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This is a sore subject that many people don’t see eye-to-eye on, but as someone who has regular interaction with customers who practice law on behalf of the public and private interest – this is an issue that seriously grinds my gears. Attorneys who claim to be qualified in writing gun trusts frequently extol their virtues in an attempt to separate you from your money. How right they are and how wrong they are after the jump . . .

First, a little bit about myself; I’m a small-time country gun dealer who does something like 200+ filings of ATF Form 3/4 annually. I’ve seen and performed transfers of pretty much everything to pretty much everyone, save for destructive devices since I don’t have the space for an ATF-approved DD storage container. Yet. And I’ve experienced plenty of truths, half truths and downright lies in the NFA business.

To start with the most prevalent, and most frequently pontificated: “YOU NEED A GUN TRUST IF YOU WANT TO STAY OUT OF JAIL!”

The economics of the gun business have led attorneys to love to sell gun trusts. All the language is boilerplate, they get you on the hook for their fee, replace a few words, notarize it and suddenly you have legal powers that you didn’t 15 minutes before, right?


Owning a trust makes you no more empowered than you were they day before, unless you live in an area where the CLEO won’t sign your form – in which case the gun trust is the battering ram against your barrier to entry.

I can’t speak for all 50 states, but in my research and experience, I can’t recall a single state that has a statutory requirement of a formation of a trust as a legal prerequisite to purchase an NFA device. Most states have relatively limited regulation on NFA devices, and even the ones with the most draconian legislation (California or New York) do not have legislation prohibiting trusts or corporations from holding firearms or NFA devices as assets.

Most of the people who form trusts for NFA acquisitions do so for several popular reasons, the most common being that it’s a lot easier to do a transfer to a trust or corporate entity than it is to hassle the local CLEO. You also can have several co-trustees or employees that have lawful access to the firearms. And yes, some form trusts as a solution to a barrier to entry – specifically the policy of a local CLEO who won’t sign an ATF Form 4 or equivalents.

What really gets me is the people who form a trust for the wrong reasons. Their attorneys should be hauled in front of an ethics board to explain their actions. For instance, my business gets more junk mail from so-called expert trust attorneys than a new 28 year old homeowner with good credit gets from Williams-Sonoma, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Pottery Barn combined. I cringe thinking about how many trees have died so these shysters can separate ignorant people from their money.

The so-called experts love to push their services: “Here’s how you own a Class 3 weapon – you form a gun trust to do it, because if you don’t, you’re breaking the law!”

My eyes roll so far into the back of my head when I read their ads that it shifts my center of gravity backwards and I nearly fall out of my chair. For starters, any attorney that professes to be an expert in firearms and gun trusts that doesn’t know that “Class 3” is a rate of taxation ($500) for a special occupational tax, is a hack…in my opinion. But that’s just for starters. What really separates the shysters from the actual professionals is the way they pose legal scenarios and how they apply to the client.

Gun trust attorneys love to tell clients that if they don’t have a trust, they can risk going to jail and losing all their guns – even their title one guns – due to noncompliance with the National Firearms Act of 1934. How could that happen, you ask? One attorney that I spoke with on the phone stated as a matter of fact that during her vast legal career as a board-certified attorney and her research and interaction with ATF that if someone who lawfully owned an NFA device (for this exercise, we’ll call it an M1 Thompson) and shot their M1 at a public range and then let a bystander that wasn’t the lawful registered owner shoot said M1 at said range in the presence of the registered owner, they would be guilty of an illegal transfer of an NFA device. And the ATF would prosecute both the recipient for taking unlawful possession and the owner for making the unlawful transfer.

Now, this is contrary to my experience on a number of occasions. I got hooked on machine guns when my friend Ken (not his real name) handed me a registered receiver M16, a full magazine and told me to have fun. Ken is a large collector of Colt machineguns. He has about half a million bucks worth of them. Why the hell would he break the law?


If anyone is wondering, the ATF has sent me an opinion letter regarding the above scenario and they have stated in a far more refined fashion than I will that I am right and that particular attorney is utterly wrong. Oh, did I mention the attorney was board certified in real estate law?

The debate skills that I acquired in years of Catholic school would finally come to vanquish my unwitting board certified opponent.

My rebuttal to her was that if such an action was so blatantly illegal, how come many retail firearm operations such as The Gun Store in Las Vegas, Nevada and The Scottsdale Gun Club in Scottsdale, Arizona (these were the only two that came to mind immediately) are able to rent machine guns to customers? Surely an outfit as large and above board as the Scottsdale Gun Club with a million dollar operation wouldn’t risk it all by breaking the law. Was she telling me that each time a customer, or paying member of the club picks up a post sample M16, or the employee at said club hands it to them, they’re knowingly facilitating NFA violations?

She didn’t have a good answer for me. The answer she did have was that she had asked ATF what constituted an unlawful transfer and ATF told her that if someone that was not the registered owner was using an NFA device, they were guilty.

There’s a few ways you can look at this. You can fault the ATF for being wrong, and God knows the ATF has been wrong in the past. You can fault the attorney for asking the ATF, as ATF would not put something that stupid in writing. You could actually read the text of NFA ’34. Or, you can believe what I believe which is that she didn’t ask ATF and was making it up as she went along and presented enough gravitas to make it sound like she knew what she was talking about.

These kinds of legal shenanigans are what you’re going to get when you go shopping for gun trust attorneys. Attorneys who practice gun law typically do so exclusively. Attorneys who practice wills, trusts, and estate law, typically do so exclusively. Wills, trusts and estate law and gun law could not be farther apart in the legal field, and yet some people go to a real estate lawyer who claims to do gun trusts for gun advice.

You don’t go to the world famous Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn for the broccoli rabe, so why would you take gun law advice from someone who is seriously under- or un-qualified to dispense it?

This happens every day.

I think that it is completely unethical for an attorney to write an advertisement that talks about “Class 3 firearms” — which is patently wrong — write paragraphs about how you need to buy a gun trust or you will go to jail and lose all your guns, and claim a moral/legal high ground about how they know better than you (when they simply don’t) in an attempt to separate you from your money. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work, and it’s apparently worked too damn often.

Yet, that’s not the worst part.

In my state, all advertisements by legal firms have to have the literal seal of approval from the state bar’s advertising division. All that fear mongering text about how you need a gun trust or else? In print, no less? Those ads bears the rubber stamp of approval of the bar association.

So, I called the bar association’s advertising division and asked them how their advertising division could approve advertising that was factually incorrect and, in certain circumstances, could compel someone to purchase a trust that they didn’t need out of sheer fear of federal gun law. They didn’t have a very good answer for me. They stated that the advertising was within the guidelines of the state and that I should file a complaint if I truly felt the ad was misleading. I decided to fight fire with fire.

FC: This ad is misleading. It’s saying buy a gun trust or lose all your guns, a gun trust is the only legal way to own “Class 3” firearms, which is wrong because there’s no such thing as a “Class 3” firearm and if this attorney is 100% accurate, I personally know 8 police officers, 2 state prosecutors and a retired federal judge that are about to be in pretty deep trouble.

Bar: The advertising was within state guidelines. We saw no reason to disapprove of it.

FC: So, if I was a real estate attorney and I drafted an advertisement stating that I am board certified in the practice of Unicorn Ranch Agricultural Tax Abatement, you’d approve it?

Bar: Well. no. There’s no such thing as board certification in that field. Or unicorns for that matter.

FC: So it’s okay for this attorney to advertise specialization in the ownership of an item that does not exist and is factually wrong on numerous other counts, but it would be wrong for me to do the same?

At that point the woman became rather cross with me and suggested that if I felt that strongly about the issue, I should file a complaint. That’s right, the regulators that are supposed to prevent attorneys from making misleading advertising don’t give a damn about misleading advertising.

So I filed a complaint with the bar association, stating that the advertising is without merit and has numerous false claims; specifically that one must have a gun trust in order to stay out of jail and that temporarily lending an NFA device was unlawful. Neither of which is not correct. The regulators (being totally useless) did not see things my way and let the complaint drop.

This is infuriating because as a consumer I wouldn’t shop at a gun store that barked incessantly about how one must purchase a Colt AR15 or equivalent because of a so-called looming ban on the horizon. Nor would I patronize an attorney that lauded the threat of jail time as a sales pitch for their product. At best, it’s fear mongering. At worst, it’s taking advantage of exactly how stupid the Brady Campaign and the Moms Demand Action crowed think gun owners are.

As if the situation isn’t complicated enough – the advent of the trust has yielded the NFA Merchant of Death/Unlicensed Practitioner of Law.

What’s this I speak of? The most candid example I can think of is a small company that will not be named that manufactured hundreds of AR15s in Florida, and the owner was remarkably helpful if you wanted something that needed a stamp — like a silencer. So helpful that he’d create a trust for you. Just sign on the dotted line.

That’s one helpful dealer of death and destruction, right? What happens when ATF approves that transfer and the trust isn’t legal?

The problems are numerous. The first being that you have zero legal recourse because whoever set up your trust wasn’t qualified or even licensed to practice law to begin with — so, you got what you paid for. The entity that you have may or may not be legal and will likely cause a substantial headache for you to resolve. Finally, if someone was improperly practicing law without a license, will that case be prosecuted?

Based on my interaction with state regulators, prosecution is unlikely. They just don’t seem to prosecute those cases. I can’t help but wonder if they view it as a self-correcting problem.

I don’t think it’s proper for a gun retailer (or anyone other than an attorney) to draft a trust, so when someone came in my business a few months ago with a silencer built by a local firm that he wanted to have re-cored because it was too loud, he had literally no clue about how the NFA worked and how it was transferred, etc. I became curious to see what my competition was up to. After speaking with him for a few minutes about what he did and how he did it and reviewing his approved ATF Form 4, I managed to piece together the mystery.

As it happens, he wanted a silencer for his GLOCK 9mm pistol knowing nothing about the process. So they sat him down and did the old car salesman trick with the paperwork and said sign here, here, here, here and here.

The dealer had created a trust using a computer program, had the buyer sign it — unknowingly creating an irrevocable living trust in their name — and then transferring a silencer to it, which the ATF approved. Where the original copy of the trust went, nobody really knows. So this particular individual will be hard-pressed to do another transfer in the future without having their actual trust documents. But that’s not a problem, because if he goes back to that dealer, they can just create another trust he doesn’t know about for the next NFA device he wants to buy.

What it boils down to is this: NFA trusts are a necessity to ownership for some. Although no law states purchasers must have one, many do so out of sheer practicality. To others, an NFA trust is a luxury item as it saves them trips to the fingerprint station and the CVS photo center. The truth is that having an NFA trust can make NFA-regulated device ownership easier, and in some cases we couldn’t own NFA item without it.

I bought my first machine gun when I was 22 years old, but no CLEO would sign for me. So I went down to OfficeMax, bought prepared trust documents and made my own. A month later I hauled home my new bullet hose. Would I do the same today? Probably not, but my legal needs were very different compared to what they are today.

I’ve seen too many attorneys in the NFA trust business who are hacks, who will pitch lies and deceit in order to goad unknowing rubes into buying trusts on the threat of jail time. And their ads somehow were approved by the state bar advertising division. Others will not have a clue as to what makes an NFA gun trust different from a regular trust (I have yet to talk to an attorney who has found a fundamental legal distinction between the two) besides some language declaring the purpose of the trust, and attorneys who practice criminal law will likely not be of very much help in this area.

Don’t get an NFA trust because some shyster said you’ll go to jail if you don’t. Do your homework, see if you actually need one based on who you want to give legal access to these devices. Trust but verify. Don’t hire a hack, and for the love of Jeebus, don’t have your gun dealer do it. Most gun dealers have a difficult enough time staying out of prison themselves.

Verily, let’s also not forget what the great William Shakespeare taught us: the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

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    • Thoroughly mediocre. Even if the facts were true–and it’s likely not–FC would have chosen one of the weakest attorneys ever. He would have done that; not you or me. BTW, he completely misunderstands the Shakespeare quotation.

  1. the great William Shakespeare taught us: the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.

    He only said that because England didn’t have any loudmouth FFLs with attitude problems and massive inferiority complexes.

    • 🙂

      I can never stop thinking about Percy Foreman, who convinced James Earl Ray to plead guilty, when someone as dull-witted as Ray could NEVER have done it alone, let alone made the shot.

      • Yeah because it takes massive intelligence to shoot someone. We don’t have a violence problem in this country, we have an intellect problem! Kill everyone with glasses!

        • “An Act of State:…” William F Pepper
          Worth the read. Not saying I know, but you seem so sure.
          Law enforcement, detective, nor conviction are synonymous with truth.

    • Everybody loves to bitch about lawyers, but then when they’re facing 15 to life because they used their gun in self-defense, suddenly a lawyer is their best friend.

        • Politicians. Lawyers are hired as prosecutors but they don’t make the laws, they just enforce them. Same as the police. You might not like the jobs they do, but prosecutors and cops just shovel the sh1t the politicians leave behind.

  2. Attorneys lie? Say it isnt so. There is one on my local gun blog site who advertises exactly the same way the author states the female real estate lawyer lied to him. For $500 this helpful person will xerox the same trust forms I xeroxed and send me to a notary. I did the same thing for like a dollar for the copies and the notary was at my bank so that was free. My mother always wanted me to go to law school…

  3. As someone who works with lawyers in offices and is working towards law school, I can safely say I have never met a “gun lawyer.” Some lawyers like guns just like normal people, but I haven’t met one that exclusively handles gun matters.

    My point is shop carefully and hopefully ask a lawyer you know personally.

    • I’ve been a lawyer for 15 years Craig. Why on God’s earth would you ever want to be one? I don’t even want to be one. It was once a noble profession but once I realized the system doesn’t remotely work like my professors suggested it does, I lost faith. I’ll always be a Bar member but nowadays, I’m a remodeling contractor and part-time FFL. The reality is that unless you have political connections or you’re likely to be top 5% in your graduating class, it’s an uphill battle for work as the private sector cannot remotely absorb the number of lawyers schools are churning out.

      • Too bad these lawyer mills can’t change course and churn out something useful like competent medical professionals.

        • It’s all about the Benjamins. Convince any college grad that there are no jobs out there without a law degree. Law schools are self-funding and they’re certainly not about to tell prospective applicants that there are too many lawyers out there and that the real economic prospects are in pork belly futures. I enjoyed law school but wouldn’t do it again. Sadly, the superbrilliant kids aren’t willing to bet their futures on med school either – until the fallout from Obamacare is clear.

    • You have obviously never heard of Lawshield. they only have lawyers qualified in firearm law. And
      if you have to shoot your way out of a situation, they will defend you for free. You only pay a yearly
      fee, or a monthly fee. I know for a fact that they do not charge hourly rates, because I had a problem
      and they defended me for free. My case was dismissed.

  4. Has anyone ever sent any letter for clarification to the ATF and ever received a response?

    I know a lot of people who have sent letters, I know no person who has ever received a response.

  5. “Do your homework, see if you actually need one based on who you want to give legal access to these devices. Trust but verify. ”

    That’s asking a lot from most of the couch surfers, wannabe attorneys and FUDS you see commenting on and the likes on a daily basis. I couldn’t agree with your article more, unfortunately the IQ and informative intellect of the average gun loving American stop at the mainstream media channel of their choice.

  6. I see lawyers as the problem.

    1. most politicians are lawyers
    2. all members of the SCOTUS are lawyers

    small town never had a problem until the second lawyers moved in.

    • Small towns also used to lynch people without due process. You can’t really have law and order without the judicial system and that includes officers of the court (lawyers). Just sayin…

  7. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I’ve never personally seen an attorney use the “you need a trust to stay out of jail” sales method. I don’t yet have a trust, but I’ve investigated getting one quite a bit, and I’ve seen a lot of sales pitches, but I’ve never seen one that threatened jail time for not having one. Not even once.

    • Sorry, I left this part out. My point was that FC’s biggest beef seems to be the “stay out of jail” sales tactic and he makes it sound like it happens all the time. Based on that, for all the trust shopping I’ve done you’d think I’d have seen it, but I haven’t.

  8. Great read. It made me happy that I made the right choice using arsenal attorneys in va. He never made it about fear, only ease of transfer, along with being able to transfer my guns to my family after my death( without the court system). I very highly recommend them.

    • I’ve reached out to Arsenal to offer them the opportunity for a counterpoint, although based on my dealings with them, they’re probably just as irritated at the unprofessional scare tactic method of sales as FC is.

      • I agree, he is probably upset about it. I was also glad to see that he recently helped a VA State Delegate help write a clarification bill for VA regarding NFA trusts.

    • I second the recommendation for Arsenal Attorneys. And I believe they have offices in several states now.

      Mr. Bergstrom is a cool guy, to boot.

  9. I recently formed a trust and my attorney spelled out everything you stated with complete honesty, so they are not all douche bags. Our locate CLEO, whom I know very well, does not sign forms. He claims he was advised not to by the outgoing CLEO as it was too big a liability for him. Several lawyers have written him letters explaining why it is not a big exposure to him personally or for the county… but still he won’t sign, partly because he tells you to get a trust to get around it. It is an issue that is very frustrating. And our POTUS is trying to muck it up even more….

  10. Unfortunately, gun shop owners are just as bad, even those whose purport to specialize in NFA sales. I have purchased roughly a dozen NFA items and have heard all manner of complete crap flowing from their mouths. Such as “once you register a SBR, you can swap in a longer barrel but not a shorter one” and other gems of that nature. As a customer, you’d like to think that someone selling you something with felony potential would know what they are doing. Its not a safe assumption. When in doubt, call the ATF and check out the rulings on their website.

    • They’ve got that messed up. You can use any barrel length you want.

      I think I know the area of confusion:

      What you can do is file for ATF Form 1 to make a silencer and wind up with a tube that is longer than the registration but not shorter.

    • No, but that’s not the point. You want a qualified attorney to draft your NFA trust because 1) they are more likely to get it right and 2) it shields yourself from liability if the ATF finds something wrong with the trust.

      • So lets say I have a trust drafted by a lawyer and my friend wants to start his own trust. What stops him from reading mine and using similar verbiage to make his own trust. Is that considered illegal? Would that mitigate the need for a lawyer to actually draft it?

        Thanks in advance

  11. How does the saying go? “He who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer?”

    Just kidding. But the point is the same, you can act as your own counsel and construct legal instruments for yourself, e.g. Gun trust, but you cannot do same for others without a license.

  12. Isn’t the the same gun salesman that likes to gloat about how much money he made off gullible customers during the panic? Yeah, thanks, don’t mind if I don’t give a shit what his view on the ethics of lawyers are.

  13. “Verily, let’s also not forget what the great William Shakespeare taught us: the first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

    First off, “Shakespeare” didn’t teach us that. A character in a play he wrote delivered that line; Dick the Butcher in “Henry the Sixth”, as I recall. Not every line in a work of fiction necessarily reflects the author’s personal views. Shakespeare didn’t “teach” us that about lawyers any more than Thomas Harris taught us that a nice chianti is the perfect complement to fava beans and a Census-taker’s liver.

    Second of all, laws, lawyers and the transparent legal system they’re a part of exist to enshrine, preserve and protect our rights as human beings. For example, as we’re all fond of saying that the Second Amendment doesn’t *give* us the right to keep and bear arms. It only codifies the fundamental, natural and civil right for all to know. Well. It takes a lawyer to argue your case in court on the basis of the law so that you may exercise your God-given rights. Otherwise, there’s no civilization; leaving only might-makes-right one upmanship to rule the day.

    Third, and by far the most important point, so pay attention, is the meaning of the line within the context of the play. It’s spoken by Dick the Butcher. Who’s he? He’s a conspirator, a rebel, one of several who is trying to overthrow the government and impose his own brand of tyranny. The purpose of “killing all the lawyers”, whether figuratively or literally, is to delegitimize the rule of law itself, such that no one has basis to argue against their evil ambitions and no one is around to argue thusly, either.

    To “kill all the lawyers”, therefore, really doesn’t mean “let’s go after those hacks and shysters in cheap suits who confuse us, overcharge us, exploit us at our lowest points, screw us out of what’s rightfully ours” and all the rest of it. (By the way, lawyer haters are often themselves quick to call lawyers to solve their problems, just as cop haters call 911 and atheists in foxholes do what they do, but I digress). What “kill all the lawyers” really means is to jettison natural rights and the rule of law institutionalizing them, to be replaced with strong thugs oppressing the weak. Exactly the sort of state of affairs that the right to keep and bear arms exists to prevent.

    • It only “takes a lawyer to argue your case in court” when the law has been extended beyond what men naturally know. The criminalization of naturally non-criminal actions is what has necessitated professional lawyers.

      Aside from that, I agree.

      • I like this reply. It clearly shows that FirearmConcierge cares enough about his readers to comb through the comments and respond to concerns. It gives me warm fuzzies to think about it.

  14. It always bugs me when the “kill all the lawyers” line gets taken out of context:

    “Shakespeare’s exact line ”The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” was stated by Dick the Butcher in ”Henry VI,” Part II, act IV, Scene II, Line 73. Dick the Butcher was a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, who thought that if he disturbed law and order, he could become king. Shakespeare meant it as a compliment to attorneys and judges who instill justice in society.”

  15. Isn’t this Author the same dude that gloated about screwing ignorant customers during the recent panic? How is this any different? Its not other than the ambulance chasing advertising, in the end the ignorant get fleeced. Same thing just substitute ‘d-bag FFL’ for ‘d-bag lawyer’.

    • Yeah, same guy who loves to tell us how brilliant he is and how dumb we are. Like I said, a massive inferiority complex.

      • Well, the name of the website is THE TRUTH ABOUT GUNS.

        If I didn’t talk about how brilliant I am and how stupid people are, I would not be telling the truth – thus, defeating the purpose of this website.

    • Not sure why everyone is hating on FC, his articles are a statement of fact and how some of the internal processes and legalities work.

      Same thing if my knuckle headed friend drives his truck up on the mountain, out of gas and wants me to bring him a 5 gallons, he will be paying $10 per gallon, to me. Because that is the location price and the supply is finite in that particular location.

      Its not pleasant to watch others go through these situations, but, once you have been through your self, you learn not to repeat that mistake.

      • Except the prices he charged isnt why people dont like him.
        Its because he brags about it. And calls anyone who doesnt know the ins and outs of everything firearm related morons.
        And says shit that makes gun owners look like scumbags, specifically to make gun owners look like scumbags.
        I can go on, but anyone who actually reads his posts already know. Hes just a negative person.
        This post is one of the few he hasnt been condescending to gun owners

        • I disagree with your middle statement. I don’t think he does it specifically to make gun owners look like scumbags. I think it’s incidental, and for the record, I don’t think it makes anyone but him look undesirable. I’ve met quite a few blowhards/assholes/douchebags/wannabes at various gun stores over the past few years, and none of what I felt towards them made me feel any negative feelings toward the rest of you. So why would he be any different. If a gun store owner is a jerk, then he’s a jerk. Doesn’t mean the customers in the store with him are, necessarily.

        • It looks, to me anyway, when he says outrageous things he KNOWS are going to #1 be seen by anti gunners and #2 be taken at face value by anti gunners, he does so specifically to give a bad image.
          Maybe thats not the case, its just the impression he leaves.
          He doesnt do gun owners a positive, he does a disservice to us, and while we know it really only shows that hes a dick, the fact is hes a FFL that to anti gunners or fence sitters looks like he wants children to be slaughtered to make some cash. Yes thats not what he said, but anyone who honestly thinks he didnt know exactly how thatd read is seriously deluding themselves.
          Its not even just that comment. Hes said a bunch of shit (not here) that just reassures outsiders that gun dealers and owners are indeed the criminals and assholes they are trying to prove we are.
          And this is coming from someone who isnt mad one bit about him selling shit overpriced. Im all for capitalism and him making money.
          Hes just a terrible spokesperson for the gun industry.

      • nobody said that the guy’s article is incorrect, but we’re talking about a guy who publicly wished for another sandy hook to make a profit. FC is a douchebag and shouldn’t have his writing featured here.

        • nobody said that the guy’s article is incorrect, but we’re talking about a guy who publicly wished for another sandy hook to make a profit. FC is a douchebag and shouldn’t have his writing featured here.

          We’re gonna take this in two parts. First, the unbolded part: He never publicly wished for another Sandy Hook. His exact words, from Twitter, were: “Firearm Concierge: Listen, I’m not saying I want to see Sandy Hook Part II but another 20 or 30 dead kids would really dress out my balance sheet.” He didn’t root for the death of children. It might have been a shitty and impolitic thing to say, but his comment was based in fact. Mass shootings = pushes for gun control = increased gun sales.

          Now for the bolded parts: You acknowledge that he’s right, but you think we shouldn’t let him write here simply because you don’t like the way he says the things that you agree with? That doesn’t make a lot of sense from where I’m sitting.

        • @Matt in FL – While I admire your willingness to defend a fellow TTAG blogger, you are on a losing crusade. The fact is, FC puts his asshattery on regular & frequent display here and other corners of the interwebs, not the least of which was the douchery he laid out for Mother Jones to pick up and proceed to beat upon all POTG. I can’t believe that his “FFL insider” perspective is so unique and crucial that you guys (TTAG) would continue to run the ongoing risk of having him associated with the blog. Does he have pictures or something?

  16. I guess I’m fortunate. The local cleo is a friend and neighbor. Same with the county DA. I have several friends who are attorneys.
    I can ask them a question, if the answer means I need their help, I’m glad to pay them.
    Haven’t been led astray yet.

    • If you ever get arrested, call FC first, will ya? And then show a copy of your comment to your lawyer. I’m sure he’ll get a chuckle out of it.

  17. Most state bar associations also offer continuing legal education courses or “CLE” courses on setting up gun trusts. Costs will vary, but it’s usually an online video seminar that will walk you through the finer points on law on setting up a gun trust in your particular state. It’s not rocket science, but doing it right can save headaches down the road. These things are usually open to the general public, so it may be worth googling it for your particular state.

  18. Umm, note that this NFA letter states that the owner must keep an eye on the weapon at all times.

    Now consider the typical scenario where you store your NFA items at home. Unless you live alone, or you have a gun safe and no-one else but you has the key/code, then all other people in that house who are aware of the presence of those NFA items are in constructive possession of them. Yes, that includes your spouse and kids.

  19. Unfortunately much of your article is correct. When we created our Gun Trust many years ago, we made the mistake of calling it a gun trust. Gun Trust is a generic name that we cannot control. Since that time we FFLs, real estate attorneys, and just about every other type of attorney create or market a form of a gun trust. There is no standard or consistency between them and many are nothing more than a revocable trust with a few firearms terms in them and do nothing to protect the individuals who use them.

    ATF is charged with enforcing the NFA. The NFA defines the word transfer and while the ATF is not currently arresting people for many acts that would be considered a transfer under the NFA, it is important to remember that we are talking about the ATF. This is not the most dependable or consistent government organization, in fact other than death and taxes, the AT’s inconstancy is probably one of the most certain things.

    As far as your comment on Class 3 firearms. If someone uses this term other than to clarify that the proper term is a Title II firearm, you should be cautious as they would appear not to know what they are talking about.

    We review many so-called gun trusts that FFLs, individuals, and even lawyers have prepared. While the majority appear to be valid these days, most have little or nothing to do with firearms.

    There are many reasons to use a properly drafted gun trust other than avoiding a CLEO signature. Anyway I appreciate your article but would ask you to add a word of caution about relying on the ATFs current interpretation as we all know that the ATF “interprets” the NFA based on the circumstances and sometimes applies a different interpretation because of a totally unrelated matter.

    David Goldman

  20. I believe the situation is a bit paradoxical. The risk of an issue is small, but the penalty would be devastating. That puts citizens in a tough spot, and also the lawyers who advise them. Let me explain:

    On the one hand, 99.99% of the legal owners of NFA items will never have anything to worry about. The will not commit crimes, and if those persons ever need to defend themselves with deadly force, most likely they will use some other weapon they own, such as a handgun. So, the likelihood of any defect in the trust documents causing criminal problems for the settlor, beneficiary or trustee are slim under most circumstances. Some other kinds of problems might be expensive to fix, but unlikely to land anyone in jail. There is no indication that the ATF ever has, or ever intends to, randomly inspect trust documents for defects after stamps are issued.

    But consider how federal authorities would have reacted (or been commanded to react) had George Zimmerman used an SBR or suppressed weapon to defend himself, assuming he had been the trustee of a gun trust which held the item. Surely prosecutors would have been keen to exploit even the slightest defect in his trust documents in the hopes of nailing him with an NFA violation, which is entirely unrelated to whether the unregistered item was lawfully used in self defense. Now we have a whole new ballgame.

    So what are the true odds that you find yourself in George Zimmerman’s shoes? With an NFA item?

    Nobody can say. But if you do find yourself in a self-defense situation with an NFA item, I think it is fair to say you want your trust to be as “bullet proof” as possible.

    Probably the more likely scenario is that after the settlor dies, nobody in the family (which often includes the trustee and the beneficiary) knows what the heck to do with the NFA items and finding a lawyer who knows what to do is expensive if you can find one at all. It wouldn’t surprise me if many times the family freaks out, a general practice lawyer is paid hundreds of dollars to call the local police or the ATF and in the end a $6000+ NFA item just gets surrendered for destruction. Or the 22 year old nephew named as beneficiary gets a call from the uninformed lawyer to come pick up the gun, oblivious to its status as an NFA item and that the trust may have been dissolved (in that case…nephew could be in criminal trouble if he doesn’t do the right paperwork asap and is in possession of the item). An argument can be made that a well drafted trust would set forth explicit guidance as to what to do (e.g. keep in trust, sell the item at auction or to an appropriate dealer, use trust assets to pay for a transfer, etc.) and that it is cheaper to pay up front for a well drafted trust than to incur attorney fees up the wazoo when the settlor dies. There are other kinds of trusts that can be set up in some states that can keep the items “in the family” so-to-speak, avoid being re-taxed on the items, etc. And lastly, if you’re putting any significant value of firearms into the trust, enough where your surviving relatives would fight over them, then you want a trust that can stand up to litigation and is well drafted to prevent that litigation.

    I think all a lawyer can do is honestly tell clients the risks, and let the client reflect on it and make a decision. Scare tactics should have no place whatsoever in legal advertising or consultation, but at the same time, clients should know that going the trust route does create certain remote risks with very devastating consequences. I would liken it to purchasing insurance.

  21. Great article. In the past few years every attorney had jumped on the band Wagon and suddenly they are experts in the nfa field. I don’t try to scare people into hiring me to prepare a trust for them.

  22. This article is unintelligible. Your use of undefined acronyms creates a barrier to understanding. Everyday new people enter new knowledge domains. The specificity of language they encounter may be a necessary evil for precise understanding, but it still creates a barrier to new entries. If you want to be understood by the largest number of people, spell our acronyms the first time they are used in an article.

    • Your statement that it’s “unintelligible” is complete hyperbole. Most of the undefined acronyms can be figured out through context alone. If you’ve spent even five minutes looking into the possibility of owning a silencer or machine gun, you’ve probably already encountered most if not all of them.

      However, for the sake of clarity, in the order they appear in the article:

      ATF = Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, formally BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives)
      DD = Destructive Device
      NFA = National Firearms Act (the law the pertains to machine guns, silencers, and destructive devices)
      CLEO = Chief Law Enforcement Officer

      • It may be hyperbole to you but it is not to me. Or to the many other people each day who are new to this particular topic. Subject specific language allows a precision of communication, but it is also a barrier to those not familiar with the subject. It is common practice to define a acronym when it is introduced. In some of the articles acronyms have been hypertexted, this is very helpful. I appreciate your defining those acronyms for me.

  23. I think the key take away from FC’s post is that we all need to avoid bad gun dealers and bad lawyers; however I’m concerned about the continuing confusion about constructive possession of NFA firearms–particularly in any way that makes light of the issue. I think it would help if we address these issues with a clear perspective on the everyday life of a gun owner.

    We advise many clients each day about these issues. They aren’t worried about their buddy beside them at the firing line. They’re worried about dealing with the unexpected in a manner that minimizes their risks. We provide them a solution so they have peace of mind. You can read my full discussion on constructive possession in today’s TTAG’s features:

  24. I am an attorney that designs and implements Gun Trusts. Most of my clients have to much to lose asset wise and earning wise to face a federal firearms conviction that would jepordize their ability to work such as a secuity clearence, Law or Medical License, etc. Additionally, there are law enforement agencies in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area that will not sign off on the Form 4’s, period.
    One area where my Gun Trust is important is the direction is provides if the Class III firearm owner dies or becomes incompetent. I have discovered that most probate lawyers don’t even know what needs to happen in order to transfer a Class III firearm on death.
    Another area I focus on is asset protection. If you shoot and kill, even though you might get “no billed” by the grand jury, you very likely will be sued by the dead punks family. Gotta protect your gold from these surviving predators.
    Just a response from the other side.

    Guy Garner, JD

      • @FirearmConcierge . . .

        You make a lot of good points in your article and I agree with much of what you’ve written–even parts of your vitriolic rhetoric.

        Let me be blunt, however, concerning your statement: “Class III is a rate of taxation, not a firearm.” You’re splitting hairs just like a stinkin’ lawyer when you say that. This is a statement you might make in court but outside of court, folks pretty much understand the term “Class III firearm” to indicate a special type of NFA weapon purchase. It is nothing more than slang. Slang is used all the time.

        But if I wanted to be picky, I could point out that the Class III tax isn’t really a rate so much as a one time, annual flat fee payable by a dealer in NFA firearms. That wouldn’t be your fault but rather stems from the description given by the ATF. To illustrate, you pay a rate of tax on your income, not a fee.

        Also, you’re wrong on State Bar requirements–they vary from state to state. And, a gun trust is absolutely a prerequisite to a “Class III Fiream” (you know what I mean) given all of the regulations concerning transfer and the desire to pass these items to family control when you die. (Another attorney below mentioned that.) And, an NFA trust is also ideal to allow your VERY trusted friends (who may be trust/beneficiaries of your trust to take the items to the range without you because you have to work for a living.

      • Well stated Chris!

        It’s pretty clear that by “class III firearm”, what is meant is those firearms subject to the class III tax as per the NFA. That is the common vernacular. The author’s obtuseness on the issue is entirely unhelpful, unlike the information provided by Guy, anactual attorney, who the author assert in his diatribe ought be killed. is not serving itself or the public through such diatribes as by this author.

  25. I used a trust to purchase my first silencer and have it in my possesion. I have purchased 2 more silencers. Other than sending copys of my trust and paperwork from my dealer is there anything else I need to send and can I submit for both at the same time?

    • Your first silencer was purchased using the trust. How were the subsequent two purchased? If they were purchased by you as an individual, then if you want them on the trust they would need to be transferred to it, and I believe that would take a new transfer stamp. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you said. If so, please clarify your situation.

  26. I purchased them through the trust but have not been able to pick them up yet from the dealer. What I need to know is what I need to send the atf other than a copy of my gun trust to get my stamp.Also can I register both at on time by paying 400.00 and is there a way to submit electronicaly.

  27. I have practiced law for 40 years. I do not have the time or energy to comment on every aspect of the article. Yes, some attorneys are not competent. That applies to all professions and vocations.

    No, you do not need a gun trust in many states to own certain items. The more important question might be what happens when the owner dies or becomes incapacitated? I am in the process of educating myself about gun trusts because I know many fellow firearms owners who I would like to help. I am not doing it just for $. I am a Life Member of the NRA and a founding member of a local shooting organization that serves over 15,000 members of the shooting public annually.

    Just because the author spoke with an attorney that was uninformed does not mean that a gun trust is not something that could benefit some people under certain circumstances. There are many attorneys like me who do care deeply about the Second Amendment and want to help other firearms owners. I came across this site during my research and wanted to mention that people should think beyond the simple aspect of “owning” the forearm or other item, and consider where it will go when they leave this Earth.

  28. I want to do a gun trust so many options, so many rumors, idk if i should go with a $100 to a $300 gun trust any help would be great thanks

  29. Case in point–’s “Law For All” website offers (what I believe to be) this erroneous advice that “each trustee will have the right to possess or use the trust firearms. Otherwise, only the registered owner can possess or use NFA weapons.” Both you and the ATF have pointed out that non-trustees can “use” your weapon as long as it remains in your sight and is returned immediately upon use.

    To add to the scare tactics, they postulate that “some gun advocates” (not nolo, of course, but “some” arbitrary other entity) speculate that a currently non-existant gun control law MIGHT just be enacted that COULD MAYBE be overcome by a trust. So, in the event that an undeclared threat to your weapons comes to pass, a trust with no provisions for said non-existant threats might just somehow save the day! In-effing-creadible!!

    • Well Chuck, that exact scenario is now occurring. Some states, I think Connecticut is the first, others sure to follow, have just enacted law that requires the surrender of so called “assault rifles” upon the death of the owner. A trust might be a way to avoid such tyranny, at least until it is declared unconstitutional, as I hope it will be.

  30. I’ve not seen any such misleading advertisements, just those offering the service of creating a gun trust.

    “…for the love of Jeebus…” Way to mock/insult the name of our Lord and every Christian who reads your column. Says much about your own character.

    Blake in Texas

  31. Your article is full of misinformation and dangerous legal advice. You are ignoring the long-term consequences and dilemmas here. You are not a legal expert simply because you submit Form 4s to the ATF. I am a defense attorney — I have no skin in the gun trust game in case you’re wondering. I have never accepted a client for a gun trust and never intend to. Prior to drafting my own gun trust, I had minimal experience with trusts, wills, and estate planning. I have probably 30 hours of research and work into my own trust now. I’ve barely scratched the surface of it. I found that gun trusts can be very complicated, depending on what you want them to do. There’s a lot more at stake than petty attorney’s fees if you screw up a gun trust.

    If you use a do-it-yourself gun trust, the ATF will still probably approve your tax stamps. That’s great in the short-term, so you can get your toys right away. There is a BIG difference between the ATF recognizing your trust and your trust actually being valid or functional at the state-level. In the mid-term, a do-it-yourself trust may not operate the way you want it to — for example, if you have multiple Trustees, what powers do they have? Do they need a majority vote to sell your NFA items or encumber your trust property? I have seen some cheap internet trusts that are completely silent on this topic.

    There can be long-term issues too and your article ignores all those problems. A poorly planned or vaguely worded trust can cause uncertainty and controversy upon your death. Do you really want your beneficiaries and heirs to squander their time and money down the road? In my opinion, you are better off paying a few hundred dollars now to foreclose those issues. I haven’t even mentioned the possibility of prosecution — if your trust is invalid, then you and your Trustees may be in illegal possession of NFA/GCA items. Admittedly, the chance of prosecution is extremely low here, but why risk it? You don’t know when Obama or the next dynasty president will change enforcement priorities.

  32. So what about Non NFA related guns in a trust or maybe a corporation. With the Bloombutt groups buying off state Legislators, could there be a distinct benefit to gun purchasing ( by legally allowed citizens) through a trust or corporation, in states like Washington, Oregon,Colorado and other states, as it regards to background checks and basic creations of gun registration? To those that have one ( a trust) what about public disclosure or not of the assets of the trust or corporation? What about Convenience and/ or privacy?

  33. I got gun trust was from lawyer in ohio it is 16 pages. it covers every thing including changing the trust
    and how to do it documents on how u need file the forms, I got call from atf they trust was in order
    now this not a reg trust at all it has in it a lot gun laws, and atf laws, I will give u some advise on things I ran into
    I got a ar 15 I want make it a smb so in the trust I had them put build and or change a wepon when I went to atf eforms I got a error the reciver was not in there data base for them take months to check. I taken a very clear pic of reciver with all the information and I sent copy if receat. this was enouf for them to add it to there data base, instesd months 24 hrs was done, appalction was accepted got control number. now gose to a exzmaner to cross check the information, I made error on first trust I uploaded some how pages was upside down, so I rescanned it. revirew it page by page then uploaded the trust, throw other one could been used just makes easyer to read. now ohio laws are changing some still being debated on. I plan keep copy of newest laws with the trust, now my understanding u get it copy it must be a certerfide copy and notazed as such,
    lastly whats not said once its apoved u must get the item engrave must have trust name, city and state on it his gose for anything gose throw atf now on my trust I got 2ed part states a copy is as good as the real one
    so I don’t have to carry the real documents with me, I got the shunk down and lamated. because the 2ed part of the trust I can do this, I was also given information on how to change the trust, part that has list of guns this be change at any time, but u must cross out all blank lines atf don’t like it open. any changes atf must be given copy of the change with in one year, as far what u need carry with u u need copy of the trust, u need copy of atf documents, a must what guns u have must be in order on trust must be right, I added the class one guns as well, I don’t know what Obama or next leader will do UN seams to have a lot say about this, gun control comes from UN not usa> as long gun trust has all the information atf will accpect it. they will inspeck that has laws in state that u are in, my appcation been in a week I was told when I got the call they done see a probems with that papper work. so hope I have first smb built once I get the ok… these ar 15 pistols
    throw light got be built right I used a two stage trigger I will also change out the flash hider to stop the recoil
    or raiseing of the gun, I got two night vistion scopes. I thinkin adding them and ammo on the trust,
    I don’t know what to expeckt UN so pushing gun control has nothing to them, we need fight it each of us
    process is not hard is a learning side for first timers gun turst wording very precise as mine has in it I can build smb guns, this was added for reason so if laws was change I still build them, Obama trying out law any new trust most of the rich have gun trust most ever thing turn in to atf throw trust now, worth investing in

  34. This “article” could have easily been written in such a way as to convey what is– and what is not– required to obtain Class 3 weapons, without disparaging the entire legal profession. Gun-rights lawyers and criminal defense attorneys work very hard to protect freedoms in this country, and to challenge government overreach and abuse. Heck, I’ve personally taken shits that have done more for civil liberties than the author of this article will probably do in his entire life. Gun trusts are an excellent way to obtain and retain Class 3 weapons. If you’re concerned about the expense, shop around. You can find them for a very reasonable cost, and– not withstanding the author’s ignorance of what trusts actually do– they can also be very helpful in estate planning if you have an expensive or sizable collection of weapons and accessories.

  35. I am also an attorney. I practice corporate law and have set up a number of business trusts – a different animal than a typical trust or Gun trust. I came to your site because I was interested in setting a gun trust up for myself but would not so so unless I was thoroughly versed in the law. Or I would seek counsel from someone more qualified.

    Just a couple of clarifications. Attorneys are not “board certified” in any particular subject matter. I am an expert on securities law as it relates to investment funds but never took “boards” to become expert. It’s just that I’ve been practicing in the field for 18 years. Every attorney must take the bar exam to be admitted to practice law. The exam consists of your state’s laws and general law as applied to all states. The only attorneys you might argue are “board certified” would be patent attorneys. They are required to take an additional exam called the Patent Bar.

    As to the issue of a real estate attorney practicing gun trust law, they ethically should not do so without the advice of expert counsel if they have no knowledge of the law. Your recourse in any instance where a trust may have been created incompetently is suing the attorney for malpractice. Complaints to the bar on the nuances of false advertising are an uphill climb. Malpractice gets everyone’s attention. The only down side is that a damage must occur before you can claim malpractice. Unfortunately for many, at that point it’s too late for that individual. But there would be a potential monetary award if the suit went in their favor. Hope this helped clarify some of the basics.

    Best regards,

    • A great many state bars have added specialization certification processes, usually requiring 5 years of substantial involvement in the practice area, peer review, and passage of a specialization exam. It’s very common for an attorney who has been certified as a specialist to be referred to as a “board certified specialist in X”. The board in question would be the State Bar Board of Legal Specialization.

  36. Thank you for posting this.

    “Attorneys” do not lie — “unscrupulous attorneys” do.

    If you EVER come across an attorney claiming something like this (that is patently FALSE) then you can file a complaint with the state licensing board.

    Attorneys in EVERY state are required under the law to advertise TRUTHFULLY or they can be censured or even disbarred. This is a fact — attorneys are required to speak truthfully in all their public matters and dealings and any dishonest professional behavior — such as advertising, or testifying in court — can get them in VERY hot water.

    I’m an attorney, and I know that you don’t need a trust to own NFA. I have been asked about it many times and I state the truth — it makes procuring them a little easier in some ways, and a little harder in others. It makes transferring them to your heirs a little easier, but an NFA trust is NOT required, nor does it confer any special rights.

  37. 1. So is it true if you don’t have a gun trust the gov can take the items if you die?
    2. Is it true if you don’t have a trust and someone else in the household uses the weapon to defend their self you are both in trouble?

  38. Seriously, a silly article. Downright laughable. Most gun trusts written by attorneys are so dirt cheap that it undercuts the premise of the entire article. Even if I sold 30 a month at $300 a piece, I’d go broke paying rent, insurance, staff, and everything else before even paying me. It would be way more trouble than it’s worth for what I make on my other cases. No attorney worth his salt would spend so much time ripping off the public for such a paltry little sum. In fact, unscrupulous attorneys would take far less time to rip you off and get more money. Most gun trust attorneys see themselves doing a service. Don’t commit a logical sampling error with a few bad eggs. The same reasoning could then be used against gun dealers with devastating results….just sayin

  39. Hmmm… I’m surprised I didn’t see this story when it first appeared. A few thoughts:

    1. I sincerely hope the author who wrote this article intended it to get people riled up. If so, he succeeded. If not, and it’s a serious rant against lawyers, he failed. Miserably.

    2. Lawyers are just like any other trade or profession in that the vast majority are honest, trustworthy and competent. In the law, just as in every other walk of life, their are always a few bad apples who give everyone else a bad name.

    3. Back to the author. Since he seems to have no respect for what lawyers do, I assume that he also does his own taxes, puts braces on his kids’ teeth (the same kids he delivered himself rather than having a doctor or midwife do it), does all the maintenance and repairs on his vehicles, and built his house by himself. If he, or a family member, ever needs surgery, or some other serious medical treatment, rather than have doctors lie to him and take his money, he will do that himself, too. I don’t think emergency appendectomies can be all that difficult to do.

  40. I also just came across this article a bit late in the game. As a Maryland resident I can honestly say that you are better off paying the lawyer and having everything set up / spelled out in detail, for both easier processing AND for “down the road” psituations. Mmaryland is jacked up with their laws, but not nearly as bad as other states (California, Connecticut, New York {more on this @hi/ hole in a second}, New ajersey, etc).

    New York’s Supreme Court has officially f’d us all….after NYC was sued by a victim of a serial killer because the cops on the subway locked themselves in the engineer’s cabin until the victim subdued the attacker, their Supreme Court determined that LEO’s had “no Constitution requirement” to actualy “protect” any of us. With that decision (a couple years ago) sudenly all patrol cars were suddenly devoid of the traditional “To Protect and Serve” statement. This means thatWE are now our first/only line of defense. As such WE, the general public, MUST MUST MUST fight for our rights to own AND carry!
    Maryland has, by policy and law, placed more rights with the criminal than the intended victim. If I defend myselfor my family with deadly force I still get arrested and charged with murder (even just “attempted”), and then, if aquited, I can still be sued Civilly by the criminal (if they survive) or their family. The police are now noothing more than a “mop up crew” and investigation service.
    NOW!!! In regards to all the lawyer comments/banter…..YES! There are “bad eggs”. But for each 1 of them there are 10’s-100’s of good/honest lawyers…….except in New Jersey, where (in my personal experiences) it seems that for every 1 good/honest lawyer there are 10’s-100’s of unscrupulous deceitful corrupt lawyers.
    The author has SOME valid points, but the rest reads as mere uneducated conjecture. I wouldnt shop at his store.
    And as to the LGS’s offering Gun Trusts…i have 1 shop that doesn’t carry their class III (unfortunately), and there are 2 (one even has Manufacturer status) that do offer the service….BUT…THEY don’t do the paperwork. They both use the same Lawfirm who has 1 Lawyer (there are 6-7 more) that ONLY handles firearms laws/ cases.

    ALWAYS READ! ALWAYS RESEARCH! ALWAYS DDO EVERYTHING BY THE BOOK, and…if possible…AALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS GO THAT 1 EXTRA STEP…. Thatway there is only a MINIMUM chance that you will get jammed up.


  41. Perhaps the ATF should be tasked with drawing up or stipulating a STANDARD format for gun trusts…so everyone is on the same page.
    And it would sure make the ATF job much easier if it was the same stock format each and every time.
    Gee…making government more efficient…what a novel idea.

  42. And barring getting rid of NFA and GCA altogether…
    how about an NFA permit/license…good for say 3-5 years…INSTANT background checks, photos, fingerprints after your first thorough background check.
    And maybe some faster system for LEOs/military. Many already have access to NFA items at work…have undergone thorough background and fingerprint checks….etc etc etc

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