What are the requirements for buying a handgun in Colorado?

Posted by Neil Shouse | May 02, 2019 | 0 Comments

The three requirements to purchase a handgun in Colorado include:

  1. being a Colorado resident,
  2. being at least 21 years old, and
  3. passing a CBI background check


A handgun is defined as a short-barrelled gun that may be held and operated with just one hand. Two common types of handguns include revolvers and semi-automatic pistols.

People who wish to carry firearms for self-defense typically rely on handguns; they are small enough to carry around easily, unlike rifles.

Requirements to buy a handgun in Colorado

People under 21 may not purchase handguns in Colorado. And non-Colorado residents may not purchase handguns in Colorado. A valid Colorado driver's license or I.D. card should be sufficient to prove age and residency.

Colorado residents age 21 and over must pass a Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI) background check before they can legally purchase a handgun. This requires the buyer to fill out an ATF form 4473 at the gun store. Then the store will submit it to the CBI InstaCheck system.

The approval/rejection process typically takes less than a half hour. Then the buyer can leave the store with the gun right away and carry it openly. Learn more about Colorado's open carry gun laws.

Note that CBI background checks are required for private gun sales as well. Any licensed gun store can perform one for a private sale.

Disqualifications to buy a handgun in Colorado

A gun store may refuse to sell a firearm to an otherwise qualified buyer if he/she:

  • is drunk or smells of alcohol,
  • is high or smells of marijuana, or
  • seems to be under the influence of a controlled substance

Furthermore, people may not purchase or possess firearms if they:

  • are convicted felons,
  • have been convicted of domestic violence,
  • are fugitives,
  • are drug addicts,
  • are subjects of a restraining order for harassing, stalking, or threatening their child or intimate partner,
  • are under indictment for a felony,
  • have been adjudicated as mentally unfit,
  • are undocumented aliens,
  • have been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces, and/or
  • have renounced U.S. citizenship

The unlawful purchase of a gun in Colorado (C.R.S. 18-12-111) is a class 4 felony, carrying:

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

Carrying a concealed handgun in Colorado

Coloradans who purchase handguns may not carry them concealed unless they also get a CCW (carrying concealed weapons) permit. In order to receive a CCW permit in Colorado, the handgun user must meet all the requirements listed above to buy a gun in addition to the following:

  • The person must not have been convicted of perjury regarding information he/she supplied in a prior CCW application; and
  • The person must show he/she is competent using the gun, such as having a certificate from a handgun training class

Under C.R.S. 18-12-105, a first-time offense of carrying a handgun with no CCW permit is a class 2 misdemeanor. The penalty includes:

  • 3 to 12 months in jail, and/or
  • a fine of $250 to $1,000

A second or subsequent offense within five (5) years of a prior offense is a class 5 felony. A conviction carries potential penalties of:

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

Note that people who carry concealed handguns must carry their CCW permit as well as a photo ID with them. People who fail to produce either if an officer demands to see them can get cited with a class 1 petty offense, carrying:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $500

Learn more about Colorado's carrying concealed weapons laws (C.R.S. 18-12-105).

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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