What to Know About Open Carry Laws in Colorado

Many Coloradans love guns and are supporters of our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. State laws vary dramatically on the rights of residents to carry firearms, and Colorado is one of the more permissive states regarding gun laws. However, any weapons charges resulting from illegal possession or carrying of a firearm are still harshly prosecuted, and so it is important to know the law.

Colorado is an open carry state meaning people here may carry a non-concealed firearm. However, there are a few important restrictions regarding what kind of firearms can be carried and by whom. Further, some Colorado cities (such as Denver) have outlawed open carry.

In Colorado, any adult aged 18 or over and in good legal standing is generally allowed to enjoy open carry benefits, with a few exceptions noted below. No license or permit is required to open carry in Colorado. A Colorado permit to carry a concealed weapon is unrelated to the right to open carry and if you do have a concealed carry license, you may carry weapons both openly and concealed anywhere not prohibited by law. Colorado also has minimal restrictions on issuing concealed-carry permits. It is a “must-issue” concealed carry permit state. This means that the state must issue a concealed carry permit to anyone aged 21 or over who is not prohibited from firearm possession by law.

The following individuals are prohibited from open carrying in Colorado:

  • Minors under the age of 18 if the firearm carried is a handgun.
  • Persons who are legally prohibited from firearm ownership (for example, convicted felons).
  • Persons who are subject to a Colorado protective order that prohibits possession of firearms.
  • Residents of other states that do not have gun-reciprocity with Colorado.

Where Can I Not Open Carry in Colorado?

Generally speaking, if you are allowed to possess a firearm, you are allowed to open carry in locations where open carry is permitted. Firearms are prohibited in certain locations. Specifically, you are not permitted to open carry in the following locations:

  • Federal property (for example, a courthouse, airport, post office, or federally subsidized housing).
  • A public transportation facility, unless the gun is not loaded.
  • The grounds of public and private schools and universities.
  • Any local business or organization that prohibits firearms, which is denoted on entryway to the premises.
  • Denver or other municipalities that prohibit open carry.

The Special Circumstances of Colorado National Parks and Forests

Weapons laws in National Parks and forests are important to understand because they are different and complex. These locations are popular recreation sites, so it is expected that Coloradans would wish to carry firearms for sporting purposes. However, they are also federal property, so firearms are restricted to some extent. In Colorado National Parks, firearms are allowed, with an exception of buildings or locations defined as federal facilities, where federal employees are frequently present. This could include locations such as: visitor centers, administrative offices, or maintenance buildings. These facilities will be clearly marked with signs at all public entrances which denote that firearms are prohibited. You may carry a weapon in Colorado National Forests, as long as the weapon is not discharged within 150 yards of an occupied area, near a forest development road, or in a manner that could expose persons or property to injury.

What Are the Consequences of Violating Colorado Open Carry Laws?

In most cases, there are no penalties for openly carrying a firearm in Colorado. However, weapons charges can result from the following:

  • Open carrying when you are legally prohibited from firearm possession.
  • Open carrying in Denver or another city where open carry is banned.
  • Open carrying in a location where firearms are prohibited (for example, federal property or a school).
  • Open carrying a prohibited weapon (for example, a machine gun, short shotgun, or short rifle).

Sentencing and penalties for Colorado weapons charges depend on prior violations.

First Offense:

  • Class 2 misdemeanor
  • $250-$1,000 fine
  • 3-12 months in jail

Second Offense Within Five Years of Another Colorado Firearms Charge:

  • Class 5 felony
  • 1-3 years in prison with 2 years of mandatory parole
  • $1,000-$10,0000 fine

Being charged with a weapons crime does not mean that you will be convicted. Depending on the specifics of the alleged offense, a number of defense strategies may be available to help your case and protect your right to carry a gun. Be proactive by learning more about Colorado weapons rights and laws.

Would you like to know more?  Contact Jake Johnson at jjohnson@pollartmiller.com or 720-488-9586.


From the September 2018 Pollart Miller Newsletter