Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.
Colorado law similarly generally disqualifies people from knowingly possessing, using, or carrying a firearm if they have been convicted of most (though not all) felonies, or convicted of attempt or conspiracies to commit these enumerated felonies, or if they have been adjudicated as a juvenile for acts which would constitute a felony or attempt or conspiracy to commit a felony if committed as an adult.1
Colorado law also prohibits people from purchasing or possessing firearms after they have been convicted of certain domestic violence crimes or while they are subject to certain active civil or criminal protection orders, including domestic violence protection orders,2 extreme risk protection orders,3 criminal protection orders,4 and other protection orders issued to prevent specified harms like assault and threatened bodily harm, domestic or elder abuse, sexual assault or abuse, and stalking.5 For information, see the Domestic Violence & Firearms in Colorado and Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Colorado pages.
Somewhat unusually, Colorado law also disqualifies some people from passing a background check to acquire firearms without disqualifying them from keeping guns they already possessed. More specifically, when contacted by a firearms dealer to conduct a background check, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is required to deny a firearm transfer when:
- The transfer would violate federal law;
- The transfer would violate Colorado law;
- The transferee has been arrested for or charged with a crime that would prohibit them from purchasing, receiving or possessing a firearm under state or federal law, and there has been no final disposition of the case or the final disposition has not been noted in the databases searched by CBI during a firearm transferee’s background check; or
- The transferee is the subject of an indictment, information or a felony complaint alleging that the prospective transferee has committed a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year as defined by federal law.
- If the prospective transferee has been convicted within the previous five years of any of the following misdemeanor offenses (this prohibition is only applicable to convictions that occurred after June 19, 2021):
(i) assault in the third degree, as described in section 18-3-204;
(ii) sexual assault, as described in section 18-3-402 (1)(e);
(iii) unlawful sexual contact, as described in section 18-3-404;
(iv) child abuse, as described in section 18-6-401;
(v) violation of a protection order, as described in section 18-6-803.5 (1)(a) and (1)(c)(i);
(vi) a crime against an at-risk person, as described in section 18-6.5-103;
(vii) harassment, as described in section 18-9-111 (1)(a);
(viii) a bias-motivated crime, as described in section 18-9-121;
(ix) cruelty to animals, as described in section 18-9-202 (1)(a) and (1.5);
(x) possession of an illegal weapon, as described in section 18-12-102 (4); or
(xi) unlawfully providing a firearm other than a handgun to a juvenile, as described in section 18-12-108.7 (3).6
Firearm transfers by unlicensed sellers (non-firearms dealers) are generally subject to background checks in Colorado.
Our experts can speak to the full spectrum of gun violence prevention issues. Have a question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Contact
- Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-12-108(1), (3); 24-4.1-302(1).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14-105.5(1)(a).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-14.5-111.
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1-1001.
- See Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-14-104.5(1)(a); 13-14-105.5(11).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 24-33.5-424(3)(a), (b), (b.3).