Colorado’s Open-Carry Law for Firearms

Colorado permits the open carry of most firearms

With certain exceptions, Colorado is an “open-carry” state.

Although Colorado has no laws expressly permitting or prohibiting the right to openly carry a firearm, the right to possess a gun is generally protected under Article 2, Section 3 of the Colorado constitution, which provides:

All persons have certain natural, essential and inalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; and of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.

Possessing a gun is considered a right of enjoying and defending life and liberty.

However, certain people (such as convicted felons, people under 18, and those with serious drug addictions) may not lawfully possess a gun. And no one in Colorado may lawfully possess a machine gun, short shotgun or short rifle.

To help you better understand Colorado's open carry law, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:

Required / permitted in Colorado?


Permit to purchase


Registration of gun


Ban on assault weapons

Denver only*

Magazine capacity restriction

Yes (pre-2003 purchases exempted)

Open carry

Yes, if 18 or over

Concealed carry

Yes, with permit

Juvenile restrictions


*Other cities may also enact bans. Machine guns, short shotguns and short rifles prohibited throughout state.

1. Who may not openly carry a gun in Colorado?

In Colorado you may openly carry a firearm unless:

  • You are under 18 years of age and the firearm is a handgun,1
  • You are legally prohibited from owning a firearm (for example, you are a convicted felon),2 or 
  • You are subject to a Colorado protective order that prohibits firearm possession,
  • The firearm is a machine gun, short shotgun or short rifle (all of which are banned under 18-12-102 C.R.S., possession of dangerous weapons),
  • You are on federal property (such as a National Park, courthouse, airport, post office or federally subsidized housing),
  • You are in your car with a loaded firearm that is not a pistol or revolver,3
  • The firearm is loaded and you are in a public transportation facility,4
  • You on are on the grounds of a school or university (whether public or private), 
  • You are a resident of another state that does not have gun-reciprocity with Colorado, or
  • You are on government property (such as police stations or city parks) within the limits of Denver or another jurisdiction that prohibits open carry under the “home rule” powers of cities and counties (see below).

2. Does a Colorado carry permit allow me to openly carry a weapon?

Your Colorado permit to carry a concealed weapon has nothing to do with Colorado open carry. However, if you possess a concealed carry permit, you may carry weapons both openly and concealed wherever not prohibited by law.

Colorado is a “must-issue” concealed carry permit state. The state will issue a permit to carry a concealed weapon to anyone who is at least 21 years of age and not prohibited by law from possessing a firearm.

machine gun
Machine guns are illegal throughout Colorado

3. Colorado penalties for open carry violations

Since open carry is legal in Colorado (other than in Denver), there are no penalties unless you openly carry a prohibited weapon or are legally prohibited from possessing a handgun.

A first time violation for carrying a prohibited weapon under 8-12-106 C.R.S is a Colorado class 2 misdemeanor. Consequences can include:

  • 3-12 months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of $250-$1,000.

A second violation within five years of another Colorado gun charge, however, is a Colorado class 5 felony. Punishment can include:

  • 1-3 years in prison (with 2 years mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

Unlawful possession of a weapon by a previous offender (POWPO) is a felony under 18-12-108 C.R.S. Punishment can include:

  • 1 – 1 ½ years in prison (with 1 year mandatory parole), and/or
  • A fine of $1,000-$100,000.

First-time possession of a handgun by a juvenile under 18 is a misdemeanor. But repeated offenses are felonies.

4. What is Colorado's “home rule” law?

Under Article 20, Section 6 of the Colorado Constitution, local cities and counties have the right to pass laws affected their own jurisdictions as long as they do not directly contradict state or federal law.

Denver tested this clause when it passed Section 38-117(b) of the Denver Revised Municipal Code, which makes it unlawful for any person “to carry, use or wear any dangerous or deadly weapon, including, but not by way of limitation, any pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun . . . or any other dangerous or deadly weapon” unless specifically permitted under state law.

Denver's law was challenged in the landmark case Denver v. State of Colorado. The judge sided with Denver, noting that “the State's interest in allowing the general open carry of firearms is insubstantial and is far outweighed by Denver's local interest in regulating firearms more strictly in an urbanized area.” 

The Colorado Revised Statutes has now codified this rule as 29-11.7-104 C.R.S., which provides that a local government may enact an ordinance prohibiting the open or concealed carry of a firearm in a specific type of building or area as long as signs are posted at the public entrances to the building or specific area.

The law does not limit the right to possess a firearm on private property for self-defense or in vehicles, so long as state law restrictions are observed.

However, home rule also allows Denver to prohibit possessing of assault weapons and Saturday night specials.5 Again, the judge in Denver v. State of Colorado found that Denver's interest in limiting the impact of assault -12- weapons and Saturday night specials in its jurisdiction outweighed the State's interest in uniformity of gun control laws.

Although, at present, these limitations apply specifically in Denver, any Colorado jurisdiction is free to enact similar restrictions on the possession and open or concealed carry of firearms.

Call us for help…

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If you or someone you know has been charged with violating Colorado gun laws, our experienced Colorado gun defense lawyers are here to help.

Don't let an innocent mistake take away your freedom and deprive you of your rights. Contact us for a free consultation to find out why we are considered some of the best gun rights lawyers in Colorado.

We represent clients accused of Colorado weapons offenses throughout the state. You can reach us through the form on this page or at our centrally located Denver home office:

Colorado Legal Defense Group
1400 16th Street
16 Market Square
Denver CO 80202

Legal references:

  1. 18-12-108.5 C.R.S.
  2. 18-12-108 C.R.S.
  3. 33-6-125 C.R.S.
  4. 18-9-118 C.R.S.
  5. See Denver Municipal Code, Division 2, Sections 38-130 and 38-122.


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