With very few exceptions, Colorado law makes it a crime to carry a knife or firearm concealed on your person without a current and valid permit, or bring a firearm or explosive device into a place where government business is being conducted.
A first-time violation of Colorado’s concealed weapon (CCW) law is a Colorado class 1 misdemeanor that can be punished by a fine of
- up to $1,000 and/or
- up to 364 days in jail.
A second or subsequent offense within 5 years is a Colorado class 5 felony. Penalties can run as high as
- three years in prison and
- a fine of up to $100,000.
To help you better understand Colorado’s law on carrying a concealed weapon, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers explain the following, below:
- 1. What is a concealed weapon?
- 2. When is “concealed carry” permitted in Colorado?
- 3 How do I get a concealed weapon permit in Colorado?
- 4. Penalties for unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon
- 5. Defenses to carrying a concealed weapon
1. What is a concealed weapon?
1.1. The definition of “concealed”
A weapon is concealed on your person if it is placed out of sight so as not to be discernible or apparent by ordinary observation.1
If the weapon is only partially concealed – for instance, by a holster — it is not concealed for purposes of CRS 18-12-105. As long as a casual observer would recognize it as a weapon, you have not violated the law against carrying a concealed weapon.
Example: James has a pistol stuck in the waistband of his pants with the grip sticking out. The weapon is not concealed.
However, the weapon does not have to be in your hand or something you are touching or wearing. It is considered concealed “on your person” if it is within easy reach.2
Example: Keven has a pistol tucked under the edge of his seat, within easy reach. Although it isn’t technically on his person, it counts as a “firearm concealed on or about his person.”
1.2. Weapons prohibited under Colorado’s concealed carry law
18-12-105 C.R.S. applies to:
- All firearms (whether or not operable);
- Knives with blades longer than 3 ½ inches (provided your intent was, at least in part, to use the knife as a weapon);3
- Any weapon classified in whole or in part in Colorado as a dangerous or illegal weapon;4 and
- Any explosive, incendiary, or other dangerous device if carried on the property of or within any building in which the chambers, galleries, or offices of the general assembly, or either house thereof, are located, or in which a legislative hearing or meeting is being or is to be conducted, or in which the official office of any member, officer, or employee of the general assembly is located.
2. When is “concealed carry” permitted in Colorado?
You may legally carry a concealed firearm or other weapon in Colorado if:
- You are in your own dwelling or place of business or on a property you own or that is under your control;
- You are in a private automobile or other private means of conveyance and carrying the weapon for the lawful protection of your or someone else’s property while traveling;
- You hold a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon and are not carrying it in a place where concealed carry is prohibited by law (such as a public school, including high schools, or courthouse or certain other public buildings or specific areas);
- You are going on a legitimate hunting or fishing trip with a hunting or fishing knife;
- You are a peace officer carrying a weapon in conformance with department policy;
- You are an on-duty United States probation officer or pretrial services officer serving in Colorado under the authority of rules and regulations promulgated by the judicial conference of the United States; or
- You are carrying a knife with a blade that is less than 3 1/2″ long.5
Note that it is usually not illegal to carry open or concealed on private property with “no gun” signs posted at public entrances. These signs carry no legal weight. Though the property owner or security personnel may ask gun carriers to leave.
Also note that people may carry a weapon in national forests in Colorado as long as they comply with all relevant state and federal laws.6
Finally, note that Denver County prohibits certain types of assault weapons.7
3. How do I get a concealed weapon permit in Colorado?
You can apply to the county sheriff’s office for a concealed handgun permit (CHP) if you meet all of the following conditions under state law:
- You are a legal Colorado resident of the state or a military service member of the armed forces (or such person’s immediate family) permanently stationed in Colorado (a Colorado driver’s license or other state ID with photo identification is proof of residence);
- You are 21 years of age or older;
- You are not ineligible to possess a firearm under state or federal law (for example, former military personnel need proof of honorable discharge, and background checks cannot show felony convictions);
- You have never been convicted of perjury in connection with a completed application for a permit;
- You are not an alcoholic and are not a chronically and habitually unlawful user of illegal drugs/ controlled substances;
- You are not subject to a protective order; and
- You are able to demonstrate evidence of experience with handgun competency. You must produce a firearms training certificate from a handgun training class / safety course by a certified instructor within the last 10 years. And it must contain the signature of the class instructor.
For an information packet on how to be a CHP permittee and the concealed handgun permit application process, please see our article on Obtaining a Concealed Handgun Permit in Colorado.
Note that the processing fees for this state permit must be made by a cashier’s check or money order made payable to CBI (Colorado Bureau of Investigation), though some local sheriff offices accept cash for both new applications and renewal applications.8
4. Penalties for unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon
A first-time violation of Colorado’s concealed weapon law is a class 1 misdemeanor. Punishment can include:
- Up to 364 days in jail, and/or
- A fine of up to $1,000.9
A second or subsequent offense within 5 years of a prior offense is a Colorado class 5 felony. Conviction carries potential penalties of:
- 1-3 years in prison (with 2 years mandatory parole), and/or
- A fine of $1,000-$100,000.10
There are also collateral consequences of a felony firearms conviction in the state of Colorado, including the loss of your right to own or possess a firearm.11
Note that Colorado has state preemption over local laws related to guns. So if state and local government laws conflict, state laws win out.12
5. Defenses to carrying a concealed weapon
The best defense to concealed weapons charges in Colorado depends on the specific facts of your case. However, common defenses often include (but are not limited to):
- You were on your own property at the time of the alleged offense and the weapon was for the purpose of defending your home, person or property;13
- You were in a private motor vehicle and needed the weapon for the protection of property in the vehicle while traveling;
- You were a valid concealed carry permit holder at the time of the alleged offense and were following the rules;
- For a nonresident of Colorado without a Colorado permit, you had a CCW permit from your home state that has reciprocity.
- You were a peace officer complying with departmental regulations;
- You were a federal probation or pretrial services officer complying with United States rules and regulation;
- You did not know you possessed the weapon;
- There was no concealed carry, just open carry;
- You had a knife solely for a legitimate purpose (such as hunting or fishing);
- The blade of your knife was less than 3 1/2 inches long;
- A law enforcement agency entrapped the defendant; or
- The police or other law enforcement officer found the weapon as the result of an illegal search and seizure.
Not that self-defense is usually not a defense for people who carry a concealed weapon on public property without a permit.
Colorado’s concealed weapons law is full of nuances and exceptions. It is easy for people to fall into a gray area, or violate them without meaning to.
If you or someone you know has been charged with carrying a concealed weapon or another of Colorado’s gun laws, we invite you to call us for a free consultation.
Our Colorado defense lawyers have decades of experience defending clients on gun, knife and explosive device charges. We will respond to your inquiry promptly to discuss the best defense to your weapons or Colorado gun charges.
We can be reached using the confidential form on this page, or at our centrally located Denver office:
Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211
Arrested in Nevada? See our article on Nevada concealed carry laws.
- People ex rel. O.R., (App. 2008) 220 P.3d 949, rehearing denied (“Applying the plain and ordinary meaning of the statutory language here, we conclude that “concealed” for purposes of section 18-12-105(1)(b) means placed out of sight so as not to be discernible or apparent by ordinary observation.”); see also CRS 18-12-105.
- People in Interest of R. J. A., (App. 1976), 556 P.2d 491, 38 Colo.App. 346.
- A.P.E. v. People, (2001), 20 P.3d 1179.
- People ex rel. A.P.E., (App.1999), 988 P.2d 172, certiorari granted, reversed 20 P.3d 1179.
- CRS 18-12-101; 18-12-105.
- Colorado Gun Laws, Colorado State Patrol.
- Denver Municipal Code 38-130.
- CRS 18-12-101, et seq. Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP), Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI). See also Concealed Carry in Colorado, Giffords Law Center. CRS 18-12-214.
- CRS 18-12-105. Prior March 1, 2022, carrying a concealed weapon was a Colorado class 2 misdemeanor that could be punished by a fine of $250 to $1,000 and/or 3 to 12 months in jail. SB21-271.
- CRS 18-12-107.
- CRS 18-12-108.
- CRS 18-12-201; CRS 29-11.7-101; CRS 29-11.7-104; U.S. West Communications, Inc. v. City of Longmont, (Colo. 1997) 948 P.2d 509, citing City and County of Denver v. State, (Colo. 1990) 788 P.2d 764; Trinen v. City & County of Denver, (Colo. Ct. App. 2002) 53 P.3d 754; Regents of the Univ. of Colo. v. Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, (2012) 271 P.3d 496; City and County of Denver v. State, (Colo. Dist. Ct. Nov. 5, 2004) No. 03-CV-3809, 2004 WL 5212983.
- See People v. Ford, (1977), 568 P.2d 26, 193 Colo. 459.