Can I lend a gun to a third party for self-defense?

Background Check Required

Colorado’s statute governing private firearms transfers contains several provisions relevant to this scenario. Generally, any private transfer of a firearm requires a background check, and the statute provides that transfers contrary to its provisions are:

  1. A crime, and
  2. Make the transferer civilly liable for damages caused by the transferee’s subsequent use of the firearm.

However, a person may transfer a firearm to another (transferor) if they go through a licensed firearms dealer (“FFL”) who conducts a background check on the person to whom the gun is to be transferred (transferee), whether by sale, lending, or gift. Having complied with the statute, the transferor would not then be strictly liable for the transferee’s later use of the gun. They could, however, be liable under general negligence principals if, for example, at the time of the transfer, they have reason to know that the friend might misuse the firearm.

Background Check NOT Required

The private transfer statute also states that a background check is not a requirement to transfer a firearm if the transfer is:

  1. Temporary;
  2. Occurs in the home of the transferee;
  3. The transferee is not a person prohibited from possessing a firearm; and
  4. The transferor reasonably believes that possession of the firearm is necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury to the transferee.

This provision appears to set forth a very limited range of scenarios in which lending a gun to a third party is allowed. The transfer would have to occur in the third person’s home; the transferor would have to know the third person can legally possess a gun; and the transferor would have to reasonably believe that the threat of serious violence to the third person is “imminent”— meaning an immediate, real threat to the person.

Temporary Transfers

Finally, the private transfer statute also provides that a person may temporarily transfer a firearm to another for a period not to exceed 72 hours. But in such a transfer, the transferor remains liable for damages resulting from the transferee’s subsequent unlawful use of the firearm.

So, if a gun owner learned that a friend had been getting death threats from a partner and reasonably believed that the partner was on his way to the friend’s house to kill the friend, the gun owner could go to the friend’s home and temporarily provide the friend a firearm, as long as the owner knows the friend is not a prohibited person. If all those requirements are not met (say for example, the threat is not immediate, but more general) the owner can lend the firearm to the friend for up to 72 hours without violating the law, but might be civilly liable if the friend used the gun in an unlawful way. And, of course, one may never knowingly transfer a firearm to a prohibited person. So, if the owner knew the friend could not legally possess a firearm, the owner could not legally lend one.

If you have any questions about loaning your firearm or borrowing someone else’s, please call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.