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How to Buy a Gun in Colorado – What Are the Prerequisites for Purchasing a Handgun?

— January 12, 2024

If you’re a Colorado resident and you’re 21 or older, an important step is passing a detailed background check done by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI).

There are three essential prerequisites that individuals must fulfill to lawfully buy a gun in Colorado. First and foremost, individuals must be a resident of Colorado. Additionally, the prospective handgun owner needs to be a minimum of 21 years old to proceed with the purchase. Lastly, successfully passing a comprehensive background check conducted by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is an integral part of the process. These three requirements collectively ensure a responsible and legal acquisition of handguns within the state.

What Is Considered A Handgun In Colorado?

In Colorado, a handgun is characterized as a compact firearm with a short barrel, designed to be operated effectively using just one hand. This classification encompasses two prevalent categories: revolvers and semi-automatic pistols. Handguns play a pivotal role for individuals seeking self-defense options, as they are convenient to carry due to their compact size. Unlike rifles, handguns provide the advantage of easy mobility, making them a popular choice for those who prioritize personal safety on the go.

What Is Needed To Buy A Gun In Colorado?

Buying a handgun in Colorado means following some clear rules. If you’re younger than 21, you can’t buy a handgun in the state. Also, if you’re not from Colorado, you can’t buy one here either. To prove your age and that you live in Colorado, you can use a valid Colorado driver’s license or ID.

If you’re a Colorado resident and you’re 21 or older, an important step is passing a detailed background check done by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations (CBI). This starts by filling out a form called ATF form 4473 at the store where you want to buy the handgun. Then the store sends this form to the CBI InstaCheck system. Usually, you’ll know if you’re approved or not in less than 30 minutes.

After October 1, 2023, there’s another rule. You need to wait for three days after you’re approved before you can legally get the handgun you bought. This rule is for both stores with licenses to sell guns and for private sales. Even private sales need a background check from the CBI, and any licensed gun store can do this. This strict system makes sure that all gun sales, no matter where they happen, are carefully checked to keep everyone safe.

Reasons You Won’t Be Allowed To Buy A Handgun In Colorado

There are several reasons why an individual might be ineligible to purchase a handgun in Colorado. If a person appears to be intoxicated or gives off the scent of alcohol, is under the influence of marijuana, or is affected by a controlled substance, a gun store has the right to decline the sale, even if they meet other requirements.

Sign for a gun shop
Sign for a gun shop; image courtesy of PublicCo via Pixabay,

In addition, purchasing a firearm is restricted for those who have:

  • A felony conviction
  • A history of domestic violence convictions
  • Fugitive status
  • A drug addiction
  • A restraining order related to harassment, stalking, or threats towards a child or intimate partner
  • Felony charges against them 
  • Been deemed mentally unfit through a legal process
  • Been classified as undocumented immigrants
  • Received a dishonorable discharge from the armed forces
  • Renounced their U.S. citizenship. 

These restrictions are in place to ensure that firearms do not fall into the hands of individuals who may pose a risk to public safety or national security.

Concealed Carrying A Handgun In Colorado

In Colorado, individuals who purchase handguns are required to obtain a CCW (carrying concealed weapons) permit if they intend to carry them concealed. If they do not wish to conceal the firearm, it is considered to be an open carry. In order for a firearm to be legally open-carried, it must be seen from:

  • The front of the carrier
  • The back of the carrier
  • The side of the carrier on which the firearm is holstered

Anything obstructing the view of the firearm such as a shirt or coat will then automatically change the firearm’s position from open to concealed carry. In order to avoid being caught concealed carrying a firearm without a permit unintentionally, it is better for those who want to carry handguns to obtain their CCW. 

Acquiring a CCW permit involves satisfying the prerequisites previously outlined for purchasing a firearm, along with additional conditions:

  • The applicant must not have a history of perjury related to any prior CCW application.
  • Demonstrating firearm competence is vital, which can be achieved by providing evidence of completing a handgun training class and obtaining a certificate.

According to C.R.S. 18-12-105, carrying a concealed handgun without a valid CCW permit constitutes a class 1 misdemeanor for a first-time offense. Consequences may include a maximum of 364 days in jail or a fine of up to $1,000. Subsequent offenses within five years of a prior offense elevate the charge to a class 5 felony, potentially leading to 1 to 3 years in prison (with 2 years of mandatory parole) or a fine ranging from $1,000 to $100,000.

It’s important to note that individuals carrying concealed handguns must carry their CCW permit and a photo ID at all times. Failure to provide these documents upon a law enforcement officer’s request could result in:

  • A petty offense citation
  • Up to 10 days in jail 
  • A fine of up to $300

Adhering to these regulations is crucial to ensure responsible and lawful concealed carrying of handguns in the state of Colorado.

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