How Did An 18-Year-Old From Florida Buy A Gun In Colorado On Short Notice? And Was It Legal?

April 17, 2019
Photo: Columbine High School Building 2 HV 20190417
A Jefferson County Sheriff's cruiser parked outside Columbine High School Wednesday April 17 2019.

Authorities say that the woman whose alleged threats led to closures of schools along the Front Range on Wednesday had purchased a shotgun in Colorado legally.

But a review of federal law indicates the sale may have been illegal. She flew to Colorado from Florida on Monday and purchased the shotgun from Colorado Gun Broker, a store about two miles from Columbine High School, according to a Fox31 report. The gun seller said on Facebook he complied with the law and the woman passed a background check.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms pointed CPR to a provision of federal law that says a rifle or shotgun can only be sold to an out-of-state resident, “provided the transaction complies with State law in the State where the licensee is located and in the State where the purchaser resides.”

There are several Florida laws that would seem to prevent the purchase, including waiting periods and a 21-year-old age limit.

“Federal law is clear that a gun store cannot sell a gun unless the sale complies with the laws in both the dealer's state and the state where the buyer lives,” said Lindsay Nichols, Federal Policy Director at Giffords Law Center.

ATF said the transaction was legal, but couldn’t explain why. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation said the woman’s purchase was legal under Colorado law but didn’t immediately respond to questions about whether the sale conformed with Florida law.

In Florida, where the woman is from, gun purchasers must either wait three days, or however long it takes to complete the background check to receive the gun, whichever period of time is longer, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Florida also has an age limit on purchases: The buyer must be 21-and-over  to buy a firearm there. That law passed last year, following the Parkland, Florida shooting. The woman who allegedly made threats this week was 18 years old.

Several gun experts told CPR they were not sure of the legal status of the purchase.

Colorado law allows anyone 18 and older from out-of-state to buy a long gun, like the shotgun the woman purchased. Handguns cannot be sold to someone from another state. Colorado doesn’t have a waiting period for firearm purchases. Florida, D.C. and four other states have waiting periods for all firearms and five states have waiting periods for certain types of guns, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Still, one gun store told CPR that if an 18-year-old from Florida came into the store to buy a shotgun, that would raise a red flag, because sellers are unfamiliar with gun laws there. Many gun stores are more comfortable making sales to residents from a bordering state, such as Kansas, because gun laws tend to be similar.