Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

Mass shootings. Assault weapons. Gun control. Regardless of where you stand on these perennially controversial topics, everyone in Colorado should know what this state’s laws are regarding guns, gun ownership, and concealed carry permits.

This is a general explanation of gun laws in Colorado, but anyone who is charged with a particular firearms violation in this state will need the precise and specific legal advice that a Denver criminal defense attorney can provide.

A number of laws regulate the purchase, ownership, and use of firearms in Colorado. The foundation of Colorado’s gun laws is the distinction it makes between handguns and long guns.

To own either gun in this state, no permit, registration, or license is required by law.

The state allows both open and concealed carry, although concealed carry permits are approved only for handguns and never for long guns.

Moreover, local governments in Colorado have the discretion in most cases to restrict guns, gun ownership, and gun use beyond what the statewide gun laws require.

A background check is required by federal law for all private firearms sales. Background checks in Colorado exceed what the federal law requires.

Even for a private sale between two Colorado residents, the seller must have a licensed gun dealer conduct a background investigation on his or her behalf.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation must be informed of all gun ownership changes.

The buyers are responsible to pay for the background checks. Gun show purchases also require background checks whether the seller is a licensed dealer or a private individual.


Concealed carry licenses in Colorado are issued in each county by the Sheriff’s department. A concealed carry license expires after five years.

Applicants must successfully complete a concealed carry class. Concealed carry licenses allow gun owners to carry their weapons throughout Colorado except on federal properties, grade school (K-12) premises, and buildings like courthouses that have security desks or checkpoints.

To obtain a Colorado concealed carry license, you must be a resident of Colorado and a resident of the county where you apply for the license. You’ll need to answer some personal questions and you must answer them truthfully.

You’ll be photographed, fingerprinted, and subjected to a background check. If you are approved to use medical marijuana in Colorado, you might not be approved for a concealed carry permit because pot is still illegal under federal law.


In most cases, if you meet Colorado’s legal requirements for a concealed carry permit, the permit will be approved.

However, county Sheriff’s departments have wide discretion and may refuse to issue a concealed carry permit – even if the applicant qualifies – if the department believes the applicant may be a threat to public safety.

Open carry is allowed without a license in Colorado, but it is subject to local regulation. For example, open carry is not allowed in Denver.

Rifles and shotguns openly carried in motor vehicles in this state cannot have a round in the chamber. Local governments may restrict open carry in municipal buildings with clear, visibly posted signs.

The state of Colorado does not ban assault rifles, but the city of Denver bans all assault weapons. Large capacity magazines (LCMs) are restricted to fifteen rounds.

This state recognizes the “castle” doctrine, which allows residents to use deadly force inside their homes to protect themselves and others from intruders.

However, there is no “stand your ground” law in Colorado, so anyone who feels threatened outside of his or her home must attempt to retreat first and may only use deadly force as a last resort.

Minors, persons with felony convictions, and those with a history of drug use, alcohol problems, mental illness, or domestic violence may not possess a gun in this state.

Colorado exceeds federal domestic violence requirements by requiring those with civil protection orders (restraining orders) issued against them to turn in any guns they own – and not obtain more – for the duration of the protection order.

A conviction for domestic violence prevents the offender from purchasing or owning a firearm legally in Colorado.


Even if you own a gun legally in Colorado, you may face a criminal charge for using a firearm illegally.

Aiming a gun at someone, recklessly discharging a firearm, or possessing a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances all constitute the prohibited use of a firearm, a class 2 misdemeanor punishable upon conviction by a term of three to twelve months in jail, a fine of $250 to $1,000, or both.

Purchasing or otherwise obtaining a firearm in Colorado – when you know it is illegal to do so – is a class 4 felony punishable upon conviction by two to six years in prison, a fine of $2,000 to $500,000, or both.

The private transfer of firearms in Colorado – that is, sales or transfers of firearms between non-licensed firearms dealers – is legal provided that both parties adhere to all applicable state and federal laws.

The illegal transfer of a firearm is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable upon conviction by six to eighteen months in jail, a fine of $500 to $5,000, or both.

Defacing a firearm or possessing a defaced firearm is also a class 1 misdemeanor. Defaced firearms are illegal in this state, and a court may order law officers to seize and destroy defaced firearms.

Possession of a handgun by anyone under the age of 18 is a class 2 misdemeanor, but a second conviction is a class 5 felony punishable upon conviction by one to three years in prison, a fine of $1,000 to $100,000, or both.

Exceptions, however, may apply to minors who are hunting legally, enrolled in certified gun safety courses, or on private property owned or controlled by the minor’s parent(s), grandparent(s), or legal guardian – with that adult’s consent.

Forfeiture is also a part of Colorado’s gun laws. If you are convicted of any crime in Colorado that includes the use of a firearm, the court may order you to relinquish that firearm. Once again, what is listed here is merely a general outline of Colorado’s gun laws.

Anyone with more questions and anyone who is accused of a specific gun violation in Colorado should seek an experienced Denver domestic violence attorney to provide sound, personalized legal advice, and if needed, effective defense representation.

Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.