In a bold move by the Colorado General Assembly, people who have been previously convicted of non-violent felonies in the past may again own and possess a firearm for hunting, defense of self and property, and for shooting sports. The new law (Senate Bill 21-271) restores the firearms civil rights under the Colorado Constitution for a great many felons whose rights had been stripped from them after 1994. It is also the state’s first significant sentencing reform in nearly four decades.
Colorado Senate Bill 21-271
The 366-page bill was passed by Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado legislature in early July, 2021. SB 271 essentially altered Colorado’s misdemeanor code, reducing the penalties for certain crimes as well as reclassifying what constitutes a misdemeanor crime. The bill removes the level 3 misdemeanor classification, merges the current two petty offense classes into one, and adds a civil infraction level to the state’s criminal code.
Legislative Policy Coordinator of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, Tristan Gorman, says of the bill: “I think that it’s a statute that has long been in need of reform.”
SB 271 also increases the penalty for those convicted of violent felonies who are found in possession of a firearm from a Class 6 to a Class 5 felony. Thus, the maximum penalty for individuals who violate this law has been doubled from 18 months to up to three years in jail. Additionally, if an offender uses or is in possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, the Act mandates courts to impose a mandatory jail term rather than simply probation.
To allow law enforcement, prosecutors, and defense attorneys time to adapt their procedures, the modifications to the classification of crimes will not take effect until March of 2022.
Modified Firearm Restrictions for Felons
Included in the bill are also new laws that relax the state’s restriction on criminals possessing firearms. However, these changes only apply to those convicted of crimes that do not fall under the Victim Rights Act, enabling people who have pled guilty or been convicted of crimes such as criminal impersonation, theft, or drug charges to own a firearm. Felons convicted of crimes that involve a victim, such as murder, sexual assault, robbery, and other violent crimes in Colorado are still prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm in their lifetime.
Beginning October 1, 2021, these newly-restored people will be able to apply at their favorite firearms dealer through the Colorado Bureau of Investigation InstaCheck process just like everyone else. If you are denied a firearm transfer or have been denied in the past, you have the opportunity to appeal that decision through the CBI.
Can a Non-Violent Felon Buy a Gun in Colorado?
Despite Colorado’s new legislation, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, regardless of the nature of the offense, remains prohibited under federal law. The offense carries a potential prison term of ten years. However, federal prosecutors use the law selectively, with charges reserved for those suspected of additional crimes or belonging to a gang.
Though a non-violent felon will now be able to own and possess a gun, there is some confusion surrounding whether they will be able to buy one. Because of the federal law that remains intact, any criminal in Colorado may still be barred from acquiring a gun due to a failed federal background check.
But what about those convicted of misdemeanors? Can they still purchase a gun?
Even with the implementation of SB 271, House Bill 1298 still makes it illegal for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to approve the transfer of a weapon to someone who has been convicted of certain misdemeanor charges. HB 1298 does not prohibit those convicted of misdemeanors from continuing to possess firearms they already legally own, but instead requires a five-year purchasing restriction following a new conviction of one of the following misdemeanors:
- Violation of a Protective Order
- Child Abuse
- Possession of an Illegal Weapon
- Crimes Against At-Risk Persons
- Bias-Motivated or Hate Crimes
- Unlawful Sexual Contact
- Sexual Assault
- Third-Degree Assault
- Unlawfully Providing a Firearm to a Juvenile
To Learn More About Your Firearm Rights, Contact WeedenLaw Today
The newly passed Senate Bill 271 carries with it a lot of confusion about where misdemeanors stand in terms of punishment and where felonies stand in terms of rights. Without a strong legal background and comprehensive knowledge of Colorado’s gun laws, these revisions can be tricky to understand.
Fortunately, WeedenLaw can help. Jeff Weeden is a 24-hour attorney in Denver, Colorado with a vast understanding of both state and federal laws, especially those involving gun rights.
Related Blog: What You Should Know About Colorado Open Carry Laws