Obtaining firearms

Colorado has several types of laws and policies that take effect when a person attempts to purchase or obtain a firearm.

All laws and regulations are in effect unless otherwise noted. Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) are posted on the Colorado Legal Resources Public Access Website.


Key points
  • Federal law requires licensed firearm dealers, also called Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs), to initiate a background check before the sale or transfer of a firearm. In Colorado, background checks are required to be conducted by FFLs for new commercial purchases, private transfers, and sales. This is paid for by the buyer or person obtaining the firearm, not taxpayers. (C.R.S. §18-12-122). 
  • It is a felony to knowingly purchase or acquire a firearm for a legally prohibited person, whether under federal or state law. (C.R.S §18-12-111). This act is sometimes called a straw purchase.
  • In Colorado, there is no mandatory firearm registration. State law (C.R.S. §29-11.7-102) specifically prohibits local governments, including law enforcement agencies, from keeping records or databases related to:
    • Individuals who buy, exchange, or leave firearms for repair or consignment sale.
    • Individuals who transfer firearms. This does not include FFLs.
    • Descriptions, including serial numbers of firearms purchased, transferred, exchanged, or left for repair or sale on consignment.

Background check requirement

  • As of July 1, 2013, any person who is not a licensed firearm dealer must conduct a background check before transferring or attempting to transfer possession of a firearm to another person.
  • The prospective transferee must undergo a background check in accordance with C.R.S. §24-33.5-424.
  • The transfer must receive approval from the Bureau after a background check has been requested by a licensed gun dealer.
  • Requirements for Non-Licensed Firearm Transferors:
  • Non-licensed firearm transferors must arrange for a licensed gun dealer to conduct the required background check.
  • The licensed firearm dealer is responsible for recording the transfer, retaining the records, and complying with all state and federal laws.
  • Prospective firearm transferees cannot take possession of the firearm until the transferor obtains approval from the CBI following the background check.
  • Once approved, the results of the background check are valid for 30 calendar days, allowing the transferor and transferee to complete the transfer process.

Exceptions to the background check requirement

  • Transfer of antique firearms or curios/relics.
  • Bonafide gifts or loans between immediate family members (spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, first cousins, aunts, and uncles).
  • Transfers due to operation of law or upon the death of a person, where the transferor serves as an executor, administrator, or trustee.
  • Temporary transfers for self-defense purposes in the home to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury.
  • Temporary transfers at shooting ranges, firearm shooting competitions, or while engaging in legal hunting, fishing, target shooting, or trapping activities.
  • Transfers made to facilitate firearm repair or maintenance, provided all parties involved can legally possess a firearm.
  • Temporary transfers in the continuous presence of the owner of the firearm.
  • Temporary transfers lasting no more than 72 hours.
  • Transfers of firearms by members of the armed forces who will be deployed outside the United States within the next 30 days to immediate family members.
  • Consequences of Violations
  • Any person who transfers a firearm in violation of the law may be held jointly and separately liable for civil damages caused by the transferee's subsequent use of the firearm. This is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  • Additionally, individuals convicted of violating this law will be prohibited from possessing a firearm for two years, starting from the date of their conviction.

Reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

  • The State Court Administrator must report relevant convictions to the CBI and the NICS, indicating the individual's firearm possession prohibition for two years.

Applicable State Laws

Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) are posted on the Colorado Legal Resources Public Access Website.


C.R.S. §18-12-122: Minimum Age to Purchase Firearms 

Currently being challenged in Federal Court.

  • SB 23-169  increased the age requirement for a person to knowingly possess or purchase a firearm from 18 to 21 years of age. (The federal court has temporarily prevented SB23-169 from going into effect as scheduled on August 7, 2023. The outcome of the federal case will determine if SB23-169 becomes law.)
  • Exceptions are made for those who are: 
    • active member of the U.S. armed forces while on duty and serving in conformance with the policies of the U.S. armed forces
    • a peace officer (as described in §16-2.5-101, C.R.S.), while on duty and service in conformance with the policies of the employing agency
    • the person is certified by the POST board (pursuant to C.R.S. §16-2.5-102)

C.R.S. §18-12-115: Waiting Period to Deliver a Firearm 

In effect October 1, 2023. 

  • HB 23-1219 established a three-day waiting period before a firearms seller may deliver a firearm to a purchaser. The waiting period is three days after the initiation of a required background check of the purchaser or when the purchase is approved following any background check, whichever occurs later.
  • Delivering a firearm prior to the expiration of the waiting period is a civil infraction, punishable by a fine.

C.R.S. §18-12-112: Firearm Transfer Background Check Requirements 

  • HB 21- 1298 enhanced background check requirements for firearm transfers, ensuring that individuals prohibited by law from possessing firearms cannot acquire them.
  • Introduced provisions to regulate firearm transfers. Under the law, licensed firearm dealers must obtain approval from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) before transferring a firearm. 
  • The CBI is prohibited from approving transfers to individuals with certain misdemeanor convictions and must ensure that the background investigation is complete and the transfer is compliant with federal and state laws. (C.R.S. §24-33.5-424)
  • The law allows the denial of the transfer of a firearm if there is an ongoing criminal case or if the final disposition of certain offenses has not been reached. In cases where the final disposition is unavailable, CBI will deny the transfer.
  • Individuals who are denied firearms transfer following a background check have the right to appeal. The law sets a 60-day deadline for the CBI to review the background check records and make a final administrative decision regarding the denial.

C.R.S. §24-33.5-424: InstaCheck Cash Funding 

  • The CBI shall charge a fee for performing instant criminal background checks for firearm transfers. 
  • The fee charged should cover the direct and indirect costs associated with the background check. 
  • The fees collected will be transmitted to the State Treasurer for credit to the instant criminal background check cash fund.

C.R.S. §18-12-112: Private Firearms Transfers

  • This law concerns criminal background checks performed during the transfer of firearms. HB 13-1229 requires that before any person who is not a licensed firearm dealer transfers or attempts to transfer possession of a firearm to a transferee, they must complete background check requirements.
  • This law promotes safety and prevents the unauthorized possession of firearms.