Background Checks in Colorado

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearm dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Colorado is a point of contact state for firearm purchaser background checks.1 In Colorado, all firearm transfers by licensed dealers are processed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which enforces federal, as well as state, purchaser prohibitions.2

Colorado requires CBI to transmit a request for a background check in connection with the prospective transfer of a firearm to the NICS system and authorizes CBI to search other databases. CBI must deny a transfer of a firearm to a prospective transferee if the transfer would violate federal or state law.3

Colorado law provides that an application for a firearm purchase must be denied in cases in which there has been no final disposition or the final disposition is not noted in the NICS or state databases, where the applicant:  1) has been arrested for or charged with a crime that would prohibit him or her from purchasing, receiving or possessing a firearm under state or federal law; or 2) is the subject of an indictment, an information, or a felony complaint alleging that the prospective transferee has committed a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.4 However, whenever a person is denied, he or she may request a review of the denial, and the bureau has 30 days to render a final administrative decision regarding the denial.5 If the bureau is unable to obtain the final disposition of a case that is no longer pending within the 30 day period, the dealer may proceed with the transfer.6

Colorado law explicitly provides access to juvenile delinquency court and probation records for firearm background check purposes.7 Colorado law also provides procedures for appeal of a denial of a firearm transfer.8

CBI must adopt rules to carry out these duties.9 CBI must also charge a fee for performing a background check.  The funds that are collected pursuant to this provision are subject to annual appropriation by the General Assembly for the direct costs associated with performing background checks.10

Colorado requires unlicensed sellers (sellers who are not federally licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. See Universal Background Checks in Colorado for further information.  Also see our Universal Background Checks policy summary for related information.

Notes
  1. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(2). Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/participation-map and https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/permanent-brady-state-lists. ⤴︎
  2. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(2). ⤴︎
  3. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(3)(a). ⤴︎
  4. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(3)(b). ⤴︎
  5. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(5)(b). ⤴︎
  6. Id. ⤴︎
  7. Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 19-1-304(1)(a)(VII.5), (1)(c)(II.5), (2)(a)(II.5). ⤴︎
  8. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(5). ⤴︎
  9. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(7). See 8 Colo. Code Regs. § 1507-20. ⤴︎
  10. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(3.5). ⤴︎

Child Access Prevention in Colorado

In Colorado, a person is criminally liable for a felony who:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly provides a handgun to any person under age 18;
  • Knows of a juvenile’s unlawful possession of a handgun and fails to make reasonable efforts to prevent the juvenile’s conduct;
  • Is aware of a substantial risk that a juvenile will use a handgun to commit a felony and permits the juvenile to possess a handgun; or
  • Is aware of a substantial risk that a juvenile will use a handgun to commit a felony and fails to make reasonable efforts to prevent the commission of the offense.1

Any person who sells, rents, or transfers ownership of a long gun to a juvenile without the consent of his or her parent or guardian is criminally liable for a misdemeanor.2 This provision also prohibits a person from allowing unsupervised possession of a long gun by a juvenile without the consent of his or her parent or guardian.3

See our Child Access Prevention policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-108.7(1), (2). ⤴︎
  2. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-108.7(3). ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎

Concealed Weapons Permitting in Colorado

See our Concealed Weapons Permitting for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Colorado does not prohibit a person from carrying a concealed handgun in public if the person has a permit.1

Colorado is a “shall issue” state, meaning that a sheriff must issue a permit to carry a concealed handgun if an applicant meets certain qualifications.2 Colorado provides sheriffs some discretion in issuing or denying such licenses, however. Even if an applicant meets the criteria to obtain a “shall issue” permit (listed below), the sheriff may deny the permit if the sheriff has a reasonable belief that documented behavior by the applicant makes it likely the applicant will present a danger to himself, herself or others if the applicant receives a permit.3

The sheriff shall issue a permit to an applicant who:

  • Is a legal resident of the state of Colorado;
  • Is age 21 or older;
  • Is not ineligible to possess a firearm pursuant state4 or federal law;
  • Has not been convicted of perjury under state law, in relation to information provided or deliberately omitted on a concealed handgun permit application;
  • Does not chronically and habitually use alcoholic beverages to the extent that the applicant’s normal faculties are impaired;5
  • Is not an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance as defined under state law;
  • Is not subject to a: 1) protection order issued under state law6 and in effect at the time the application is submitted; 2) permanent protection order issued pursuant to state law; or 3) temporary protection order issued pursuant to state law that is in effect at the time the application is submitted;7 and
  • Demonstrates competence with a handgun by one of several statutorily-authorized methods (for details, see the Firearm Safety Training subsection below).8

A sheriff may also issue a “temporary emergency permit to carry a concealed handgun” to an individual whom the sheriff has reason to believe may be in immediate danger.9 The criteria to obtain the permit are similar to those of the non-emergency permit, except that no evidence of competence with a handgun is required and the applicant need only be age 18 or older.10 The emergency permit is valid for 90 days from the date of issuance and may be renewed only once. However, if the permittee is less than 21 years of age, the sheriff can renew the permit until the permittee reaches 21 years of age.11

Firearm Safety Training

Applicants for a Colorado permit to carry a concealed handgun must demonstrate competence with a handgun by submitting evidence of completion of one of the following:

  • Evidence of experience with a firearm through participation in organized shooting competitions or current military service;
  • Evidence that, at the time the application is submitted, the applicant is a certified instructor;12
  • Proof of honorable discharge from a branch of the U.S. armed forces within the three years preceding submittal of the application;
  • Proof of honorable discharge from a branch of the U.S. armed forces that reflects pistol qualifications obtained within the 10 years preceding submittal of the application;
  • A certificate showing retirement from a Colorado law enforcement agency that reflects pistol qualifications obtained within the 10 years preceding submittal of the application; or
  • A training certificate from a handgun training class obtained within the 10 years preceding submittal of the application. The applicant shall submit the original training certificate or a photocopy thereof that includes the original signature of the class instructor. In obtaining a training certificate from a handgun training class, the applicant shall have discretion in selecting which handgun training class to complete.13

“Handgun training class” means:

  • A law enforcement training firearms safety course;
  • A firearms safety course offered by a law enforcement agency, an institution of higher education, or a public or private institution or organization or firearms training school, that is open to the general public and is taught by a certified instructor; or
  • A firearms safety course or class that is offered and taught by a certified instructor.14

Colorado law prevents a person from fulfilling this requirement through an online course, or any course that does not require the person to be at a physical location with a certified instructor.15

Duration & Renewal

A Colorado permit to carry a concealed handgun is valid for five years.16 To renew a permit, the permittee must submit an application which requires the same information required for the original permit, including fingerprints.17 After six months from its expiration date, a permit is considered permanently expired and cannot be renewed. Persons whose permits are permanently expired must reapply for a permit.18

Disclosure or Use of Information

Local sheriffs in Colorado must keep a list of persons to whom permits have been issued and may share the information with law enforcement for the purpose of determining the validity of a permit.19 A sheriff cannot share information from the list of permittees with other law enforcement for the purpose of creating a statewide database of permittees, and any law enforcement agency that receives information concerning permittees from a sheriff shall not use the information to create or maintain a database of permittees.20 The Colorado Bureau of Investigation may only use an applicant’s fingerprints to obtain information for sheriffs for the purpose of granting or revoking a permit.21

Reciprocity

A permit to carry a concealed handgun issued in a state that recognizes Colorado concealed handgun permits is valid in Colorado if the permit is issued to a person age 21 or older who is either: 1) a resident of the state that issued the permit; or 2) a resident of Colorado for no more than 90 days.22

Notes
  1. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-214. ⤴︎
  2. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-203(1). ⤴︎
  3. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-203(2), (3). ⤴︎
  4. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-108 for state weapons prohibitions by criminal offenders. ⤴︎
  5. This prohibition does not apply to an applicant who provides an affidavit, signed by a professional counselor or addiction counselor licensed under state law and specializing in alcohol addiction, stating that the applicant has been evaluated by the counselor and has been determined to be a recovering alcoholic who has refrained from using alcohol for at least three years. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-203(1)(e)(II). ⤴︎
  6. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1-1001 or § 19-2-707 for protection order provisions. ⤴︎
  7. See Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-14-101 – 13-14-104 for information on permanent and temporary civil protection orders. ⤴︎
  8. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-203(1). ⤴︎
  9. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-209. ⤴︎
  10. Id. ⤴︎
  11. Id., Additional application and background check requirements, as well as permit suspension and disqualification information, are detailed under Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-12-203(3)(a), 18-12-205. ⤴︎
  12. “Certified instructor” means an instructor for a firearms safety course who is certified as a firearms instructor by: a county, municipal, state, or federal law enforcement agency; the peace officers standards and training board; a federal military agency; or a national nonprofit organization that certifies firearms instructors, operates national firearms competitions, and provides training, including courses in personal protection, in small arms safety, use, and marksmanship. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-202(2). ⤴︎
  13. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-203(1)(h). ⤴︎
  14. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-202(5). ⤴︎
  15. Id. ⤴︎
  16. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-204(1)(b). ⤴︎
  17. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-211. ⤴︎
  18. Id. ⤴︎
  19. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-206(3)(a). ⤴︎
  20. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-206(3)(b). ⤴︎
  21. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-208(2). ⤴︎
  22. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-213. ⤴︎

Dealer Regulations in Colorado

See our Dealer Regulations policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), although resource limitations prevent the ATF from properly overseeing all its licensees.

For laws:

Colorado also requires gun dealers to post a sign that states Colorado’s prohibition on knowingly purchasing or obtaining a firearm on behalf of, or for transfer to, another person the purchaser knows or reasonably should know is ineligible to possess a firearm.1 The dealer must post the sign in an easily readable manner, in an area that is visible to the public at each location from which the dealer sells firearms.2

Colorado does not require firearms dealers to obtain a state license or undergo regular inspections.

Notes
  1. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-111(2). ⤴︎
  2. Id. ⤴︎

Disarming Prohibited Persons in Colorado

Colorado law allows for the removal of guns from the hands of domestic abusers. See Domestic Violence and Firearms in Colorado for more information about that law.

Colorado has no law requiring the removal of firearms from other persons who have become prohibited from possessing them. However, Colorado law provides that, upon the discharge of any inmate from the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections, the Department must provide a written advisement to the inmate that it is a crime if the person knowingly possesses, uses, or carries upon his or her person a firearm subsequent to the person’s conviction for a felony, or an attempt or conspiracy to commit a felony. Any written stipulation for a deferred judgment and sentence must contain the same written advisement.1

Extreme Risk Protection Orders

In 2019, Colorado enacted a law that enables certain individuals to petition a court to remove guns from a person in crisis.2 The law, called an extreme risk protection order (ERPO), allows a law enforcement officer, or family or household member to file a petition demonstrating to a judge that an individual poses a danger to himself, herself, or others. If the court determines that the petitioner has met the standard of proof, it will issue an order that lasts up to one year. An individual subject to an ERPO must relinquish his or her guns to law enforcement and will be prohibited from possessing firearms for the duration of the order.

A temporary ERPO can be obtained without notice to the individual subject to the ERPO. This order can last up to 14 days, before a hearing is held to determine whether a year-long order is appropriate.3

The respondent can submit one request during the period of the order to hold a hearing to terminate the order early.4

Read more about these types of laws on our policy page, Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

Notes
  1. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-108. ⤴︎
  2. 2019 CO HB 1177. ⤴︎
  3. Id. ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎

Domestic Violence & Firearms in Colorado


 

Colorado law incorporates federal law prohibiting the purchase or possession of a firearm or ammunition by people subject to certain domestic violence protective orders or convicted of certain domestic violence crimes.1 Upon sentencing of domestic violence misdemeanants and felons, Colorado law requires courts to issue an order instructing the defendant to refrain from possessing or purchasing any firearm or ammunition for the duration of the order; and relinquish any firearm or ammunition subject to the defendant’s immediate possession or control.2 Abusers subject to these prohibitions are also subject to the federal law.  Colorado law does not, however cover people convicted of violent misdemeanors against a dating partner or subject to a protective order obtained by a dating partner.

Notably, Colorado requires a protective order to be issued whenever a criminal case is pending to prohibit the defendant from harassing, molesting, intimidating, retaliating against, or tampering with any witness to or victim of the acts charged.  In domestic violence cases, this protective order may trigger the federal law, meaning that the person is prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition while the case is pending.3 The court may prohibit the defendant from possessing firearms during this time, even in some cases when the federal law is not triggered.4

Colorado law also prohibits the purchase or possession of a firearm or ammunition by anyone subject to a temporary civil protection order.5 Such orders may be issued “ex parte” (without a full hearing) in certain circumstances. 6

Possession of a firearm or ammunition in violation of a court order is a punishable offense.7

Colorado law sets forth a procedure for domestic abusers to surrender firearms and ammunition already owned at the time they become prohibited from possession. The law generally requires the person to surrender firearms and ammunition not more than 24 hours of being served with a qualifying order, subject to certain exceptions, to any person who has undergone a background check.  If the person is held in the custody of a law enforcement agency, the surrender must occur within 24 hours of release. The person must file a receipt demonstrating that firearms and ammunition have been surrendered with the court within three business days of the surrender. The law includes extensive provisions to protect law enforcement’s decision to store, or not store, firearms or ammunition on behalf of a protective order defendant.8

When an inmate is released from prison or other custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections following a conviction for a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, the Department is required to submit a written statement to the inmate notifying him or her that it is a crime if he or she possesses or uses a firearm.9

Colorado does not explicitly authorize or require the removal of firearms or ammunition at the scene of a domestic violence incident.

See our Domestic Violence & Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-105.5,  18-1-1001(9), 18-6-801(8). ⤴︎
  2. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-6-801(8). ⤴︎
  3. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1-1001(9). ⤴︎
  4. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1-1001(3)(c). ⤴︎
  5. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-105.5(11). ⤴︎
  6. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5. ⤴︎
  7. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-6-803.5(1)(c). ⤴︎
  8. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-105.5,  18-1-1001(9), 18-6-801(8). ⤴︎
  9. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-108(6)(c)(I). ⤴︎