Guns of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre
The two Tommy Guns (courtesy Logan Metesh)
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The surprise hit of the National Firearms Law Seminar (for me, anyway,) was the last presentation of the day by William J. Ryan, from the Office of the Chief Counsel of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). Mr. Ryan’s speech came at the end of almost nine hours of lectures (including the luncheon speaker,) and I was internally debating whether or not I should bail out early to check out the outdoor concert and see if I could find a good pair of Lucchese roper boots from some of the nearby shops….but I am really glad I didn’t . . .

Mr. Ryan talked about the National Firearms Act and Firearms Trusts. He had a lot to say, including some interesting (to the lawyers in the audience, anyway) hypotheticals. A few of the highlights that stood out to me were:

(1) Firearms Trusts have increased at an incredible rate in recent years. In 2003, there were forty-five (45) NFA trusts submitted to his office. In 2014, there were thirty-six thousand (36,000) submitted.

(2) What’s the one thing that causes delays? Poorly-created NFA trust forms. People who “grab a form off the internet” to create their own trust with a DIY “fill-in-the-blank” form. The ATF reads these very carefully and inevitably one of the blanks was missed, or filled in incorrectly, leading to an inconsistency.

As an example, at some point in recent years, a person who successfully created an NFA trust uploaded his document to a social media site saying something along the lines of, “Hey, this one worked with no problems! Go ahead an use it as a template!” People then started downloading the form and using it for their own trusts.

The problem was that some people didn’t actually edit the document correctly. For some people, this created inconsistencies that resulted in the form being sent back. For others, well the form was technically filled out correctly, but probably with a result that was unintended.

Unfortunately, some of the people who used the form for their own trusts neglected to change the “beneficiary” from the original. So that means there’s now some woman in Kansas who is technically the beneficiary of many of these trusts and is set to inherit….I think he said “thousands of” machine guns, silencers, etc.

Be careful using fill-in-the-blank NFA Trust forms!

No doubt, there are many people who submit a fill-in-the-blank form and have no issues, but as my grandfather used to tell me: if you don’t know what you’re doing, then don’t.

(For the record: Ryan states that they almost never have problems with trusts created by attorneys.)

(3) Ryan also talked about Proposed Rulemaking 41P, which was the proposal made in September 2013, that would require the responsible person of a trust to submit photographs, fingerprints, and a chief law enforcement officer sign-off. (He spoke a little wistfully about how this would close a ‘loophole’, his attitude perhaps influenced by that 36,000 number I mentioned earlier.) Yeah, whatever happened to that proposed rule?

As it turns out, they’re still responding to comments people left during the comment period. The Administrative Procedures Act requires Federal Agencies like the BATFE to respond to every one of the comments left by people during the comment period for a proposed rule. They received approximately 9,500 comments–which, according to Mr. Ryan, is not the highest number they’ve ever received. But there are only two attorneys staffing the office in Martinsburg, West Virginia that handles such matters, and they can only go so fast.

Keep that in mind the next time a rule is proposed.

And — seriously — did any of you do a DIY trust using a template some guy posted on the internet? If you did, go check the beneficiary section right now!


DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece, and is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice on this subject, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel.

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  1. I paid a lawyer to do my trust. It’s was a little over $100 and it was done right.

    it sounds like the ATF is licking their chops to screw over NFA trusts. Still Gotta close the loophole because, guns!

    • ‘…it sounds like the ATF is licking their chops to screw over NFA trusts.’

      What do you expect, they’re bureaucrats, that’s what bureaucrats do. They find any discrepancy in your paperwork and punish you for it. Don’t blame them, they’re just doing their job. Blame the government for hiring them and putting them in a position of authority over you.

    • I’m am talking about how the guy “wistfully ” talked about Proposed Rule change 41p, not people who can’t pay attention to detail and fill out the NFA trust correctly. Thats their own fault for not reading the form, not am ATF bureacracy zombie. Requiring photos, fingerprints, or CLEO sign off destroys what makes a trust worthwhile. Thereby screwing NFA trust members over.

      • Its scary to think just how difficult it would be to legally own a suppressor without a trust with your family on it. Let them shoot it, and run to the bathroom? Felony possession. Wife has keys to the safe? Felony. Technically wouldn’t machine gun ranges be breaking the law if the owner isn’t standing there beside every single shooter?

  2. Maybe I should make a template document for everyone to download and use. …..benefactor section already filled out, complimentary of course.

  3. Another problem is changing the Trust name, in all the places where it’s refrenced in the document and ensuring the Schedules are all refrenced appropriately and to include those parts.

  4. The ATF has chased a lot of legal gun owners into the small wooden box called a Trust, and is now attempting to burn the box.

    The permitted use of Trusts as defined “persons” does not demonstrate the weakness of (hole in) any regulation any more than it demonstrates the enormous failure of the ATF, or any other law compliance body of any Fed/State/local governments to ‘protect’ us with regard to firearms.

    If I said:

    “a Civil War in the U.S. started 3 days ago (sorry, I let everyone I care about it know a little earlier) how long will it take you to ‘get ready’ ?”

    Whatever your answer, the ATF believes the time period is “too short” and they are attempting to also prevent you from ‘absolute means’ [a/k/a semi-auto only M249, full-auto versions being blocked by 4 lines of un-voted-on legislative add-on].

    If the ATF has it in their power (and it does not) to legally define “person” by requiring an additional “person” to stand in as the “person” of the trust (negating a large part of the purpose of the Trust), then I contend that there are no “persons” working at the ATF.

  5. I used a “DIY” trust for my NFA trust. Got my first Form 1 back in 21 days. Of course, I spent a few hours reading and rereading and rereading again and again to make sure there were no issues.

    • Same thing here, template from someone else in this state, I read and reread it many times and fixed a lot of the wording as well. Then I sent it to a lawyer and got their approval before submitting it. It has been used twice now without issues. Do your homework people and pay an attorney to look it over for you.

  6. Wait. So in regards to Proposed Rulemaking 41P; the DIY trust from SilencerCo is going to eventually have to be accompanied by fingerprinting and photographs?

    Also, if I get my trust made IMMEDIATELY can I avoid all this nonsense? Or is every NFA item I transfer to my trust going to need a CLEO sign off, fingerprints and photos, regardless of when the trust is made?

    • Christian, once you paid your stamp that’s a done deal. 41p is for applicants.
      I’m fast forwarding a lot of decisions in anticipation of this rule, as are many.

    • If you do it immediately you can avoid this nonsense.. for the time being. However, what happens in the future is a complete unknown. The ATF could force all trusts to come into “Compliance” requiring all existing trustees to get fingerprinted, etc.

      Personally, under this administration, I’d expect it.


  7. If you can afford am NFA item, have an attorney draft your trust. Laws vary from state to state and its the only way to make sure all the items are covered IMO.

  8. A DIY trust is very straightforward, but requires a detailed eye. When you create a trust, you are creating a legal entity that actually exists! Even though it is never “registered” with some agency, it still exists, alive. You absolutely must be able to understand what it says and make the correct adjustments necessary. It is really quite easy, but some people’s strengths do not lie in that sort of DIY work.

  9. I dream of a nation with simple, just laws. A nation where attorneys are rarely needed, and don’t create exemptions within the law for their own benefit. The ATF, and the bureaucrats who maintain and support it, are at the opposite end of that dream.

    It’s a bit like the hideous yellow tag zip tied to my electricity meter. If it falls off, I’m in violation of an agreement with SCE Edison, and they get to shut down our twenty-three 270 watt solar panels. Idiotic, but it’s the “agreement” we had to sign to get solar power.

    Hopefully Walker, Cruz, or Paul could drastically reduce or even eliminate the ATF. There are a host of other tax payer-funded boondoggles I’d like to see get cut as well. This world has a whole lot of “yellow tags” for bureaucrats to consider.

    • “I dream of a nation with simple, just laws. A nation where attorneys are rarely needed, and don’t create exemptions within the law for their own benefit. The ATF, and the bureaucrats who maintain and support it, are at the opposite end of that dream.”

      I believe that’s known as a ‘Pipe Dream’, AKA, ‘Whatever you’re smoking, can I have a hit’?

      In all seriousness, that would be nice but it just ain’t happening… 🙂

  10. If you’ve ever watched Justified, think of the character Dewey Crowe. There’s a lot of Deweys out there, probably establishing trusts via Facebook attachments. I’m not for adding CLEO requirements, fingerprint requirements, etc to trust NFA purchases, but I can understand the concern. Did this cause anyone to want to write a trust template with themselves set up as a beneficiary and sow the form on the inets? Using the logic of phishers, if only one of one hundred work, and the Deweys win some Darwin awards.. Well, it seems to me the best advice we can keep giving is for people to go to a lawyer, even shop lawyers for an acceptable price if that’s what it takes. But best to do it right.

    • In a manner of speaking. She is a dyke with a daughter named Chelsea and owes millions to assorted Middle Eastern thugs.

  11. Trusts wouldn’t be necessary if more states would join the trend started by Tennessee 4 or 5 years ago requiring “shall certify” by Chief LEO. Arkansas was the latest to join and they give the goobers 14 days to certify the paperwork.

  12. Instead of pandering to anything the ” Director of ATF ” says is law…. why not research the law ? The real name of the agency is ” Puerto Rico Trust Number 62 ” No kidding, look it up ! Its very creation is questionable , as is any limited jurisdiction it may have inside D.C. and Federal possesions , like Puerto Rico , for example. Courts have already held this agency of many names, see ( 27 usca , sec. 201 ) ( definitions ) has only jurisdiction in the States when in pursuit of taxes to be paid on an imported firearm. ( US v DJ Vollmer and Company ) We are being BULLSHITTED on a Massive scale. A first year law student could figure it out.

  13. If, for 9,500 comments, they’re still “responding” to us (whatever that means) 19 months later, could just imagine how long it’s going to take them to sift through the 310,000 comments left to them for the proposed M885 ban?

    Crunching the numbers, that could be upwards of 51 years if the response rate doesn’t change.

    It may not mean much, and in all reality it doesn’t in the grand scheme of thing, but we did actually manage to at least forestall a rather bone-headed maneuver by an agency that shouldn’t even exist in the first place. I think we done good. 😉

    • Are there only 2 people responding to those comments as well? Or is the “trust” department separate from the “ammunition” department? Either way I know I’ll comment next time.

  14. I got a copy of a copy of a copy of a trust template provided by a suppressor dealer to a friend of mine. I electronically edited it and got the required notary stamps and signatures and submitted two sided copies (did you or your trust lawyer know that you were supposed do this…federal paperwork reduction act) and fired it off to WV. Ten months later I got it back requesting a correction on the ATF form, not the trust and 1 week later I had my stamp. Unless a lawyer was filling out form 1 and 2’s everyday, he would have probably made the same mistake and even if he did not make the mistake I made…he would have saved me a whole week…big whoop. I dont want the services of the kind of “lawyer” that makes money $100 at a time. Think about it.

  15. The comment period for 41P ended Dec 9, 2013. No way 2 workers can go through 9500 comments any time soon. Looks like the coast is still clear for Trusts through 2016 at least.

  16. Did mine with a “free” copy of quicken. Didn’t cost a dime. Got 3 approved and waiting on the fourth. I guess you just have to have reading comprehension skills.

  17. I currently have all of my information in with a reputable attorney in my area who has a specialty in NFA trusts. I will be going to sign it next week. I figured the $300 is well worth the legalese that I would probably mess up or have a shoddy online template not filled out correctly. After that, it’s onward to grab a couple suppressors. I’m excited!

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