Can You Bring Firearms to a Protest? A Review of Colorado Weapons Laws

You have the right to protest and in Colorado, you also have the right to bear arms. But what happens when those two rights collide? Can you bring a firearm to a protest?

Recent protests in Denver saw the confiscation of assault rifles from activists. While open carry is not legal in Denver, some protesters had weapons seized from their car after reports were made to police of suspicions the trunk contained military-style weapons.

The Colorado Times Recorder reported that these pro-gun, anti-government activists hoped to open-carry their weapons into the Capitol in protest, even though open carry is illegal. They knew they legally couldn’t do it, but were going to try anyway. Which brings up an interesting question: what are the weapons laws in Colorado?

Here’s what you need to know.

What Weapons Are Legal in Colorado?

There are several types of weapons that are illegal to own in Colorado. This includes weapons such as:

  • Machine guns
  • Ballistic knives
  • Silencers
  • Rifles shorter than 16 inches
  • Shotguns shorter than 18 inches

If you own any of these weapons and are caught with them, you can be charged with a Class 5 felony, which can result in a prison sentence of up to three years. In Colorado, it’s also illegal to own:

  • Brass or metal knuckles
  • Switchblades
  • Blackjacks
  • Gravity knives

Being caught in possession of one of these weapons is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which can be punished by up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Owning a Gun in Colorado

In Colorado, you do not need a permit in order to purchase shotguns, handguns, or rifles. Dealers, however, are required to keep detailed records of each sale, exchange, or rental of a gun. Additionally, you must provide your name, occupation, place of residence, and age when purchasing a weapon.

No one under the age of 18 can possess a handgun, and it’ is a crime to provide a minor with one unless you are traveling with an unloaded handgun to or from a firearms safety course or hunting, trapping or target shooting.

What Colorado Law Says about Concealed Weapons

You must have a proper permit to carry a concealed weapon in Colorado. If you are caught carrying a concealed weapon without the proper permit, then you can face a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and fines up to $1,000. If you are caught on government or school property with a concealed weapon, you may face a Class 6 felony and a minimum of one year in prison.

Open Carry of Weapons in Colorado

As an “open carry state,” it is legal in most places in our state to openly carry a firearm — but you must have a permit to do so. You can openly carry in Colorado if you’re:

  • Over the age of 18
  • Not prohibited by law from doing so
  • Not currently subject to a protective order
  • Not on federal property
  • Not on public or private school grounds

Colorado concealed and carry permits allow you to carry a weapon both openly or concealed where it isn’t prohibited by law. To get a CCW permit, you must be over 21 and not prohibited from possessing a firearm.

Changes to Colorado Gun Laws

A new red flag gun law was passed in 2019 in Colorado that allows a court to remove firearms temporarily from a person who is at risk of harming others or themselves. The state legislature is also looking at stricter gun policies for the state in the 2020 legislative session, but nothing has yet been passed.

Changes to Colorado Gun Laws


If you have the proper permits and you’re in the right place in Colorado, then you can take a gun to a protest. But it’s important to know the rules surrounding where you’ll be and the property you’re on before you try to exercise this right.

About the Author:

Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.