Colin McCallin June 29, 2016

The Denver Post recently reported that applications for concealed carry permits have skyrocketed in Colorado this year. Some say this is a response to mass shootings, like the recent tragedies in Paris, San Bernardino, Colorado Springs and Orlando, others argue that this kind of increased access to weapons is part of the problem. Regardless of how you feel about guns, Coloradans should know what the rules are in our state.

Permits, Registration and Background Checks

The first thing to understand is that the state distinguishes between long guns and handguns. In Colorado neither type of gun requires a state permit, license or registration.  The state does allow both open and concealed carry. However, concealed carry permits are only issued for handguns.

Background checks are required for all private sales, which exceeds the federal requirement. If it is a private sale between two citizens, the seller must get a licensed gun dealer to conduct a background check and the transfer must be reported to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI). Background checks are done at the buyer’s expense. In Colorado, background checks are also required for gun show purchases whether the seller is federally licensed or private.

Concealed Carry

County sheriffs issue concealed carry licenses and the license is good for 5 years. The applicant must show that they are trained to handle the weapon by taking a concealed carry class. This permit allows one to carry their weapon anywhere in the state except for federal properties, grade schools (K-12) and buildings with security checkpoints like courthouses.

Other requirements include being a resident of the state and county you get the permit in and answering questions about your personal and criminal history. You are fingerprinted and photographed and a background check will be conducted to confirm your information. Colorado reciprocates permits from other states if you are still a valid resident of that state and if that state also reciprocates Colorado permits. You are still subject to that state’s specific rules so it’s a good idea to research those before traveling with your gun. Because marijuana is still illegal federally, having a medical marijuana card may interfere with obtaining a concealed carry.

Colorado generally allows a person to have a gun if they meet these requirements; however, there is some discretion allowed by the Sheriff’s office and they may refuse to issue the permit even if the requirements are met, if they believe the applicant could be dangerous.

Open Carry

Open carry is permitted without a license. This includes carrying a weapon in your car; however, rifles and shotguns carried in vehicles may not have a round in the chamber. Local governments may restrict open carry in municipal buildings with visibly posted signs.

Denver Exceptions and Other Rules

The state of Colorado does not ban assault rifles but the city of Denver bans all assault weapons as well as the open carry of any guns. In most circumstances, state law trumps municipal law; however, Denver challenged this rule and won in District Court, so in this case, Denver’s bans are valid despite state law.

Large capacity magazines (LCMs) are limited to 15 rounds for any weapon and cannot be easily converted to carry more. A person is free to travel throughout the state with their legally obtained weapons, this includes traveling through Denver, and as long as it is clear the person is moving to or from another jurisdiction. Colorado honors the Castle Doctrine, which is a law that allows a person the right to use deadly force to protect themselves in their home from an intruder, but Colorado does not have the infamous Stand Your Ground law which permits a person to defend oneself when feeling threatened outside their property.

Who Cannot Have a Gun?

Convicted felons, minors, individuals with a history of drug use, including habitual use of alcohol, or mental illness and those charged with domestic violence cannot have a gun. In terms of domestic violence restrictions, Colorado again exceeds federal law by requiring a person who has a civil protection order against them to relinquish their weapons and they cannot obtain more during the time of the order. If convicted of domestic violence, that person is further prohibited from purchasing or possessing guns. And just this week the Supreme Court ruled in Voisine v. US that the federal ban on gun ownership may be imposed on those found guilty of misdemeanor domestic violence, not just felony.

The topic of guns is volatile and controversial but at least knowing where your state stands helps with the debate.