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Know the Laws: Colorado

UPDATED September 18, 2017

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Below is information about state gun laws in Colorado.  However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply.  To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate or lawyer in your community for more information on gun laws in your state.  To find an agency, please go to the CO Where to Find Help page.

The Abuser Isn’t Supposed to Have a Gun…Now What?

back to topWho do I notify if I think the abuser should not have a gun?

If you think the abuser is violating state firearm laws, you can call your local police or sheriff department or the State Police.  If you think the abuser is violating federal firearm laws, you can call the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

You can find contact information for sheriff departments in your area on our CO Sheriff Departments page.

You can find ATF field offices in Colorado on the ATF website.  For reporting illegal firearm activity, a person can also call 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867).  Many ATF offices have victim advocates on staff (called “victim/witness coordinators”) and so perhaps you may ask to speak one of these advocates if you are having a hard time connecting with (or receiving a call back from) an ATF officer.

A local domestic violence organization in your area may also be able to answer your questions and assist you in talking to the necessary law enforcement officials.  You will find contact information for organizations in your area on our CO State and Local Programs page.

Note: Generally, the abuser does not have to have knowledge of the law in order to be arrested for breaking the law.  If the abuser has or buys a gun in violation of the law, the abuser can be arrested, whether or not s/he knows that s/he was in violation of the law.*

* United States v. Lippman, 369 F. 3d 1039 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Henson, 55 F. Supp. 2d 528 (S.D. W.V. 1999)

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back to topWhat is the penalty for violating state or federal firearm laws?

While a protection order is in effect, if the respondent possesses (or attempts to possess) a firearm or ammunition, s/he has committed the crime of violation of a protection order, a class 2 misdemeanor.  Note: It can be a class 1 misdemeanor if:

  • this is the respondent's second (or third, fourth, etc.) conviction for the crime of violation of a protection order; or
  • the protection order was issued at arraignment in a criminal case and ordered the defendant not to harass, intimidate, retaliate against, or tamper with any witness to, or victim of, the acts charged.*  

The punishment for a class 2 misdemeanor is between 3 to 12 months imprisonment, a fine of between $250 and $1,000, or both.  The punishment for a class 1 misdemeanor is between 6 to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of between $500 and $5,000, or both.*1

If someone who was convicted of a felony (or attempt or conspiracy to commit a felony) is in possession of a firearm, it can be a class 5 or 6 felony depending on the underlying felony conviction, the length of time since that felony conviction, and other factors.*2  The punishment for a class 5 felony is between 1 and 3 years, a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000, or both.  The punishment for a class 6 felony is between 1 and 1.5 years, a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000, or both.*3

Also, anyone who has or buys a gun in violation of the federal firearm law can be punished by a fine, jail time for up to 10 years, or both.*4  For more information, see our Federal Gun Laws page.

* Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-6-803.5; 18-1-1001(1)
*1 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-501(1)(a)
*2 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-108
*3 Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1.3-401(1)(a)(V)(A), (1)(a)(III)(A)
*4 18 USC § 924(a)(2)

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back to topWhat will happen if the abuser tries to purchase a gun?

Before purchasing a gun from a licensed firearm dealer, all buyers must undergo a criminal background check that is processed through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).  If the abuser has a qualifying protection order against him/her, or has been convicted of a felony or domestic violence misdemeanor in any state, those records should be in the NICS, which should prevent the abuser from buying a gun.  Not all states have automated record keeping systems, making it more difficult to process the criminal background check, and some criminals and abusers do slip through the system.  Also, it is important to know that background checks are not required for private and online gun sales.  

If the abuser is able to purchase a gun and you believe that s/he should not be able to have one under the law, you can alert the police, and ask that his/her gun be taken away and perhaps the police will investigate.  Generally, it is not a good idea to assume that because the abuser was able to buy a gun, it is legal for him/her to have one.

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