Firearm Restrictions for Domestic Violence Crimes
Colorado incorporates federal laws disqualifying people from purchasing or possessing firearms after they are convicted of most domestic violence misdemeanor offenses.1 (Colorado also generally makes it unlawful for people to access firearms after they are convicted of most felonies,2 or of any crime that is punishable by more than one year imprisonment if that crime includes an act of domestic violence against a current or former intimate partner.)3
If a court determines on the record that the underlying factual basis for any criminal conviction meets federal law’s definition of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,”4 Colorado law requires the court to order the defendant to refrain from possessing or purchasing any firearm or ammunition until the defendant’s sentence is satisfied and to relinquish any firearm or ammunition in the defendant’s immediate possession or control, or subject to the defendant’s immediate possession or control.5
People subject to these prohibitions are also subject to federal domestic violence firearm laws. Enactment of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act at the federal level in 2022 expanded federal domestic violence protections to disqualify people from accessing firearms if they are convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors perpetrated against unmarried dating partners. Because Colorado law incorporates federal law and definitions into its state domestic violence laws, this federal law change had the effect of closing the dating partner loophole for domestic violence crimes in Colorado as well.
Firearm Restrictions for Domestic Violence protection orders
Colorado law prohibits some people subject to domestic violence protection orders from accessing firearms as long as the protection order is in effect.
When a court issues a civil protection order and determines on the record that the order includes an act of domestic violence committed against a current or former intimate partner6 involving the use, threatened use, or attempted use of physical force, then the court is required by Colorado law to order the respondent to refrain from possessing or purchasing any firearm or ammunition for the duration of the order, and to relinquish for the duration of the order any firearm or ammunition in the respondent’s immediate possession or control, or subject to the respondent’s immediate possession or control.7
In other circumstances, Colorado law also prohibits people from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition while they are subject to certain temporary or permanent civil protection orders.8 Such orders may be obtained by any person seeking protection for themselves or others in order to prevent domestic abuse (defined more broadly to include acts committing against current or former cohabitants or family members, in addition to intimate partners),9 or to prevent assaults and threatened bodily harm, emotional abuse of the elderly or of an at-risk adult, sexual assault or abuse, or stalking.10 A court may issue a temporary civil protection order if the judge finds that an imminent danger exists to the person or persons seeking protection under the order or to the employees of a business seeking a court order for the protection of its employees.11 These orders may be issued “ex parte” (without a full hearing) in certain circumstances.12
Possession of a firearm or ammunition in violation of a court order is a punishable offense.13
Notably, Colorado law also 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 federal domestic violence-related firearm prohibitions as well.14 The court may prohibit the defendant from possessing firearms during this time, even in some cases when the federal law is not triggered.15
Colorado law sets forth procedures for people subject to domestic violence-related firearm restrictions to relinquish firearms and ammunition already owned at the time they become disqualified from possessing firearms. The law generally requires the person to relinquish firearms and ammunition within 24 – 48 hours of being served with a qualifying order or sentencing. If the person is held in the custody of a law enforcement agency, the relinquishment must occur within 24 hours of release. Within seven business days, the person must file an affidavit with the court listing the firearms and ammunition they possess or their lack of firearms and ammunition.
The person may sell or transfer firearms and ammunition to a federally licensed gun dealer, law enforcement or a contracted agency for storage, or private party who does not reside with the person. A law enforcement agency that elects to store a firearm or ammunition is required to obtain a search warrant to examine or test the firearm or ammunition or facilitate a criminal investigation if a law enforcement agency has probable cause to believe the firearm or ammunition has been used in the commission of a crime, is stolen, or is contraband.
The federally licensed gun dealer who purchases or facilitates a private party transfer of the firearms or ammunition, or the agency accepting the transfer, must issue a receipt to the person and sign a declaration memorializing the transfer. The person must file the declaration with the court. The court that issues the order or sentences the defendant must set a compliance hearing between eight and 12 business days after the order is issued or the defendant is sentenced to ensure the person has relinquished firearms and ammunition. If a court determines that there is probable cause to believe the respondent has failed to relinquish all firearms, ammunition, or a concealed carry permit, the court shall issue a search warrant that states with particularity the places to be searched and the items to be taken into custody. Prior to returning a firearm or ammunition to a respondent or defendant, a federally licensed gun dealer or law enforcement agency must conduct a background check to ensure the person is legally able to possess firearms.16
When a person 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.17
Colorado does not explicitly authorize or require the removal of firearms or ammunition at the scene of a domestic violence incident.
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- See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-6-801(8)(a).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-108.
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-6-801(8)(a). See also Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-6-800.3 (defining “Domestic violence” and “Intimate relationship”).
- See 18 U.S.C § 921(a)(33). Subject to certain exceptions and due process requirements, federal law defines the term “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to mean an offense that—
(ii) has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, committed by a current or former spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the victim as a spouse, parent, or guardian, by a person similarly situated to a spouse, parent, or guardian of the victim, or by a person who has a current or recent former dating relationship with the victim.
Enactment of the federal Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in 2022 expanded this term to include domestic violence crimes perpetrated against unmarried dating partners.
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-6-801(8).
- See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-6-800.3 (defining “Domestic violence” and “Intimate relationship”).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-105.5(1)(a).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-105.5(11).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-101(2).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(1)(a).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(7).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-104.5(4).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-6-803.5(1)(c).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1-1001(9).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1-1001(3)(c).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-105.5, 18-1-1001(9), 18-6-801(8).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-108(6)(c)(I).