In Colorado, almost all firearm transfers between unlicensed persons must be processed by a licensed firearms dealer, subjecting the prospective purchaser to a background check.

In 2013, Colorado enacted a law requiring gun sellers who are not federally licensed dealers to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm. With the exceptions listed below, any unlicensed individual who seeks to transfer possession of a firearm to a prospective transferee must:  1) require that a background check is conducted on the prospective transferee by a licensed gun dealer; and 2) obtain approval of the transfer from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) following the background check request.1

If the transferee is an entity (e.g. a business), then a background check must be conducted on each person who is authorized by the entity to possess a firearm.2

When a licensed dealer obtains a background check on a prospective transferee, the dealer must record the transfer and retain the records in the same manner as when conducting a sale, rental or exchange at retail. The dealer must also provide the transferor and transferee with a copy of the results of the background check, including CBI’s approval or disapproval of the transfer.3

A dealer may charge a fee of up to $10 for conducting a background check for an unlicensed seller.4

A transferee cannot accept possession of the firearm from an unlicensed seller until CBI approves the transfer. The transfer must be completed within 30 days of that approval.5

A transferee is prohibited from knowingly providing false information to a prospective transferor or to a licensed dealer for the purpose of acquiring a firearm.6

These transfer provisions do not apply to, inter alia:

  • A bona fide gift or loan between immediate family members;
  • A transfer that occurs by operation of law or because of the death of a person for whom the prospective transferor is an executor or administrator of an estate or a trustee of a trust created in a will;
  • A transfer that is temporary and occurs while in the home of the unlicensed transferee if:
    • The unlicensed transferee is not prohibited from possessing firearms; and
    • The unlicensed transferee reasonably believes that possession of the firearm is necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury to the unlicensed transferee;
  • A temporary transfer of possession without power of ownership or a title to ownership, which takes place:
    • At a shooting range located in or on premises owned by a duly incorporated organization organized for conservation purposes or to foster proficiency in firearms;
    • At a target firearm shooting competition under the auspices of, or approved by, a state agency or a nonprofit organization; or
    • While hunting, fishing, target shooting, or trapping if:
      • Legal in all places where the unlicensed transferee possesses the firearm; and
      • The unlicensed transferee holds any license or permit that is required for such activity;
  • A transfer of a firearm that is made to facilitate the repair or maintenance of the firearm, except that all parties who possess the firearm as part of such transaction must be able to legally possess a firearm;
  • Any temporary transfer that occurs while in the continuous presence of the owner of the firearm;
  • A temporary transfer for not more than 72 hours. A person who makes such a temporary transfer may be jointly and severally liable for damages proximately caused by the transferee’s subsequent unlawful use of the firearm; or
  • A member of the armed services who will be deployed outside of the U.S. in the next 30 days, to any immediate family member.7

When a person violates the above transfer requirements, the violation is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor and the person must be prohibited from possessing a firearm for two years, beginning on the date of his or her conviction.8 When a person is convicted, the State Court Administrator must report the conviction to CBI and to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The report must include information indicating that the person is prohibited from possessing a firearm for two years, beginning on the date of his or her conviction.9

See the Background Checks in Colorado section for further information about the procedure.

In Colorado, a person is criminally liable if he or she:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly provides a handgun to any person under age 18;
  • Knows of a juvenile’s unlawful possession of a handgun and fails to make reasonable efforts to prevent the juvenile’s conduct;
  • Is aware of a substantial risk that a juvenile will use a handgun to commit a felony and permits the juvenile to possess a handgun;
  • Is aware of a substantial risk that a juvenile will use a handgun to commit a felony and fails to make reasonable efforts to prevent the commission of the offense;
  • Sells, rents, or transfers ownership of a long gun to a juvenile without the consent of his or her parent or guardian. This prohibition also applies to a person who allows unsupervised possession of a long gun to a juvenile without the consent of the juvenile’s parent or guardian;10 or
  • Violates the unlicensed transfer requirements by, for example, failing to have a licensed dealer conduct a background check on the transferee. A person violating the private transfer requirements can be held jointly and severally liable for any civil damages proximately caused by the transferee’s subsequent use of the firearm.11

See our policy summary on Universal Background Checks for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-112(1)(a). ⤴︎
  2. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-112(1)(b), (2)(A). ⤴︎
  3. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-112(2)(b), (c). ⤴︎
  4. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-112(2)(d). ⤴︎
  5. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-112(3)(a), (4). ⤴︎
  6. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-112(3)(b). ⤴︎
  7. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-112(6). ⤴︎
  8. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-112(9)(a). ⤴︎
  9. Id. ⤴︎
  10. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-108.7. ⤴︎
  11. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-12-112. ⤴︎