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What's the background check process to buy a gun in Colorado?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Apr 29, 2019 | 0 Comments

Before people can lawfully buy a firearm in Colorado, they must pass a Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI) background check. The process includes filling out an application and waiting about twenty minutes for approval (or a rejection).

Purchasing a gun in Colorado

In order to buy a handgun in Colorado, the purchaser must be a Colorado resident and at least 21 years old. In order to buy a rifle in Colorado, the purchaser must be at least 18 years and does not have to be a Colorado resident. (However, some gun store refuse to sell long guns to non-Colorado residents anyway.)

Once a gun dealer establishes the purchaser's age and residency, the purchaser needs to fill out an ATF Form 4473. This form asks whether the purchaser either:

  • has been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces
  • has been convicted of a felony
  • has been convicted of domestic violence (even if just for a misdemeanor)
  • has ever been adjudicated a mental defective or committed to a mental institution
  • is subject to a protective order restraining the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening his/her child or an intimate partner or child of such a partner
  • renounced U.S. citizenship
  • is under indictment for a felony
  • is an illegal alien
  • is an unlawful user or addicted to marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance
  • is a fugitive

Answering yes to any of these questions is an automatic bar to gun ownership in Colorado.

Once the ATF Form 4473 is filled out, the gun dealer will submit it to the CBI InstaCheck Unit. The CBI will then perform a background check by searching various databases. The background check will typically deliver a yay or nay within 20 minutes.

Note that even private gun purchases in Colorado require a CBI background check through an FFL (federal firearm licensed) dealer. FFLs usually charge a small fee to use their services.

If the CBI approves the gun purchase, the buyer can leave with the gun immediately.

Remember that buyers may not carry a gun concealed unless they have a current and valid CCW permit. People may apply for a CCW permit in the Colorado county where they live, own property, or own a business. Learn more about how to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun in Colorado (C.R.S. 18-12-203).

Appealing a failed background check to purchase firearms

Would-be purchasers who fail their background check can appeal once to the CBI. The CBI's Appeals unit has 30 days to review the denial and issue a final determination.

Depending on the case, the Appeals Unit may reverse the denial if the purchaser can provide additional information. But if the Appeals Unit denies the gun purchase again, the decision is final.

The unlawful purchase of a gun in Colorado

People who buy a gun without submitting to a CBI background check potentially can be charged with a class 4 felony. The penalties include:

  • 2 to 6 years in prison (plus 3 years of mandatory parole), and/or
  • fines of $2,000 to $500,000

Learn more about the Colorado crime of purchasing of a gun illegally (C.R.S. 18-12-111).

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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