Child access prevention laws


Key points
  • As of November 30, 2023, ERPO laws have been passed in a total of 21 states and the District of Columbia. Colorado implemented its ERPO law (HB19-1177) in 2019 and updated it in 2023 (SB23-170).
  • Nearly 30 million children live in a home with firearms and 4.6 million children live in households where at least one firearm is stored, loaded, and unlocked.
  • Firearm-related injuries are the leading cause of death among children.
  • 43% of children who died by suicide used a firearm. 
  • Most firearms used by children in unintentional shootings, suicides, and school shootings were retrieved from their homes or the home of a friend or other family member.

Table 1. Types of Child Access Prevention Laws in the United States
CategoryDefinitionNumber of States

Firearm owners are liable if a child:

 accesses and uses the firearm9
 accesses a firearm3
 could use the firearm4 (including Colorado)
RecklessnessPerson liable if they provided the child with a firearm 
No CAP lawsN/A25


Approximately 40% of all children under 18 years old in the United States live in homes with at least one firearm. Easily accessible firearms can contribute to unintentional injury and death among youth. Even in households where firearm owners do not believe their child can access a firearm, children often report that they could have, or already had, access to the firearm without their parents’ or guardians’ permission. 

Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws encourage responsible firearm ownership by promoting secure storage practices to prevent children from accessing firearms. These laws require secure firearm storage in households with youth and hold parents or guardians criminally liable for harmful actions children take with firearms. 


Are Child Access Laws (CAP) Laws effective? 

In recent years, a growing body of research has sought to evaluate the impact of CAP laws on firearm-related outcomes. In a 25-year national study of CAP laws and firearm fatalities among children, recklessness laws were not associated with reduced firearm deaths. However, negligence laws, especially more stringent laws, were associated with fewer firearm deaths among children.  This study found evidence suggesting that CAP laws can effectively reduce unintentional firearm deaths among children.

The effectiveness of CAP laws may depend on various factors, including the specific provisions of the law and the degree of enforcement. Additionally, the available research has limitations, and more rigorous studies are needed to better understand the impact of CAP laws on firearm-related injuries and deaths among children.


Secure storage options

The decision on what type of firearm storage to use may depend on personal factors, such as the number and type of firearms in a household and the reason for owning them. 

  • Firearm owners with non-immediate access needs: Those who use firearms for hunting, recreational shooting, or as a collector may find that a large safe or secure room is an appropriate storage option. 
  • Firearm owners with immediate access needs: Those who want firearms in their home for self-defense may find that a firearm can be securely stored while remaining quickly accessible by using locking devices with biometrics (e.g., fingerprint) or traditional locking features (i.e., keys, number codes).
  • Firearm owners with a concealed carry permit: Those with a verified permit or those who use firearms for their profession must ensure it is either holstered securely on their body or stored securely when not in use. 
  • Ammunition storage: Ammunition storage is another important feature to secure firearm storage. Firearm advocacy organizations and medical professionals recommend that firearms be stored locked and unloaded, with ammunition stored in a separate location from the firearm(s).
  • Locking mechanisms: Various locking mechanisms are used to help decrease the likelihood of unauthorized access. The most common are key locks, combination code locks, biometric locks (e.g., fingerprints), or digital keypad locks. 

In Colorado 
  • Colorado’s law states that if a household firearm is accessible to a child 18 years old or younger, regardless of whether they gain access or use it, the parent or caregiver can be considered negligent. (C.R.S. §18-12-114, and C.R.S. §18-12-108.7, C.R.S. LexisNexis: C.R.S. §18-12-108.7. Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) are posted on the Colorado Legal Resources Public Access Website).
  • In Colorado, as in some other states, firearm owners may be exempt from liability if the firearm owner believes that the child will physically harm them if they attempt to disarm the child.


Learn more about child access prevention

  1. The Effects of Child-Access Prevention Laws. RAND. Published January 10, 2023. Accessed May 2, 2023.
  2. Salhi C, Azrael D, Miller M. Parent and Adolescent Reports of Adolescent Access to Household Firearms in the United States. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(3):e210989. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.0989
  3. Lee LK, Fleegler MK, Doh KF, et al. Firearm-Related Injuries and Deaths in Children and Youth. Pediatrics. Published December 2022. doi:10.1542/peds.2022-060071. 
  4. Miller M, Azrael D. Firearm Storage in US Households With Children: Findings From the 2021 National Firearm Survey. JAMA Network Open. Published February 1, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.48823.
  5. Goldstick JE, Cunningham RM, Carter PM. Current causes of death in children and adolescents in the United States. New England Journal of Medicine. 2022 May 19;386(20):1955-6.
  6. Fatal Injury Reports, National, Regional, and State, 1981–2020. WISQARS database, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Updated June 16, 2022. Accessed May 2, 2023
  7. Wright MA, Wintemute GJ, Claire BE. Gun Suicide by Young People in California: Descriptive Epidemiology and Gun Ownership. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2008;43(6):619-622. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2008.04.009
  8. National Threat Assessment Center. (2019). PROTECTING AMERICA’S SCHOOLS: A U.S. SECRET SERVICE ANALYSIS OF TARGETED SCHOOL VIOLENCE. U.S. Department of Homeland Security; 2019:1-68. Accessed May 24, 2023. https://www.secretservice.gov/sites/default/files/2020-04/Protecting_Am…
  9. Azad HA, Monuteaux MC, Rees CA, et al. Child Access Prevention Firearm Laws and Firearm Fatalities Among Children Aged 0 to 14 Years, 1991-2016. JAMA Pediatrics. Published May 1, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.6227. 
  10. C.R.S. §18-12-114 (Lexis Advance through Chapter 275 from the 2023 Regular Session and effective as of May 30, 2023. The text of this section is not final. It will not be final until compared to, and updated from, the text provided by the Colorado Office of Legislative Legal Services later this year)