Recently, I have noticed a growing number of clients asking about “gun trusts.” So, what is a gun trust, and how does it fit into an overall estate plan?

First, a little history. What most people mean when they ask about a gun trust is a special trust created to protect and manage firearms that fall under the jurisdiction of the National Firearms Act of 1934 (the NFA). These firearms are also sometimes referred to as Title II firearms. Congress enacted the law after a series high profile crimes committed in the 1930’s by heavily armed bootleggers and bank robbers, In this vein, the NFA regulates items like silencers, short barrel rifles and shotguns (SBR, SBS), and fully automatic weapons.

The current incarnation of the NFA is regulated and enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (the BATFE). To purchase or transfer a weapon that falls under the remit of this act requires a complicated and lengthy application process that includes a full background check, fingerprinting of the applicant, and the approval of the applicant’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) in their jurisdiction.

To a law abiding citizen that wants to purchase an NFA regulated item, the process can be extremely frustrating. The BATFE has made a habit of denying applications with little or no explanation. Even here in Texas, many CLEO’s refuse to sign off on a NFA application for ANY reason, and there is no legal or administrative function that compels them to do so. Additionally, many gun owners are reluctant to give up their privacy by getting a CLEO signoff.

Enter the gun trust. Using a carefully drafted gun trust can avoid many of the negatives in the NFA application, as well as providing for long-term protections for yourself and your valuable assets. In later posts, I’ll discuss the gun trust as it pertains to NFA firearms and why you might want one of these, how a trust can work with long term planning for these assets, as well as the advantages of putting non Title II firearms into a trust.

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