Is it legal to shoot a BB gun in Colorado?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Mar 07, 2019 | 0 Comments

Whether it is legal to shoot a BB gun in Colorado depends on the specific location. People should refer to the local county or municipal code for guidance on whether shooting BB guns is legal. Discharging BB guns is usually illegal in populated cities, such as: 

In Lakewood, Colorado, it is illegal to discharge a pellet gun if done willfully, maliciously, or recklessly. Municipal Code 9.70.080.

Discharging BB guns is more likely to be legal in unincorporated areas, but people should still check with local laws before firing a BB gun or any type of air gun. Certainly, it is perfectly legal to discharge BB guns at licensed gun ranges recognized under local Colorado laws.

Note that although BB guns are not technically firearms, a student may be expelled from public school merely for possessing a BB gun. It does not matter whether the gun works. Colorado Revised Statute 22-33-106 C.R.S.

BB guns as menacing in Colorado

BB guns are not usually deadly weapons. However, a person could face charges for the Colorado crime of menacing under 18-3-206 C.R.S. if he/she knowingly places (or attempts to place) another person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury by any threat or physical action.

Many BB guns resemble ordinary firearms, which are deadly weapons. Therefore, wielding a BB gun or discharging a BB gun could reasonably put a person in fear of physical harm.

For a defendant to be guilty of menacing in Colorado, he/she needs to have acted knowingly. The clincher is not if the victim felt actual fear, but rather the defendant's knowledge. Truthfully, it is irrelevant whether the defendant even intended to put another purpose in fear. Merely being cognizant that the other person would be placed in fear of imminent bodily injury is sufficient to qualify as menacing.

When a person displays or uses a BB gun that a person would reasonably believe is a deadly weapon, menacing becomes a class 5 felony -- even if the other person did not actually see it.

Penalties of felony menacing in Colorado are:

Depending on the case, it may be possible to get menacing charges dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor menacing charge. The penalties for misdemeanor menacing include:

  • Up to six (6) months in jail, and/or 
  • A fine of $50 to $750

There are several possible ways to fight Colorado menacing charges. The best strategies to deploy depend on the facts of the individual case. Some of the more common defenses include:

  • The defendant's statements and actions were not threats.
  • The defendant did not have a weapon at all.
  • The defendant did not reasonably realize his/her statements or actions would put anyone else in fear.
  • The defendant acted in accordance with Colorado's self-defense laws.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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