The three requirements to purchase a handgun in Colorado include:
- being a Colorado resident,
- being at least 21 years old, and
- 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 starting on October 1, 2023, there is a three-day waiting period before the firearm can be legally transferred to the purchaser. 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.
See our related article, Do you have to register guns in Colorado?
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 firearms if they:
- are a convicted felon,
- 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
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 1 misdemeanor. The penalty includes:
- Up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- A fine of up 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 petty offense, carrying:
- up to 10 days in jail, and/or
- a fine of up to $300
Learn more about Colorado’s carrying concealed weapons laws (C.R.S. 18-12-105).
Prior March 1, 2022, a first offense of carrying a concealed weapon was a Colorado class 2 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $250 to $1,000 and/or 3 to 12 months in jail. SB21-271. And forgetting to carry a permit was a class 1 petty offense carrying up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. SB21-271.