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Fact Sheet

Colorado Gun Laws and Statistics on Teenagers and Guns in Colorado

The following fact sheet provides background information related to today's shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.


State of Colorado Firearm Laws1

  • No licensing or registration requirements related to firearm purchase or possession.

  • No waiting period for purchase of handguns, shotguns, or rifles.

  • Handgun possession by persons less than 18 years of age is a misdemeanor. Exemptions from the prohibition on handgun possession by persons less than 18 years of age exist for attendance at a hunter's or firearms safety course, target practice at a shooting range, and other similar activities.

  • It is a felony for any person to knowingly or recklessly provide a handgun to any person less than 18 years of age.

  • It is a felony for any parent or guardian to knowingly or recklessly provide a handgun to a juvenile when that parent is aware that a substantial risk exists that such juvenile will use the handgun to commit a felony. Any parent aware of such a risk has a duty to make reasonable efforts to prevent the commission of the offense.

  • There are no age restrictions related to possession of rifles or shotguns.


Firearm Violations at Schools and Firearm-Related Death Among Children and Teens in Colorado

  • During the 1996-97 school year in Colorado, 475 students aged five to 17 (65.2 per 100,000 students) were expelled for Gun Free School Act weapons violations.2 Reported figures are expulsions for all weapons, not just firearms.

  • In 1996 there were 44 children and teens 19 years of age and younger shot and killed with firearms in Colorado: 16 in firearm homicides; 23 in firearm suicides; four in unintentional shootings; and one firearms death of unknown intent.3

  • In 1996 the rate of firearm-related death among children and teens 19 years of age and younger in Colorado was 4.0 per 100,000. In 1996 the rate of firearm-related death among all U.S. children and teens 19 years of age and younger was 6.1 per 100,000. In 1996 the rate of firearm-related homicide among children and teens 19 years of age and younger in Colorado was 1.5 per 100,000. In 1996 the rate of firearm-related homicide among all U.S. children and teens 19 years of age and younger was 3.7 per 100,000.4

  • In 1996 the rate of firearm-related death among children and youth less than 15 years old in Colorado was 2.0 per 100,000. In 1996 the rate of firearm-related death among all U.S. children and youth less than 15 years old was 1.2 per 100,000. In 1996 the rate of firearm-related homicide among children and youth less than 15 years old in Colorado was 0.7 per 100,000. In 1996 the rate of firearm-related homicide among all U.S. children and youth less than 15 years old was 0.7 per 100,000.5

  • In 1996 the firearm-related homicide offender rate among children and teens 19 years of age and younger in Colorado was 2.3 per 100,000. In 1996 the firearm-related homicide offender rate among all U.S. children and teens 19 years of age and younger was 2.4 per 100,000.6


1) Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, State Laws and Published Ordinances, 1998.

2) Report on State Implementation of the Gun-Free Schools Act´┐ŻSchool Year 1996-97, prepared by Westat for the Department of Education, 1998, Table 1. Rate per 100,000 students calculated by the Violence Policy Center. The Gun Free Schools Act conditions receipt of some federal education funding on a state's passage of a law requiring the expulsion of students who bring firearms to school.

3) National Center for Health Statistics Compressed Mortality File 1996, accessed through the CDC Wonder system from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site at wonder.cdc.gov.

4) National Center for Health Statistics Compressed Mortality File 1996, accessed through the CDC Wonder system from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site at wonder.cdc.gov.

5) National Center for Health Statistics Compressed Mortality File 1996, accessed through the CDC Wonder system from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site at wonder.cdc.gov.

6) Homicide offender rate reflects the number of children and teens 19 years of age and younger arrested for firearms homicide per 100,000 population. Unpublished data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 1996 Supplemental Homicide Report. Population estimates for rates from the U.S. Census Bureau web site at www.census.gov. Rates calculated by the Violence Policy Center.




The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.


   For Release:
   Tuesday, April 20, 1999

   Contact:
   Bill McGeveran
   Violence Policy Center