Now that I own a small but decent collection of pistols and rifles, I’ve kind of lost some enthusiasm for adding more to my safe. Sure, I appreciate the latest and greatest from the gun manufacturers as much as the next guy, but over time, I have found that I tend to settle into shooting certain guns a lot while others seem to stay in the safe a lot more. Gadgets and gizmos certainly help to fill the void, but sooner or later, I knew I’d eventually get around to that semi-forbidden fruit – the fun stuff restricted by the National Firearms Act (NFA) . . .
Being lucky to live in a state that’s fairly open-minded when it comes to acquiring all kinds of shooty goodness, I have a number of choices at my disposal. Winning the Powerball jackpot would certainly open some more options into the realm of select fire weapons, but failing that, I’ll have to content myself with short barrel rifles and suppressors. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
While my state may not have any specific problems with ownership of NFA items per se, there is still the pesky process of getting my Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) to sign off on the Form 1 or Form 4 and dealing with the fingerprinting and photo process. I’m no tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, but I do believe in keeping all levels of government the hell out of my business if at all possible.
Letting the local constabulary know every time I purchase a restricted weapon is not on my list of favorite things to do. So as I did more reading on the whole process of purchasing NFA items, I came across the idea of using a revocable trust as the purchasing vehicle.
I’m no lawyer, but in a nutshell, a trust is viewed as a legal entity under U.S. Law. Like a person or a company, a trust can be used to acquire and dispose of property for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries. They’re managed by one or more trustees who control the actions of the trust within the terms of the trust document. There are many kinds of trusts and they are used for different purposes, but for obvious reasons, we’ll focus on the type of trust called a revocable trust that serves as the base for the specialized “NFA trust” or “gun trust.”
A gun trust is set up by an attorney and essentially creates a new legal entity. In my case, I am both the sole trustee, though my wife is named as a successor trustee. My minor children are the beneficiaries and will acquire all trust’s property upon my death. During my life, I have the ability to amend the trust to add or remove additional trustees. Since all trustees have the same right of access to trust property, anyone named as a trustee can use NFA items held by the Trust.
Why bother? First and foremost, a gun trust eliminates the need to provide a photo, fingerprints or get the CLEO signature on your form 1 or 4. The applicant for the tax stamp is the trust, so it looks homely and doesn’t have fingers to print. And since a trust can’t have a criminal record, the CLEO really has nothing to say about it.
It also clears up the confusion regarding who can legally use NFA items. Technically speaking, if a silencer is transferred to me, I am the only person who can legally use it. If my wife comes shooting with me and I loan her my gun with silencer affixed, I have just committed what the ATF considers a “constructive transfer” and could be prosecuted under the NFA. If a Trust owns the silencer and my wife is also a trustee, then she has full permission to use it or any other NFA item held by the trust, even if I am not present.
Finally, if my right to own firearms was revoked for some reason (God forbid), as long as there was another trustee in the trust, the ATF could not seize the NFA items as they’d be owned by the trust, not by me.
Setting up a gun trust will generally run you between $300 and $1000 depending on your jurisdiction and how much your attorney owes on his BMW. One of the earliest proponents of the NFA trust model was attorney David Goldman with the Apple Law Firm in Florida. Over the years, he’s formed a partnership with a number of other attorneys in different jurisdictions which allows the Apple Law Firm version of the NFA Trust to be tailored to the unique laws in each jurisdiction.
Now, though, there are plenty of other attorneys offering firearms trusts, many of whom will do the work for less than Apple. Knowing all of this, I still decided to go with the Apple Law Firm’s version. Their attorney in my state is well known for his expertise in firearms laws and the Apple version of the trust has been around for nearly five years, so its a fair bet that most of the bugs have been identified and worked out by now.
Getting the trust created was fairly simple. I called up the Apple Law Firm, gave them a credit card number and answered a few questions. A week later, the draft trust showed up via snail mail. I read it over, asked for some modifications and a day later received the final version. Then I printed it out and took it down to my bank to get my signatures witnessed and notarized.
Now I am off to fill out my Forms 1 and 4 for my silencers and SBRs. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to get approval using a trust as the purchaser. Theoretically, it should be quicker as there’s no need to run the photo and fingerprint background checks, but then again, I’ll be dealing with the ATF. Stay tuned.