Crossing the state line from Wyoming into Colorado means crossing into a stricter, confusing patchwork of gun regulations that Wyomingites must be cautious about when selling firearms to their friends to the south, a legal expert said.
“I think a dealer would be well advised to not sell ARs to people from Boulder. In fact, I would hesitate to sell a gun to any Colorado resident since they have other weird laws, like banning ‘high-capacity’ magazines,” said Christopher Crofts of Cheyenne, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Wyoming.
No ARs In Boulder
Federal statute prohibits knowingly selling a firearm to someone from a place where that firearm would be illegal, Crofts told Cowboy State Daily.
Even so, Ryan Allen, owner of Frontier Arms in Cheyenne, told Cowboy State Daily that the primacy of federal regulations regarding what’s legal and what isn’t still covers him from potential blowback over local regulations in Colorado.
If somebody takes a firearm bought in Wyoming into a Colorado area where municipal regulations restrict it, “that’s on them, not on me,” he said.
He cautions his customers from the Centennial State to be keenly aware that what they buy legally in Wyoming might not be legal in their hometowns.
For example, restrictions on AR-15s in Boulder.
That was implemented in response to a March 22, 2021, mass shooting at a King Soopers supermarket in Boulder that left 10 people dead, Crofts said.
There’s a grandfather clause for people in Boulder who owned AR-15s before the ban, but they have to register those firearms, Allen said.
Run That Background Check
When it comes to private sales across the state line, Wyomingites would do well to cover their behinds, Allen said. Colorado residents buying guns here should go through a background check before taking possession of the firearm.
“According to the laws in Colorado, even for private purchases, you have to go through a background check,” he said.
That’s not a requirement for gun sales or trades between private parties in Wyoming.
So, there’s a chance that a private seller from Wyoming could get into hot water by selling a gun to somebody from Colorado without a background check.
For instance, many gun shows in Wyoming allow private sales between individuals at the event. Allen advises Wyomingites to ask for potential buyers’ identification at gun shows.
“You see a lot of Colorado license plates in the parking lots at those Wyoming gun shows,” he said.
If the buyer is from Colorado, the next best step would be to ask a licensed firearms dealer to run a background check on the buyer, he said.
There are usually licensed dealers at gun shows. Or, Allen said, folks are welcome to stop by his shop to run the background check.
“There’s a chain of possession involved,” he said.
The dealer can take possession of the firearm from the seller, run a background check and, if the buyer passes, the dealer can transfer possession to the buyer, he said.
Don’t Hand Over Handguns
Allen added that he won’t pass handguns directly to Colorado residents. And he cautioned other Wyomingites against doing the same, because of regulations regarding the transfer of handguns across state lines.
Instead, if a Colorado customer buys a handgun from his store, Allen said he’ll have it shipped to a licensed firearm dealer in Colorado and the customer can pick it up there.
Colorado Regulations A Confusing Patchwork
Things got confusing in Colorado after that state’s legislature did away with “preemption” regarding firearms regulations, Mark Jones of Buffalo, spokesman for Gun Owners of America (GOA), told Cowboy State Daily.
Preemption prohibited municipalities from passing gun control measures not authorized by the state of Colorado.
“Now it is possible to have a wide variety of local restrictions,” Jones said. “For example, some municipalities restrict common magazine capacities often carried throughout Colorado.”
That’s not a problem in Wyoming.
“Fortunately, GOA supported efforts to clarify Wyoming statutes in the 2023 legislative session to strengthen preemption here. Local authorities cannot pass gun control not authorized by the Wyoming Legislature,” Jones said.
“Back to Colorado — the removal of preemption creates a real problem for Colorado citizens and people who travel. In our view, these local restrictions are unconstitutional as well,” he added.
A ’Wall’ Around Boulder?
And that elimination of preemption in Colorado loops back to the potentially dicey nature of selling guns to Colorado residents, Crofts said.
“That Boulder law, of course, came from the King Soopers shooting. Originally it was overturned because Colorado had a law that banned local jurisdictions from passing laws more stringent than the state law. It is said that the state law ‘preempted’ local law,” he said. “But after the publicity of that event, the courts of Colorado allowed Boulder’s ban to take effect.
“I don’t know how it could work unless they built a ‘wall’ around Boulder, but it is the law and it had so much publicity it would be hard for a Wyoming dealer to claim ignorance, I think.”
‘Thumbing Their Noses’ At SCOTUS
However, that might put Boulder at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I think the last big Supreme Sourt case, the Gruen or Bruen case, made it clear that ARs may not be banned per the Second Amendment, but lower courts have been regularly thumbing their noses at the Supreme Court on that issue and upholding the bans,” Crofts said.
“I think there is a case in the pipeline now that will settle that, but New York and California and Colorado and a few others may ignore it too,” he added. “Gun law is a strange and ever-changing thing now, and I feel sorry for people trying to follow law that can be so unpredictable and changeable.”
Have Gun, Will Travel — With Caution
Given the state of Colorado’s gun regulations, Jones said Wyomingites should be careful about even bringing their own firearms there.
“Wyoming citizens have to be careful traveling into Colorado,” Jones said. “Some of the standard weapons that are legal here might not be in some Colorado towns. I'm not aware of a good clearinghouse for all the local laws, but I know it tends to be worse in the I-25 Corridor. Most of the Plains and West Slope haven't embraced these restrictions.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.