Colorado Gun Law

The Overview – Handgun Permit Laws of The State of Colorado:

Colorado Criminal Code:

A large portion of the relevant law concerning the carrying of firearms is contained in the Criminal Code, Title 18, Article 12 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. Part one of Article 12 details open carry, and prohibits concealed carry without a permit in most places. In part two, there are provisions that allow a person with a valid handgun permit to legally carry their handgun concealed.

Open or Concealed:

Colorado allows handguns and long guns to be legally carried openly without a permit, though local governments may enact regulations prohibiting open carrying into a building or specific area within the local government’s jurisdiction, as long as signs are posted to that effect. So, while you may openly carry a firearm, you may only do so in a place not otherwise prohibited by state or local law.

Colorado allows concealed carry of handguns with a Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP). If a permit holder is in possession of a handgun, they must produce both their CHP and a valid photo identification upon demand by a police officer. With regards to carrying a rifle or shotgun concealed in your motor vehicle your rifle or shotgun cannot have a round in the chamber.

Local governments can regulate the carrying of firearms openly, but cannot regulate concealed carry with a permit, or carrying firearms in private motor vehicles when carried for lawful purposes including self-defense.

Further, even with a handgun permit, a concealed handgun may not be carried under the following circumstances pursuant to the Colorado Statutes in Title 18, Article 12.

May Not Carry:

  • On any real property or improvements of any public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school (though firearms may be kept in a locked motor vehicle, loaded if you have a CHP, or unloaded if you do not).
  • In any public building in which security personnel and electronic weapons screening devices are permanently installed.
  • Any private property where not allowed by owner, tenant, employer, or business entity.
  • If you are under the influence of intoxicating liquor or of a controlled substance.
  • Any building owned or leased by a federal government authority for the purpose of conducting business with the public.
  • On your snowmobile, unless unloaded and in a carrying case.
  • A prison or any other detention facility.
  • Inside the secured area of any airport, however a person may carry any legal firearm into the terminal that is encased for shipment purposes and checked as baggage to be lawfully transported on an aircraft pursuant to airline and TSA regulations.

Additionally, persons who have been previously convicted of a felony may not possess a firearm. “Conviction” here also includes any time you’ve pled guilty to a felony, even if it was part of a plea deal (deferred judgment) and was later rejected or withdrawn.

May Carry:

In Colorado, it is generally illegal for a non-permit holder to carry a concealed handgun while not on one’s own premises. Nevertheless, there are several places where both a permit holder and non-permit holder may possess a firearm legally. These places include:

  • A person’s home, place of business, or other property owned by them or under their control.
  • A handgun in a motor vehicle if carried for self-defense or other lawful purpose.
  • In state parks and rest areas.
  • A place where a person is engaged in lawful hunting activities.

Select Overview of Colorado Justification For the Use of Force & Deadly Force:

Under Colorado law, there are several situations where a person is justified in using force or deadly force.

First, a person may use deadly force against another to the degree the person reasonably believes that a lesser degree of force is inadequate, and they have a reasonable belief that they or another person is in imminent danger of being killed or receiving great bodily injury. Deadly force is defined as force, the intended natural and probable consequence of which is to produce death, and which does cause death.

Self-Defense:

In Colorado, deadly force may also be used when a person is an occupant of a dwelling and an assailant has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling and there is a reasonable belief that the assailant is committing or has committed a crime against any person or property in the dwelling and that the assailant might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against an occupant. Similarly, deadly force is justified when the assailant is committing or reasonably appears about to commit burglary.

Deadly physical force may be used if a person believes that non-deadly force is inadequate and the assailant is using what reasonably appears to be physical force against an occupant of a dwelling or business establishment while committing or attempting to commit a burglary.

A person may also use deadly force if a lesser degree of force is inadequate and the assailant is committing or reasonably appears about to commit kidnapping, robbery, aggravated robbery, sexual assault or assault against you or another person.

No Duty to Retreat:

Colorado law allows a person to use deadly force in defense of themselves or another without needing to retreat first. The Colorado Supreme Court held that neither the self-defense statute nor Colorado common law required a person who is not the aggressor and entitled to use deadly physical force in self-defense to retreat before using such force. (People v. Toler, 9 P.3d 341 (2000)).

In Colorado, per the Supreme Court decision above, a person does not have to retreat before using force regardless of whether they are in a place they have a right to be. All that is required is that a person is facing an imminent threat, they did not provoke unlawful use of force, they were not the initial aggressor (or if they were, that they communicated their withdrawal from the conflict), and that they were not involved in unlawful agreed combat.

Protection of Property:

Colorado law allows a person to use force (but NOT deadly force) in the course of terminating a trespass, criminal mischief, or criminal tampering, provided that the force is reasonable and appropriate, and limited to the extent it is reasonably necessary to terminate the trespass, criminal mischief, or criminal tampering.

Deadly force can be used in Colorado if the perpetrator above begins to commit robbery, burglary, arson to a building or occupied structure, or if any of the above requirements for justified deadly force are met.

Protection of Others:

Colorado also allows a person to use force to protect the real and personal property of a third party. The use of reasonable and acceptable force (but not deadly force) is permissible to protect a third person’s property to the same extent as the law would allow a person to protect their own property against theft, criminal mischief, and criminal tampering as outlined above.

However, deadly force may be used if the theft, criminal mischief, or criminal tampering escalates into an act of killing, burglary, robbery, or any of the other situations where a person would be justified in using deadly force.


Any of the above information is solely a general legal discussion of the law in Colorado and should not be considered as giving legal advice, nor creating an attorney-client relationship. Your situation may be different so contact an attorney regarding your personal circumstances. Please call our office for more information.