concealed Weapon Without a permit

You are legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon if you are in your home or the place of business you control. Also, if you are in your vehicle and the firearm is to protect your property or another person’s property while traveling, then there is no issue with carrying a concealed weapon. Other instances where carrying a concealed weapon is legal in Colorado is if you are on a fishing trip or are a peace officer. Colorado describes a concealed weapon as one on your person and is not discernible or apparent by ordinary observation. If found guilty of violating the concealed carry law, the charges will depend on prior violations. If it is your first offense, the crime is classified as a class 2 misdemeanor punishable by 3-12 months in jail, and/or a $250-$1000 fine. If you are charged with a second offense within five years of another firearm violation in Colorado, the offense is treated as a class 5 felony.

You can be sentenced to 1-3 years in prison with mandatory parole of 2 years, and /or a $1,000-$100,000 fine. The same penalty applies to unlawful possession of a weapon by a previous offender. However, first-time possession by a juvenile is classified under Colorado misdemeanor, but repeated offenses are Colorado felonies. It is crucial to note that in Colorado, the castle doctrine applies. This implies that an individual has the right to use reasonable force, inclusive of deadly force to protect oneself from an intruder on one’s property. For this reason, if you discharge your concealed firearm upon spotting an intruder in your home, you have immunity. If the intruder also uses force against you or someone within your home, you have every right to respond by applying reasonable force to protect yourself. Castle doctrine only applies in your house, so if you defend yourself in any other place, such as the RV you are living in, you could apply self-defense as your defense.

Storage of Firearms

In June 2020, Isabella Thallas died on the spot after Michael R. Close shot her and her boyfriend. Luckily, her boyfriend, Darian Simon, survived the shooting. Therefore, in 2021 as Governor Jared Polis signed a bill aimed at reducing gun violence, Thallas’ close relatives were present. One of the bills was appropriately named the “Isabella Joy Thallas Act.” It requires people to report lost and stolen firearms since Thallas had been shot with a stolen rifle. Polis also signed another bill, House Bill 1106, which requires people to store their firearms safely, failure to which they face a penalty of $250-$1000. Some viewed the new gun law as one that prevents accidental shootings and suicides, considering that Colorado has one of the highest teen suicides rates. According to CPR, senator Jeff Bridges said that they could reduce the number of teen suicides by firearms if they enforced safe storage. You can be charged with unlawful storage of a firearm if a juvenile can access it without the permission of the juvenile’s guardian or parent.

Also, you must store a gun safely if there is any resident within the premises eligible to possess the firearm under federal or state law. The offense is a class 2 misdemeanor, and the responsibility of safe storage also falls on the seller. The bill requires that a licensed gun dealer must provide a locking device capable of safely storing the firearm at the time of sale or transfer. Failure to provide the locking device is also a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $500. Another requirement of House Bill 1106 is that the office of suicide prevention within the department of public health and environment should include on its website information regarding unlawful storage of a firearm. It should also share the penalties for providing handguns to juveniles and the requirement for gun dealers to provide locking devices. The only exception to providing locking devices is during the sale or transfer of antique firearms. In matters of law, ignorance is no defense hence the need for public sensitization about such gun laws. According to Gun Lawsuits, a private individual can oversee the sale of concealed carry in Colorado if the dealer has a government license. The license comes in handy in helping the dealer conduct a background check before transferring the firearm. However, you do not need to follow this process if you are buying antique firearms, or transferring firearms to trustees. Also, it is inapplicable when gifting and loaning firearms to family members.

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