Local jurisdictions in Colorado derive their authority to regulate from Article XX, section 6 of the Colorado Constitution, which provides, in relevant part, that:
“The people of each city or town of this state, having a population of two thousand inhabitants as determined by the last preceding census taken under the authority of the United States, the state of Colorado or said city or town, are hereby vested with, and they shall always have, power to make, amend, add to or replace the charter of said city or town, which shall be its organic law and extend to all its local and municipal matters. Such charter and the ordinances made pursuant thereto in such matters shall supersede within the territorial limits and other jurisdiction of said city or town any law of the state in conflict therewith.”
Article XX, section 6 is designed to “grant and confirm to the people of all municipalities coming within its provisions the full right of self-government in both local and municipal matters.”
In determining the respective authority of the state legislature and home rule municipalities, the Supreme Court of Colorado has recognized three broad categories of regulatory matters: local concern, state concern, or mixed local and state concern.1 In matters of local concern, both home rule cities and the state may legislate, but when a home rule ordinance or charter provision and a state statute conflict, the home rule provision supersedes the conflicting state provision.2 In matters of statewide concern, the General Assembly may adopt legislation and preempt the power of home rule municipalities to enact conflicting legislation. Finally, in matters of mixed local and state concern, a home rule municipality’s charter or ordinance provision may coexist with a state statute as long as there is no conflict. In the event of a conflict, the state statute supersedes the charter or ordinance.3
Although the three categories are not “mutually exclusive or factually perfect, several general factors are useful under a totality of circumstances test to determine whether an issue is one of state, local, or mixed local and state concern, including the need for statewide uniformity of regulation, extraterritorial impact, other state interests, and local interests.”4
In 2021, the Colorado General Assembly became the first state in the nation to broadly repeal the majority of its firearms preemption statute amending it to say “The state has an interest in the regulation of firearms due to the ease of transporting firearms between local jurisdictions; and officials of local governments are uniquely equipped to make determinations as to regulations necessary in their local jurisdictions. . . . [T]he general assembly concludes that the regulation of firearms is a matter of state and local concern.”5
Colorado Revised Statutes section 29-11.7-103 also now provides:
“[U]nless otherwise expressly prohibited pursuant to state law, a local government may enact an ordinance, regulation, or other law governing or prohibiting the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of a firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory that a person may lawfully sell, purchase, transfer, or possess under state or federal law. The local ordinance, regulation, or other law may not impose a requirement on the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of a firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory that is less restrictive than state law, and any less restrictive ordinance, regulation, or other law enacted by a local government before June 19, 2021, is void and unenforceable. A local ordinance, regulation, or other law governing the sale, purchase, transfer, or possession of a firearm, ammunition, or firearm component or accessory may only impose a criminal penalty for a violation upon a person who knew or reasonably should have known that the person’s conduct was prohibited.”
The broad repeal in 2021 left in place a state law that preempts local laws that would restrict a person’s ability to travel with a firearm in a private vehicle.6
The state concealed weapons act provides in its legislative findings that “It is necessary that the state occupy the field of regulation of issuing concealed handgun permits because there is a prevailing state interest in ensuring that no citizen is arbitrarily denied a concealed handgun permit.”7 However, in 2021, the state granted authority to local governments, K-12 school and other special districts, and the governing board of institutions of higher education to enact an ordinance, resolution, rule, or other regulation that prohibits a permittee from carrying a concealed handgun in a building or specific area within the local government’s or governing board’s jurisdiction, or for a special district, in a building or specific area under the direct control or management of the district, including a building or facility managed pursuant to an agreement between the district and a contractor.”8 If a local government, special district, or governing board of an institution of higher education opts to prohibit concealed handgun on its properties, it must post signage as required by statute.9
Additionally, local governments may also enact regulations prohibiting the open carrying of firearms in a building or specific area within the local government’s jurisdiction, as long as the local government posts signs to that effect.10
Other Statutory Provisions
Colorado Revised Statutes Section 29-11.7-102(1) provides that a local government, including a law enforcement agency, shall not maintain a list or other form of record or database of:
- Persons who purchase or exchange firearms or who leave firearms for repair or sale on consignment
- Persons who transfer firearms, unless the persons are federally licensed firearms dealers
- The descriptions, including serial numbers, of firearms purchased, transferred, exchanged, or left for repair or sale on consignment
Section 25-12-109(1) prohibits local governments from enacting noise regulations concerning shooting ranges.
Section 30-15-302 permits counties to regulate the discharge of firearms in areas with an average population of at least 100 persons per square mile.
For state laws prohibiting local units of government (i.e., cities and counties) from filing certain types of lawsuits against the gun industry, see our page on Immunity Statutes in Colorado.
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- U.S. West Communications, Inc. v. City of Longmont, 948 P.2d 509, 515 (Colo. 1997), citing City and County of Denver v. State, 788 P.2d 764 (Colo. 1990).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 29-11.7-101(1)(d)(e), (2).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-105.6(2)(b) provides: “No municipality, county, or city and county shall have the authority to enact or enforce any ordinance or resolution that would restrict a person’s ability to travel with a weapon in a private automobile…while traveling into, through, or within, a municipal, county, or city and county jurisdiction….”In Trinen v. City & County of Denver, 53 P.3d 754, 758-60 (Colo. Ct. App. 2002), the Colorado Court of Appeals held that the Colorado General Assembly’s intent in enacting section 18-12-105.6(2)(b) was to limit, not eliminate, local ordinances regulating the carrying of weapons in private vehicles, and to allow local weapons ordinances that apply to travel wholly within local jurisdictions. See also United States v. Smith, 55 Fed. Appx. 489, fn.1, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 1832.
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-201(1)(e).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-214(c)(I).
- Id. at (c)(II).
- Colo. Rev. Stat. § 29-11.7-104.