December 9, 2023
In Colorado, we love our guns. Fortunately, our state is one of the most reasonable ones out there regarding gun laws. However, any weapons charges resulting from illegal possession or carrying of a firearm are still harshly prosecuted, so it is important to know the law.
Colorado is an open carry state, meaning that 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 have outlawed open carry.
Below we cover what you should know about open carry in Colorado, including restrictions and exceptions to the open carry law, and also the consequences you could face for Colorado weapons crimes related to violating open carry laws.
Who Can Utilize Open Carry in Colorado?
In Colorado, any adult 18 or over 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.
Your Colorado permit to carry a concealed weapon is unrelated to Colorado open carry. However, 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 21 or over who is not prohibited from firearm possession by law.
It’s also worth noting that Colorado does not require a permit to purchase firearms, nor does it require registration of firearms.
Who Cannot Utilize Open Carry in Colorado?
The following individuals are prohibited from open carrying in Colorado:
- Minors under 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 Am I Not Allowed to 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.
What exactly does this mean?
Firearms are prohibited in certain locations. Moreover, under Colorado’s “home rule” law, municipalities may prohibit open carry.
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 somewhat 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 exception to buildings or locations defined as federal facilities, where federal employees are frequently present. This could include:
- Visitor centers
- Administrative offices
- 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, so 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?
Because open carry is legal in Colorado, there are no penalties for openly carrying a firearm in most cases. 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.
- Class 2 misdemeanor
- $250-$1,000 fine
- 3-12 months in jail
Second offense within five years of another Colorado gun charge:
- Class 5 felony
- 1-3 years in prison with 2 years of mandatory parole
- $1,000-$10,0000 fine
However, 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 crimes, and working with a Colorado defense attorney to fight back and beat your charges.
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 designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.