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FAQ: Key Federal and Colorado State Gun Laws

Federal Gun Laws

Although the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants citizens the right to carry arms, there are instances where these rights can be lost.

Federal firearms laws define which individuals are not eligible to exercise their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.

Federal firearms laws enacted under the Gun Control Act of 1968, make the following persons ineligible to possess firearms (See Title 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922):

• Any person convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor

• Fugitives from justice

• Illegal drug users, including marijuana

• Persons who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution

• Illegal Aliens

• Persons who have renounced U.S. citizenship

• Persons dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces

• Persons subject to a domestic violence restraining order

The penalties for violating the federal firearms possession laws can include large fines and up to life in prison.

Colorado State Gun Regulations Laws: Select Laws

18-12-106. Prohibited use of weapons.

 (1) A person commits a class 2 misdemeanor if:

 (a) He knowingly and unlawfully aims a firearm at another person; or

 (b) Recklessly or with criminal negligence he discharges a firearm or shoots a bow and arrow; or

 (c) He knowingly sets a loaded gun, trap, or device designed to cause an explosion upon being tripped or approached, and leaves it unattended by a competent person immediately present; or

 (d) The person has in his or her possession a firearm while the person is under the influence of intoxicating liquor or of a controlled substance, as defined in section 12-22-303 (7), C.R.S. Possession of a permit issued under section 18-12-105.1, as it existed prior to its repeal, or possession of a permit or a temporary emergency permit issued pursuant to part 2 of this article is no defense to a violation of this subsection (1).
 
 (e) He knowingly aims, swings, or throws a throwing star or nunchaku as defined in this paragraph (e) at another person, or he knowingly possesses a throwing star or nunchaku in a public place except for the purpose of presenting an authorized public demonstration or exhibition or pursuant to instruction in conjunction with an organized school or class. When transporting throwing stars or nunchaku for a public demonstration or exhibition or for a school or class, they shall be transported in a closed, nonaccessible container. For purposes of this paragraph (e), “nunchaku” means an instrument consisting of two sticks, clubs, bars, or rods to be used as handles, connected by a rope, cord, wire, or chain, which is in the design of a weapon used in connection with the practice of a system of self-defense, and “throwing star” means a disk having sharp radiating points or any disk-shaped bladed object which is hand-held and thrown and which is in the design of a weapon used in connection with the practice of a system of self-defense.

Some Colorado Cases Interpreting the Law:

Right to Bear Arms in Colorado – is not absolute:

The right to bear arms is not absolute, and it can be restricted by the state’s valid exercise of its police power. People v. Garcia, 197 Colo. 550, 595 P.2d 228 (1979).

Definition of Possession in the Statute

Common sense definition of “possession”, as it is used in subsection (1)(d) is the actual or physical control of a firearm. People v. Garcia, 197 Colo. 550, 595 P.2d 228 (1979).

Possession of a Firearm while intoxicated – is a strict liability offense – you do NOT have to knowingly commit the crime – it can occur by accidental conduct.
 
Possession of a firearm while intoxicated is a strict liability offense, therefore, the trial court did not err in refusing to instruct the jury that “knowingly” was an element of the offense. People v. Wilson, 972 P.2d 701 (Colo. App. 1998).
 
Self-defense is not a valid defense to the crime of prohibited use of weapons. People v. Beckett, 782 P.2d 812 (Colo. App. 1989), aff’d, 800 P.2d 74 (Colo. 1990).

18-12-108. Possession of weapons by previous offenders.

(1) A person commits the crime of possession of a weapon by a previous offender if the person knowingly possesses, uses, or carries upon his or her person a firearm as described in section 18-1-901 (3) (h) or any other weapon that is subject to the provisions of this article subsequent to the person’s conviction for a felony, or subsequent to the person’s conviction for attempt or conspiracy to commit a felony, under Colorado or any other state’s law or under federal law.
 
(2) (a) Except as otherwise provided by paragraphs (b) and (c) of this subsection (2), a person commits a class 6 felony if the person violates subsection (1) of this section.

(b) A person commits a class 5 felony, as provided by section 18-12-102, if the person violates subsection (1) of this section and the weapon is a dangerous weapon, as defined in section 18-12-102 (1).

(c) A person commits a class 5 felony if the person violates subsection (1) of this section and the person’s previous conviction was for burglary, arson, or any felony involving the use of force or the use of a deadly weapon and the violation of subsection (1) of this section occurs as follows:
 
(I) From the date of conviction to ten years after the date of conviction, if the person was not incarcerated; or

(II) From the date of conviction to ten years after the date of release from confinement, if such person was incarcerated or, if subject to supervision imposed as a result of conviction, ten years after the date of release from supervision.

(d) Any sentence imposed pursuant to this subsection (2) shall run consecutively with any prior sentences being served by the offender.
 
(3) A person commits the crime of possession of a weapon by a previous offender if the person knowingly possesses, uses, or carries upon his or her person a firearm as described in section 18-1-901 (3) (h) or any other weapon that is subject to the provisions of this article subsequent to the person’s adjudication for an act which, if committed by an adult, would constitute a felony, or subsequent to the person’s adjudication for attempt or conspiracy to commit a felony, under Colorado or any other state’s law or under federal law.
 
(4) (a) Except as otherwise provided by paragraphs (b) and (c) of this subsection (4), a person commits a class 6 felony if the person violates subsection (3) of this section.

(b) A person commits a class 5 felony, as provided by section 18-12-102, if the person violates subsection (3) of this section and the weapon is a dangerous weapon, as defined in section 18-12-102 (1).

(c) A person commits a class 5 felony if the person commits the conduct described in subsection (3) of this section and the person’s previous adjudication was based on an act that, if committed by an adult, would constitute burglary, arson, or any felony involving the use of force or the use of a deadly weapon and the violation of subsection (3) of this section occurs as follows:
   
(I) From the date of adjudication to ten years after the date of adjudication, if the person was not committed to the department of institutions, or on or after July 1, 1994, to the department of human services; or

(II) From the date of adjudication to ten years after the date of release from commitment, if such person was committed to the department of institutions, or on or after July 1, 1994, to the department of human services or, if subject to supervision imposed as a result of an adjudication, ten years after the date of release from supervision.

(d) Any sentence imposed pursuant to this subsection (4) shall run consecutively with any prior sentences being served by the offender.
 
(5) A second or subsequent offense under paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection (2) and paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection (4) of this section is a class 4 felony.
 
(6) (a) Upon the discharge of any inmate from the custody of the department of corrections, the department shall provide a written advisement to such inmate of the prohibited acts and penalties specified in this section. The written advisement, at a minimum, shall include the written statement specified in paragraph (c) of this subsection (6).

 (B) For the purposes of this paragraph (c), “felony” means any felony under Colorado law, federal law, or the laws of any other state; and
 
(II) A violation of this section may result in a sentence of imprisonment or fine, or both.

(d) The act of providing the written advisement described in this subsection (6) or the failure to provide such advisement may not be used as a defense to any crime charged and may not provide any basis for collateral attack on, or for appellate relief concerning, any conviction.

18-12-105.5. Unlawfully carrying a weapon – unlawful possession of weapons – school, college, or university grounds.

(1) A person commits a class 6 felony if such person knowingly and unlawfully and without legal authority carries, brings, or has in such person’s possession a deadly weapon as defined in section 18-1-901 (3) (e) in or on the real estate and all improvements erected thereon of any public or private elementary, middle, junior high, high, or vocational school or any public or private college, university, or seminary, except for the purpose of presenting an authorized public demonstration or exhibition pursuant to instruction in conjunction with an organized school or class, for the purpose of carrying out the necessary duties and functions of an employee of an educational institution that require the use of a deadly weapon, or for the purpose of participation in an authorized extracurricular activity or on an athletic team.
 
(3) It shall not be an offense under this section if:

(a) The weapon is unloaded and remains inside a motor vehicle while upon the real estate of any public or private college, university, or seminary; or
 
(b) The person is in that person’s own dwelling or place of business or on property owned or under that person’s control at the time of the act of carrying; or
 
(c) The person is in a private automobile or other private means of conveyance and is carrying a weapon for lawful protection of that person’s or another’s person or property while traveling; or

(d) The person, at the time of carrying a concealed weapon, held a valid written permit to carry a concealed weapon issued pursuant to section 18-12-105.1, as said section existed prior to its repeal; except that it shall be an offense under this section if the person was carrying a concealed handgun in violation of the provisions of section 18-12-214 (3); or

(d.5) The weapon involved was a handgun and the person held a valid permit to carry a concealed handgun or a temporary emergency permit issued pursuant to part 2 of this article; except that it shall be an offense under this section if the person was carrying a concealed handgun in violation of the provisions of section 18-12-214 (3); or

(e) The person is a peace officer, as described in section 16-2.5-101, C.R.S., when carrying a weapon in conformance with the policy of the employing agency as provided in section 16-2.5-101 (2), C.R.S.; or

….
 
 (h) The person has possession of the weapon for use in an educational program approved by a school which program includes, but shall not be limited to, any course designed for the repair or maintenance of weapons.

Length of Blade on Knife:

Unless the prosecution can also establish that the person used or intended to use the knife as a weapon, a person cannot be prosecuted under subsection (1) for carrying a knife with a blade less than three and one-half inches in length on school grounds. Even though subsection (1) references the deadly weapons statute, that statute does not specifically define “knife”. The term “knife” is, however, specifically limited to a weapon with a blade longer than three and one-half inches in length by § 18-12-101 (1), as applicable to this article. Thus, reading and harmonizing these provisions together, the plain language of both provisions establishes that, for purposes of this section, where the deadly weapon is a knife, it must qualify as a knife under § 18-12-101 (1)(f). People ex rel. J.W.T., 93 P.3d 580 (Colo. App. 2004).
 
 
Finally – The Colorado State Patrol’s FAQ’s

If you require information from the Colorado State Patrol that has not been addressed on this page, please contact your local Colorado State Patrol Office.

Click here to locate your local office.

Colorado Gun Laws

What are Colorado’s laws concerning firearms?

Colorado allows a person to carry a firearm in a vehicle, loaded or unloaded, if its use is for lawful protection of such person or another’s person or property. [C.R.S. 18-12-105(2)] Colorado law also allows a person to possess a handgun in a dwelling, place of business, or automobile. However, you cannot carry the weapon concealed on or about your person while transporting it into your home, business, hotel room, etc. Local jurisdictions may not enact laws that restrict a person’s ability to travel with a weapon. [C.R.S. 18-12-105.6] The Act permits the nationwide carrying of concealed handguns by qualified current and retired law enforcement officers and amends the Gun Control Act of 1968 (Pub. L. 90-618, 82 Stat. 1213) to exempt qualified current and retired law enforcement officers from state and local laws prohibiting the carry of concealed firearms.

How do I obtain a Concealed Weapon Permit?

A permit to carry a concealed weapon may be obtained through the Sheriff of the county in which you live. You must meet certain requirements to qualify for the permit. [C.R.S. 18-12-203] Consult your local Sheriff’s Department for more information obtaining a permit. The permit and a valid photo identification must be carried with the handgun at all times. A permit is not required and a handgun is not considered concealed when a person is in a private automobile or other private transportation. [C.R.S. 18-12-105 (2)]

What is the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act?

The Act permits the nationwide carrying of concealed handguns by qualified current and retired law enforcement officers and amends the Gun Control Act of 1968 (Pub. L. 90-618, 82 Stat. 1213) to exempt qualified current and retired law enforcement officers from state and local laws prohibiting the carry of concealed firearms. To apply for Retired Commissioned Officers Firearms Training, click here.

Am I required to register my weapon in the State of Colorado?

The State of Colorado prohibits gun registration. CRS 29-11.7-102

If I’m traveling through Colorado with a weapon, Can I Have it in my vehicle?

Colorado law allows a person to carry a firearm in a vehicle, loaded or unloaded, if its use is for lawful protection of such a person or another’s person or property. [C.R.S. 18-12-105 {2}]. Colorado law allows a person to possess a handgun in a dwelling, place of business, or automobile. However, you cannot carry the weapon concealed on or about your person while transporting it into your home, business, hotel room, etc. Local jurisdictions may not enact laws that restrict a person’s ability to travel with a weapon [C.R.S. 18-12-105.6].

Is it Legal to Carry a Weapon in Colorado National Forests?

While visiting National Forests in Colorado, you may carry a weapon. However, in addition to state laws, you must comply with Federal Regulations pertaining to the use of a firearm on National Forest System lands.

A firearm may not be discharged in the following National Forest areas:

Within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site, or occupied area; or
Across or on a Forest Development road or an adjacent body of water, or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge; or
Into or within any cave. [36 CFR 261.10 (d)]
Some forest or distrcits have additional restrictions on discharging a firearm. You are advised to check with the authorities in the areas you will be visiting.

What is Colorado’s Out of State Permit Reciprocity?

A permit to carry a concealed weapon that is issued to a person (who is at least 21 years of age) by another state will be considered valid in Colorado if the other state, in turn, recognized Colorado’s concealed handgun permits. [C.R.S. 18-12-105.6]

Check Colorado’s reciprocity with other states.

How do I Tranport Firearms Through National Parks in Colorado?

With rare exception (such as during times when controlled hunting is allowed), weapons are to be dismantled completely while traveling in National Parks in the United States. In order to transport firearms through National Parks, they must be dismantled and carried in the trunk of the vehicle.


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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