Gun laws in Colorado

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Location of Colorado in the United States

Gun laws in Colorado regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition in the state of Colorado in the United States.[1][2]

Summary table[edit]

Subject/Law Long guns Handguns Relevant Statutes Notes
State permit required to purchase? No No
Firearm registration? No No
Assault weapon law? No* No* DRMC § 38-130 No state law prohibiting sale or possession of assault weapons, but with the repeal of Colorado's statewide firearm preemption law in 2021, local restrictions or prohibitions on assault weapons may exist. Denver ordinance bans assault weapons. Vail banned assault weapons in 1994.[3] Boulder passed such an ordinance in May 2018.[4]
Magazine Capacity Restriction? Yes Yes CRS §§ 18-12-302, 18-12-303 After July 1, 2013, magazines holding more than 15 rounds may not be sold, transferred, or possessed unless they were lawfully owned prior to July 1, 2013. Firearms with a tubular magazine which are either chambered in .22 rimfire or operated by lever action are exempt from this regulation, as are magazines "permanently altered" to limit the capacity to 15 or less. Boulder passed an ordinance in May 2018 banning magazines holding more than 10 rounds (15 for handguns).[4] [5] Vail banned magazines holding 21 or more rounds in 1994.[6]
Owner license required? No No
Permit required for concealed carry? N/A Yes CRS § 18-12-203 Colorado is a shall issue state for concealed carry. Permits are issued by local sheriff offices to county residents.
Permit required for open carry? No No CRS § 18-12;
DRMC §§ 38-117(b), 38-118
Legal without permit requirements except in Denver and other posted areas.
Concealed within a vehicle? Yes Yes CRS §§ 18-12-105(2b), 33-6-125;
DRMC §§ 38-117(f), 38-118, 14-92
No permit is required. Pistols may be carried with chamber and magazine loaded. Rifles and shotguns must be carried with an empty chamber if the owner is in possession of a valid hunting license and that hunting season is in progress. Rounds in the magazine are permitted during that hunting season. A loaded weapon in a vehicle and a spotlight is prima facie evidence that one was attempting to illegally take game. Wildlife officers have full law enforcement powers.
State Preemption of local restrictions? No No CRS § 29-11.7-103 Local ordinances are not preempted by state law, and Denver bans assault weapons and open carry.
NFA weapons restricted? No No CRS § 18-12-102 NFA items are defined as a "dangerous weapon". Subsection 5: "It shall be an affirmative defense to the charge of possessing a dangerous weapon...that said person has a valid permit and license for possession of such weapon."
Peaceable Journey laws? Yes Yes CRS § 18-12-105.6; DRMC §§ 38-117(f), 38-118 Denver's restrictions on transport/possession of firearms in vehicles do not apply to persons traveling to or from other jurisdictions; see Trinen v. City & County of Denver, 53 P.3d 754
Castle Doctrine? Yes Yes CRS § 18-1-704.5 A legal resident of a property has the right to use deadly force to defend themselves, other occupants, and property from armed or unarmed intruders.
Stand Your Ground Law? No No
Background checks required for private sales? Yes Yes CRS § 18-12-112 For private party transfers of firearms, the seller must request that a licensed dealer perform a background check of the buyer, and must get approval of the transfer from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Transfers of antique firearms, bona-fide gifts or loans from immediate family members, and transfers to estate executors or trustees are exempt. Temporary transfers are strictly regulated.
Red flag law? Yes Yes HB 19-1177 The police may temporarily confiscate firearms from people who are threatening to harm themselves or others or have been accused of the same by someone who resides at the same address of the subject, and then get a court order afterwards.

Concealed carry[edit]

Colorado is a "shall-issue" state for concealed carry. Permits are issued by the county sheriff,[7] and are valid for five years. Applicants must demonstrate competence with a handgun, either by passing a training class or by other means.[8] The Concealed Carry Act allows a person with a permit to carry a concealed weapon "in all areas of the state" with the exception of some federal properties, K-12 schools, and buildings with fixed security checkpoints such as courthouses, and also disallows a local government from enforcing an ordinance or resolution that conflicts with the law.[9]

In March 2012, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down the University of Colorado's campus gun ban, saying it violated the Concealed Carry Act, which allows permit holders to carry on public property, including carrying on public colleges.[9][10]

Open carry[edit]

Open carry, as well as possession of a handgun either openly displayed or concealed in an automobile, is generally permitted without a license. However, local governments may prohibit open carry to a limited extent only in areas that are directly under the jurisdiction of the municipality such as municipal buildings, police stations, etc. If such an ordinance is written all locations affected must be posted per C.R.S 29-11.7-104. The exception is the city and county of Denver has done so in a broad sense banning open carry in all areas of the city and county. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Denver's pre-existing ban may remain in force, despite the Colorado legislature's enactment of a statewide pre-emption law designed to establish uniform firearms policies across the state. [11][12] When a rifle or shotgun is transported in a vehicle, there may not be a round in the chamber.[13]

Other laws[edit]

Effective July 1, 2013, Colorado requires background checks for all firearm sales at the buyer's expense. Magazines that are capable of accepting more than 15 rounds or are designed to be readily convertible to accept more than 15 rounds cannot be sold or transferred within state limits. However, such magazines lawfully obtained prior to July 1, 2013 may be kept without restrictions on their use. The magazine restriction law also does not specifically address residents purchasing Large-Capacity Magazine guns (LCMs) from out-of-state sources for personal use, although they may not be possessed within state limits[further explanation needed]. Colorado's large capacity magazine ban is silent on non-residents visiting Colorado while in possession of magazines that meet the state's LCM ban criteria, provided the LCMs are for personal use, and the individual had lawfully obtained the LCMs according to the laws of his or her home state.[14] Denver city ordinance bans assault weapons[15] and the open carrying of firearms.[11]

The enforceability of Colorado's magazine restrictions is questionable, given that Colorado's magazine law doesn't require owners of LCMs prior to the magazine ban's effective date, to register those magazines with the state. Complicating matters, magazine manufacturers generally do not print serial numbers or a date of manufacture on the magazines they produce. Therefore, it would be virtually impossible to prove at trial that one illegally possessed an LCM unless someone witnessed that person obtaining or importing the illegal magazine.

Some local counties have adopted Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions in opposition to some gun control laws.[16]

Gun control lawsuit[edit]

A lawsuit over the legality of the magazine ban and background check laws has been filed by 54 of the 64 elected county Sheriffs and 21 sporting and outdoor groups and Colorado companies. The suit alleges that the laws violate the Second and Fourteenth amendments, and state that the laws would be impossible to enforce.[17][18][19][20]


From 2003 to 2021, Colorado had state preemption of local firearm laws, except for certain ordinances enacted by the City and County of Denver.[12] The statewide firearm preemption law was repealed in 2021, allowing cities and counties to enact firearms ordinances that are more restrictive than state law. Denver has enacted local firearms ordinances that are more restrictive than state law, and other cities (notably Boulder) are considering additional local firearm restrictions. Meanwhile, a growing number of rural counties are using the repeal of Colorado's statewide firearm pre-emption law as the basis for their refusal to enforce portions of the state's firearm laws (notably Colorado's red flag law) within their jurisdictions.[21]

Concealed carry permits remain valid statewide, despite the repeal of statewide pre-emption. In other words, local jurisdictions cannot completely ban concealed carry by permit-holders within their jurisdictions, although they may restrict concealed carry by permit holders in public buildings and parks, or in designated areas when special events or large public gatherings are held. However, local jurisdictions may enact ordinances restricting or outlawing open carry (which requires no permit in Colorado) within their boundaries, and the City and County of Denver has done so.


Denver law bans assault weapons[15] and the open carry of firearms.[22][12] In 2003, the Colorado General Assembly passed laws preempting these and several other pre-existing Denver laws, which Denver successfully challenged in Denver District Court in 2004.[12] In 2006, the Colorado Supreme Court let stand the District Court order upholding the Denver laws.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "State Gun Laws: Colorado", National Rifle Association – Institute for Legislative Action. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  2. ^ "Colorado State Law Summary", Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
  3. ^ "Sterling Codifiers, Inc". Retrieved June 24, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Boulder City Council unanimously passes ban on assault weapons". Retrieved June 24, 2018.
  5. ^ "Boulder Municipal Code Chapter 8 - Weapons". Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  6. ^ "Sterling Codifiers, Inc". Retrieved June 24, 2018.
  7. ^ "Colorado Gun Laws", Colorado State Patrol. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  8. ^ "Colorado Concealed Carry Permit Information", USA Carry. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  9. ^ a b Whaley, Monte (March 5, 2012). "Colorado Supreme Court affirms that CU students with permits can carry concealed guns on campus". The Denver Post.
  10. ^ "Regents of the University of Colorado v. Students for Concealed Carry on Campus" (PDF). Colorado Supreme Court. March 5, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Colorado", Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  12. ^ a b c d Denver v. Colorado, 03 CV 3809, Order on Cross Motions for Summary Judgment, 5 November 2004
  13. ^ "Guns in Vehicles in Colorado", Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  14. ^ Bartels, Lynn and Lee, Kurtis (March 21, 2013). "Three New Gun Bills on the Books in Colorado Despite Its Wild West Image", Denver Post. Retrieved March 23, 2013.
  15. ^ a b Denver Revised Municipal Code (DRMC) § 38-130
  16. ^ Ammoland (March 8, 2019). "Colorado Counties Declaring Second Amendment Sanctuary Status At Lightning Speed". Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  17. ^ "Colorado sheriffs sue over new state gun restrictions". Fox News. Associated Press. May 18, 2013.
  18. ^ 54 Sheriffs v. Hickenlooper, Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief Archived 2013-06-12 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Majority of Colorado sheriffs file suit against new gun laws". NBC News. May 17, 2013.
  20. ^ "Colorado sheriffs file federal lawsuit challenging gun bills". The Denver Post. May 18, 2013.
  21. ^ Pushback on proposed Colorado gun laws gains steam among counties, sheriffs Denver Post, May 29, 2021
  22. ^ DRMC §§ 38-117(b), 38-118
  23. ^ Lindsay, Sue (June 6, 2006). "Denver gun laws stand, but issue left unresolved". Rocky Mountain News hosted at Conceal Carry HQ.