Nedlin: Colorado and guns
Colorado! The Wild West and the imagery of rugged men and women on horseback with a six-shooter on their side added to the sexiness of the lawless era. Fast-forward 100 years and gun control based on mass shootings has become a national epidemic with Colorado, unfortunately, being at the epicenter of some of the most horrendous shootings in the nation’s history.
However, in some sense Colorado still resembles the Wild West of yonder year.
Colorado does not require a permit to purchase a firearm. Nor does it require a special license or registration of a firearm. It is legal, and no permit is required to carry a handgun in Colorado. This is called “open carry” in which you can strap on a Western holster with a six-shooter and walk around in public. That being said, you are going to get a lot of attention from law enforcement. However, in the city of Denver “open carry” is illegal, so don’t plan on taking a stroll down the 16th Street Mall with that exposed holster.
Only a special permit is needed to carry a concealed handgun. If you wish to carry a handgun concealed, without a permit, you may do so only in your own dwelling, place of business or on property of which you own. That said, a handgun is not considered concealed if it is in the possession of a person who is in a private automobile or other private means of conveyance and who carries the weapon for lawful protection of themselves or another while traveling. Nor is it considered concealed if the person is legally engaged in hunting activities within the state. However, if while traveling in an automobile, and the firearm is anything other than a handgun, it must be unloaded while you travel. Additionally for hunters who travel via snowmobile, any firearm must be unloaded and enclosed in a carrying case.
If you can obtain a concealed-handgun permit, that does not mean you have carte blanche to enter any premises you wish while carrying. You may not enter any building on school grounds; yet, if you are in your vehicle while on school grounds, you may have it in your possession. Also, you may not enter any building in which there are security personnel, screening devices or other means being used to detect whether someone is carrying a weapon of any kind.
In July 2013, two new gun laws were passed. The first makes it illegal to buy, sell or give away an ammunition magazine that can hold more than 15 rounds. However, this has not been a deterrent to purchasing such high-volume magazines since Coloradans have traveled to gun stores in neighboring states to buy the equipment. Additionally, this is a very difficult law to enforce because if an individual purchased or were in possession of such a magazine prior to July 2013, it is legal to continue to possess. Therefore, one of the only ways to catch or enforce such a law is for law enforcement to set up sting operations to purchase, sell or transfer this type of magazine, which they are reluctant to do. However, this seems to be the only way to be sure of when the individual came into possession of the magazine.
The second law initiated by Democrats during the 2013 Legislature requires background checks of all private firearms transfers in Colorado. This begs the question: How will police get involved in a private transaction that may be located in someone’s home with a legal piece of property? Obviously, they’re not.
Many law enforcement communities in the state have been vocal that they have no interest in conducting such “stings.” Most of Colorado’s county sheriffs are opposed to the laws, which they say trample on Second Amendment rights, in addition to being too difficult to enforce. Violating either of the two new laws became a misdemeanor offense effective July 1 and currently is being litigated in federal court as to their constitutionality.
Whether you choose to “open carry,” hunt or are looking to obtain a concealed-weapons permit, it is crucial you seek out proper safety and education. However, stay away from those instructors who have accidentally shot themselves or students during gun-safety classes! I don’t make this stuff up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zw-jTCNZSmY.
Richard Nedlin is a former prosecutor in Aspen and now practices criminal defense. He can be contacted at 970-309-8197 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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