Use a Gun Trust to Purchase and Own NFA Weapons
The most commonly owned NFA weapons are silencers and fully automatic firearms. Many people think that these weapons are illegal to own in the United States, but the truth is that they're perfectly legal to own. They just have a complex and arduous registration process. NFA weapons are regulated Federally and by the States. Some States limit or outright ban the ownership of certain types of NFA firearms. The complexity of the registration process and the penalties for being in possession of one of these weapons without proper registration (a felony with a possible 10 year prison sentence) has kept many people from even attempting to own these kinds of weapons. A NFA gun trust is used to simplify the registration process and protect your ownership of these kinds of weapons and to provide for the distribution of these weapons upon your death through the estate planning tool of a NFA gun trust.
What is a Gun Trust?
A gun trust is a legal trust that is specifically designed to acquire and own NFA weapons. NFA weapons are heavily regulated firearms at both the Federal and State levels. It is perfectly legal to own NFA weapons in the vast majority of states, but they must first be properly registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The application process is somewhat complex and NFA Gun Trusts are used to simplify the ATF application process, protect the eventual users of the NFA firearms, and provide an effective way to pass along your guns after your death. You must be a United States citizen in order to own a silencer for your gun, fully automatic firearm, Short-Barreled Rifle (SBR), or Short-Barreled Shotgun (SBS or sawed off shotgun). There are basically two different ways to acquire these firearms: by making them or by having a Class 3 dealer transfer one to you (by buying it at a gun store). There is a different application form that must be submitted to the ATF depending on whether the intended owner makes the NFA firearms or purchases it (and needs it transferred). ATF Form 5320-1 is required to make and register a NFA firearm and ATF Form 5320-4 is required to purchase (and have transferred to you) a NFA firearm. Each application form lists all of the requirements and instructions for the registration of the NFA firearm. On January 4, 2016 the ATF passed a new regulation that goes into effect in June, 2016 that will require applicants to provide a photograph, fingerprints, and the name and location of the trust. This form will be available from the ATF website shortly before the new regulation (ATf 41F) goes into effect.
What Are Title II / NFA Weapons?
Title II weapons are machine guns, short barreled rifles (SBR), short barreled shotguns (SBS), silencers (suppressors), AOWs (Any Other Weapon - as specifically defined by statute), and destructive devices. These firearms are federally regulated in the United States by the National Firearms Act (they are known as NFA weapons or Title II weapons because they are regulated pursuant to Title II of the Gun Control Act of 1968 - which technically recodified the earlier enacted National Firearms Act by incorporating it as Title II of the Gun Control Act). Sometimes these weapons are known as Class 3 weapons because a gun dealer must possess a Class 3 Federal Firearms License (FFL) in order to sell NFA firearms.
Ways to Register Your NFA Weapons
There are a few ways to register with the ATF: as an individual, as a corporation/LLC, or as a trust. The ATF passed a regulation in January, 2016 that affects the registration process for all individuals and entities. This regulation goes into affect in June, 2016. Until June, 2016, if you register as an individual, you will have to submit fingerprints and a passport style photograph along with your application. You will also have to go talk to the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) in your area and get his signature that approves your purchase of a NFA weapon. Until June, 2016, through a NFA Gun Trust you do not have to submit fingerprints, passport style photographs, or obtain CLEO certification. As of June, 2016, you have to comply with the new requirements for NFA gun trusts described here.
Advantages of Owning NFA Weapons with a Secure Gun Trust
With a NFA gun trust you can create a legal entity that owns your NFA guns instead of a person. It is the NFA gun trust that registers with the ATF rather than individuals. With a NFA gun trust you can name trustees who all share the right to possess and control the NFA firearms. If an individual registered their NFA firearms with the ATF then they could not let any other individuals use it. Each individual who wanted to use a NFA firearms would have to separately register with the ATF and pay a $200 transfer tax.
With a NFA gun trust, individuals can collectively purchase, possess, and control NFA firearms through the use of the gun trust and just have to pay one $200 transfer tax. Until June, 2016, with a NFA gun trust, you do not need to provide fingerprints, a photograph, or get CLEO approval to send in your application like you must provide if registering as an individual. After June, 2016, ATF regulation 41F will go into effect and have the following affects.
With a NFA gun trust, you can list the people you want to be able to use the NFA weapon as Trustees so that they can have equal rights of use and possession of the NFA firearms. With a NFA gun trust, you do not need to register the trust with the State and pay filing fees as you would for a corporation or LLC. A trust is a completely private document. A NFA gun trust offers you anonymity from the government and protection for your loved ones. Additionally, a NFA gun trust provides a discreet and safe way to pass on your NFA weapons outside the court system upon your death.
If You Use a Generic Trust
If you use a trust that was not specifically designed to hold NFA weapons it could have disastrous consequences. Many people have used generic trust templates, which can get ATF approval. However, those generic trusts were not designed to hold NFA weapons. Those trusts would simply pass along the NFA items to your beneficiaries after your death even though it would cause your beneficiaries to be committing a felony. Furthermore, those trusts were not designed with the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act of 1968 in mind - and simply do not provide the protection that a NFA specific gun trust offers.
The Secure Gun Trust was designed and built from the ground up by an attorney specifically for owning NFA weapons in trust. This is a trust that was designed to be the most protective gun trust available. The trust contains language specifically referencing the National Firearms Act and Gun Control Act of 1968. The trust was designed to pass your weapons to your chosen beneficiaries upon your death, but in a way that does not put the beneficiaries at risk of committing a crime by receiving NFA weapons. You can read more about what the best gun trust for your needs is here.