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Can you carry a gun while hiking in Colorado?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Nov 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

National and state parks usually permit hikers to carry firearms. Hikers just have to abide by existing local, state, and federal gun laws.

Open carry hiking laws

Colorado law permits the open carry of firearms with some exceptions.

Some cities put restrictions on open carry. Therefore, hikers should always check their county and municipal codes first.  

In Boulder for instance, openly carried firearms must be in cases. And it must be obvious that these cases are holding a gun. (Holsters qualify as an obvious carrying case.)

In addition, state law prohibits certain people from carrying firearms at all:

  • People subject to a protective order that forbids gun possession cannot hike with guns;
  • Minors under age 18 may not hike with handguns;
  • No one may carry short rifles, short shotguns, or machine guns ever; and
  • No one may hike with a gun on school or university grounds (public or private)

Furthermore, federal law prohibits certain people from carrying firearms (whether hiking or not). These include:

  1. Convicted felons;
  2. People convicted of domestic abuse;
  3. Drug addicts;
  4. Mentally ill people;
  5. Dishonorably discharged veterans;
  6. Former U.S. citizens;
  7. Illegal aliens; and
  8. Non-immigrant visa-holders

Finally, hikers who open carry in national parks have to follow certain additional laws:

  • Guns are prohibited within 150 yards of a building, campsite, residence, developed recreational site, or occupied area;
  • They may not fire guns across -- or on -- a road, in a cave, or a body of water; and
  • It is illegal to bring guns into certain facilities. These typically include maintenance buildings, visitor centers, and offices.

In any case, people should always double-check the local, state, and federal laws before carrying a gun. And before entering any park or forest, hikers should check if the park has any gun rules as well.

Concealed carry hiking laws

Hikers must have a CCW permit to carry concealed guns in Colorado. The permit may be from Colorado or a state Colorado has reciprocity with.

Coloradans may apply for CCWs from their local sheriff department. There is an application fee that may not exceed $100. The applicant will also have to provide fingerprints.

Eligibility requirements for a CCW are the following:

  1. Colorado residency;
  2. 21 years old or older;
  3. Legally allowed to possess guns (see the previous section);
  4. No perjury convictions related to CCW applications;
  5. No current or recent alcoholism;
  6. There are no restraining orders out against the person; and
  7. Firearms competency (usually this is demonstrated by taking a class)

CCWs are good for five years. Hikers must carry both their CCW and a photo ID to carry a concealed gun. Hikers must also show police their CCW and ID upon request.

Failure to carry and show a CCW and valid ID upon demand is a class 1 petty offense. The penalty is:

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

There is a way to get this charge dismissed. The defendant just has to show the court he/she had a valid CCW and ID at the time of the offense.

Legal References:

  1. United States Code of Federal Regulations Title 36, Chapter II, Part 261.
  2. 18-12-108.5 C.R.S.; 18-12-108 C.R.S.; 33-6-125 C.R.S.; 18-9-118 C.R.S.; 18-12-105 C.R.S.
  3. Boulder Municipal Code 5-2-4.

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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