An overview of Colorado gun laws
Colorado allows residents aged 18 and older to own or possess a lawful firearm and ammunition unless they are legally prohibited from doing so.
To help you better understand Colorado's gun laws, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:
- 1. Who is prohibited from owning a gun in Colorado?
- 2. What are the consequences of unlawful gun possession?
- 3. What guns are legal in Colorado?
- 4. What guns are illegal in Colorado?
- 5. Where may I legally carry a gun in Colorado?
- 6. Who may legally obtain a Colorado permit to carry a concealed weapon?
- 7. List of Colorado gun offenses
You may not legally possess or carry a gun in Colorado (even an otherwise legal one) if:
- You are subject to a protective order that prohibits gun possession;
- You are a fugitive from justice;
- You are an unlawful user of, or addicted to, any controlled substance;
- You have been adjudicated as a “mental defective” or have been committed to any mental institution;1
- You are illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
- You have been admitted to the United States under a non-immigrant visa;
- You have been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
- You have renounced your U.S. citizenship; or
- Under the laws of any U.S. state or federal law, you have been convicted of or are under indictment for:
- a felony,
- any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year,
- an attempt to commit a felony,
- an act which would constitute a felony if committed in Colorado, or
- a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
Colorado's "red flag" law permits police or family members to ask a judge to temporarily confiscate guns of someone deemed to be an "extreme risk" to others or themselves. These are called extreme risk protection orders. (Colorado House Bill 1177 (2019))
Possession of a firearm by a felon is itself a Colorado felony. Depending on what crime you were convicted of and when the conviction occurred, penalties for being a Colorado felon with a firearm can run as high as:
- Up to 6 years in prison, and
- A fine of up to $500,000.
Otherwise, depending on the circumstance, unlawful possession of a gun is often a Colorado misdemeanor. Punishment for misdemeanor gun possession can be as much as:
- 1–3 years in prison, and/or
- A fine of $1,000 - $100,000.
Legal firearms include:
- Handguns, pistols, revolvers, or other firearms with a barrel more than 12” in length (not counting any revolving, detachable, or magazine breech);
- Full-length rifles,
- Full-length shotguns,
- Antique firearms manufactured not later than 1898, and
- Firearms defined as curios or relics under U.S. law.2
Guns that are illegal to own include (but are not limited to):
Any gun or gun accessory that has been classified under federal or Colorado law as a dangerous weapon, including:
- Armor-piercing ammunition,
- Firearm silencers,
- Machine guns,
- Short shotguns (those having a barrel or barrels less than eighteen inches long or an overall length of less than twenty-six inches),
- Short rifles (those with a barrel less than sixteen inches long or an overall length of less than twenty-six inches),
- Any defaced firearm (that is, one in which the manufacturer's serial number, or other distinguishing number or identification mark, has been removed, defaced, altered, or destroyed, except by normal wear and tear), and
- Large capacity ammunition magazines (capable of holding more than 15 rounds), if purchased after July 1, 2013.3
Colorado residents who may lawfully possess guns may carry:
- A lawful firearm in a vehicle for the purpose of protecting their own or someone else's property while traveling;4.
- A lawful firearm in their home or place of dwelling, or a business they own; or
- A lawful concealed handgun, if:
- They are a current or retired Colorado law enforcement officer or member of the military permanently stationed in Colorado;
- They hold, and have on their person, a current, valid Colorado permit to carry a concealed handgun; or
- They hold, and have on their person, a current, valid permit to carry a concealed handgun issued by a state that has reciprocity of concealed weapons laws with Colorado5
For a list of states with current concealed handgun reciprocity with Colorado, see the Colorado Bureau of Investigation Department of Public Safety's page on Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP) Reciprocity.
You can obtain a Colorado concealed carry permit if:
- You are a legal resident of the state of Colorado or you or an immediate family member is in the armed forces and is stationed pursuant to permanent duty station orders at a military installation in Colorado;
- You are twenty-one years of age or older;
- You are not ineligible to possess a firearm under Colorado or federal law;
- You have not been convicted of perjury under Colorado 18-8-503 C.R.S. in relation to information provided or deliberately omitted on a concealed carry permit application;
- You do not chronically and habitually use alcoholic beverages to the extent that your normal faculties are impaired (unless a licensed professional counselor or addiction counselor specializing in alcohol addiction confirms you are a recovering alcoholic who has refrained from using alcohol for at least three years);
- You are not an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance;
- You are not subject to protection order that prohibits you from carrying a firearm; and
- You submit documentary proof of handgun competency.
For more information on obtaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon, please see our article “How to Obtain a Permit to Carry a Concealed Handgun in Colorado”--18-12-203 C.R.S.
In addition to laws against crimes that can be committed with a firearm (such as homicide, assault and robbery), Colorado has a number of offenses addressed specifically at guns.
Such laws include (but are not limited to):
- Unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon -- 18–12–105 C.R.S.
- Unlawfully carrying a weapon on school grounds -- 18–12–105.5 C.R.S.
- Prohibited use of weapons -- 18–12–106 C.R.S.
- Use of stun guns -- 18–12–106.5 C.R.S.
- Illegal discharge of a firearm—18–12–107.5 C.R.S.
- Possession of weapons by previous offenders -- 18–12–108 C.R.S.
- Possession of handguns by juveniles—18–12–108.5 C.R.S.
- Unlawfully providing or permitting a juvenile to possess a handgun—18–12–108.7 C.R.S.
- Unlawful purchase of firearms -- 18–12–111 C.R.S.
- Large-Capacity Magazines Prohibited—18–12–302 C.R.S.
Call us for help…
If you or someone you know has been accused of a violation of federal or Colorado gun laws, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
Our Colorado criminal lawyers represent clients charged with gun, knife and other weapons violations as well as Colorado crimes of violence. We may also be able to help you restore your gun rights if you have lost them due to a protective order or felony conviction.
To reach one of our caring Colorado defense attorneys, contact us via the form on this page or at our conveniently located home office:
Colorado Legal Defense Group
4047 Tejon Street
Denver, CO 80211
Arrested in Nevada? See our Nevada firearms laws article.
- 27 CFR 478.11 defines “adjudicated a mental defective” to mean:
(a) A determination by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease:
(1) Is a danger to himself or to others; or
(2) Lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.
(b) The term shall include -
(1) A finding of insanity by a court in a criminal case; and
(2) Those persons found incompetent to stand trial or found not guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility pursuant to articles 50a and 72b of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. 850a, 876b.
2. 27 CFR 478.11 defines curios or relics as:
Firearms which are of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons. To be recognized as curios or relics, firearms must fall within one of the following categories:
3. See 18 U.S. Code 922.
4. 18-12-105 (2) C.R.S.
5. 18-12-105.6 C.R.S.