Can Landlords Ban Firearms?

Colorado may soon see a clash between individual rights and property rights play out in court following a decision by Oakwood Apartments, a 114-unit, 3.5-acre complex in Castle Rock, to ban all "firearms and weapons" from the premises.

According to a notice sent to residents in late July, "residents cannot display, use, or possess any firearms or weapons of any kind, anywhere on the property" after Oct. 1.

Is this legal? The answer is yes, no and maybe, depending on where you live.

The ban leaves tenant Art Dorsch, a 77-year-old retired Marine Corps veteran, feeling "vulnerable."

"I'm not safe," Dorsch told KUSA-TV. "It upsets me very much."

Dorsch told KUSA-TV that he's been a hunter since 1953, has a concealed carry permit and is concerned about neighborhood crime. He said managers offered him three options: get rid of his guns and stay, keep his guns and move out voluntarily, or keep his guns and be forced out.

Unfair or not, Dorsch probably wouldn't win a legal challenge because, in most cases, courts have supported the rights of landlords to impose "reasonable regulations" on tenants, said Scott Robinson, a Denver attorney who serves as a legal analyst for 9NEWS.

Virginia, Minnesota, and California have specific statutes prohibiting landlords from restricting the lawful carry of firearms by tenants or their guests. Some states allow property owners to ban firearms on their property, other states don't address the issue at all.

A 2009 legal opinion by Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper is among recent significant interpretations that give landlords and property owners more authority in banning weapons.

"A landlord can prohibit tenants, including those who hold handgun carry permits, from possessing firearms within the leased premises," Cooper's opinion reads.

Robinson said Colorado courts are likely to concur with Cooper's opinion, as long as prohibiting tenants from possessing firearms is deemed a "reasonable" regulation and that it is clearly stipulated in the lease.

Ross Management, which owns and manages the Oakwood Apartments, would only say its policy is to not comment on its policies. Ross owns and/or manages more than 75 apartment complexes in Colorado; nowhere on its corporate website does it post a no-firearms policy.

Unless he wants to invest in a lawfirm to legally challenge Ross's anti-gun policy, Robinson said there is little Dorsch and other gunowners can do if their landlord bans weapons.

"The best thing this tenant can do is either move out or get rid of the guns," said Robinson.

Dorsch said he'll be losing a lot more than his guns if he has to part with with them.

"My freedom," he said. "Yeah it's emotional. Because I don't think it's fair."