Do I Need a Gun Trust?

The latest rumble in the field of estate planning is the clamor over what are called Gun Trusts.

Unfortunately, the recent concerns among firearms owners about government regulation or confiscation have fed fuel to this fire. But it is my opinion that very few gun owners need a Gun Trust.

Here’s the short summary of the subject:

The National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968 control the possession and transfer of certain weapons. Unless you own one of these restricted types of weapons, you do not need a Gun Trust. Here are the categories of weapons that are restricted:

  1. Machine Guns (full automatic weapons that fire multiple times with a single trigger pull);
  2. Sawed-off shotguns with a barrel shorter than 18” or a total length shorter than 26”
  3. Hand grenades or other explosives
  4. A rifle with a barrel shorter than 16” or an overall length shorter than 26”
  5. Silencers

If, and only if, you own one of these restricted devices, then to transfer them generally requires approval of your County Sheriff or your Chief of Police. Some sheriffs and police chiefs are less than cooperative with such transfer requests. But if the weapons are owned by a corporation or a trust, then approvals of a transfer are not required. Hence, a Gun Trust may be of assistance where such weapons are owned.

Transfers of such unconventional weapons are generally subject to a transfer tax of $200, but a transfer to a lawful heir (under a standard Will or Trust) is exempted from that transfer tax.

But the main notion to understand is that, unless a person owns weapons, explosives, or suppressors that are in one of the five categories listed, above, a Gun Trust provides no advantage or protection.

Beyond that, the only significant restriction on inheritance of firearms is that a felon or mentally incompetent person may not inherit one.  And the gun may need to be registered by the heir who receives it in the state in which he or she lives.

Finally, unless the heir picks the gun up and takes it home, it will need to be shipped by the trustee to the heir using licensed gun dealers at both ends of the shipping process.

In short, guns in a trust are handled pretty much like any other item.

Barry Peters practices law in Boise Idaho

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