Despite recent progress, Colorado’s hate and gun laws have significant gaps that allow people to keep and access firearms, including assault weapons, after they have been convicted of violent hate crimes.
Access to Guns for People Convicted of Hate Crimes in Colorado
|Violence with Severe Bodily Injury||Violence with Bodily Injury||Other Crimes Involving Intentional Use of Force||Threats with Deadly Weapons|
Other Credible Threats to Physical Safety
|Federal Law||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access||Significant access||Some access|
|State Law||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access||Significant access||Some access|
Colorado law makes it unlawful to commit a “bias-motivated crime” with intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation.1 (Gender and gender identity are not included as protected categories). This hate crime is a felony ifthe offender knowingly caused bodily injury to a victim; Colorado otherwise classifies the offense as a misdemeanor.2
Colorado generally prohibits people from accessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony.3 In 2021, Colorado also passed a law requiring the state Bureau of Investigation to block people from passing firearm background checks for a period of five years after they have been convicted of specified violent misdemeanors, including bias-motivated crimes, third degree assaults, and harassment.4. This prohibition only applies to people convicted on or after the effective date of the Act: June 19, 2021.)) However, this law only blocks these individuals from passing background checks to acquire firearms; it does not require them to relinquish any weapons they own or otherwise refrain from possessing or using firearms, including assault weapons, at any time.
Federal law prohibits people from accessing guns if they have been convicted of a felony punishable by over one year in prison, or a state law misdemeanor punishable by more than two years.5 (In Colorado, misdemeanors are punishable by up to 18 months,6 so hate crime offenders are generally subject to federal firearm restrictions only if they are convicted of felonies).
Colorado generally classifies violent crimes as firearm-prohibiting felonies if they involve knowing infliction of severe bodily injury,7 threats or violence with a deadly weapon,8 or if the crime is prosecuted as a hate crime involving knowing infliction of bodily injury.9
But people convicted of violent hate-motivated misdemeanors generally remain eligible to access firearms in Colorado under both state and federal law, even if they were convicted under the state’s hate crime statute for attempting or threatening to inflict bodily injury and exhibiting conduct “likely to produce bodily injury” to the victim,10 or of threateningly brandishing weapons, or knowingly placing a victim in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.11
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- Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-9-121(2).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-9-121(2)(a) and (3).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-12-108.
- 2021 CO HB 1298, SEC. 2 (amending Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 24-33.5-424(3)(b.3
- 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-1.3-501.
- See, e.g., first and second-degree assault. Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 18-3-202, 18-3-203.
- See, e.g., id. and felony “Menacing” by use or threat of deadly weapon, Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-3-206.
- Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-9-121(2).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-9-121(2) and (3).
- See, e.g., misdemeanor “Menacing”, Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-3-206, and “Disorderly conduct” with display of weapon, Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-3-106(f).