Recent, tragic events have brought to the fore the long-festering arguments over gun control and the Second Amendment. It is not the purpose of this blog to engage in that debate, but to point out an estate planning tool that might serve a very useful purpose in holding ownership and control of certain types of firearms, no matter the outcome of the debate.
We do know several things with certainty.
- There already exist various restrictions on the transfer of Class 3 (NFA) firearms from one owner to another owner.
- There will be local and national efforts to increase the restrictions on transfer of Class 3 (NFA) firearms.
- Federal and local governments have put bans or increased restrictions of the ownership of certain other types of firearms.
Can the use of a properly drawn gun trust offer any benefits to gun owners going forward? There may be some distinct benefits to consider utilizing a Gun Trust to own Class 3 (NFA) firearms. First of all, the transfer of ownership of a Class 3 (NFA) firearm is a lengthy process. One of the chief reasons for this is that the ATF has inadequate staffing to service the demand. What should normally be a fairly short time to complete an adequate background check now takes somewhere in the vicinity of five or six months at ATF. In addition, getting the sign-off of the chief local law enforcement office on a background check can take upwards of 40-50 days in Maricopa County, AZ – also due to staffing and budgetary constraints. For example, receiving clearance by ICE for admission into the Trusted Traveler group last year, which allows me to bypass the normal stringent airport security checks has taken far less time. And I am sure the background check was no less thorough. What should really take days or one or two weeks now takes many months.
How can a Gun Trust impact this? There are currently multiple ways that utilizing a Gun Trust can help. First, the trust owns the Class 3 (NFA) firearms and provides for the use of those firearms by succeeding groups of beneficiaries (like father to son to granddaughters and so forth down the family line) for the life of the trust without having to go through the transfer of ownership process at each successive generational level. Secondly, utilizing a properly drawn Gun Trust eliminates the need to go through the chief local law enforcement officer for a sign-off on the application. And finally, should a specific firearm be made non-transferable down the road, that should not prohibit usage by successive generations down the road for Class 3 (NFA) firearms owned by a Gun Trust.
Michael W. Margrave