As most people are aware, and gun owners should be aware, the transfer of guns is regulated under Federal and State law. Due to some restrictions, ownership in and providing for the transfer of guns by a Trust may be beneficial.
Under Federal law, “Title I” firearms include handguns, rifles and shotguns with normal barrels and “Title II” firearms include suppressors (silencers), short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, machine guns, destructive devices, and various other weapons. Although the transfer of “Title I” weapons to a person other than a “prohibited person” can be handled in Missouri easily and by a Bill of Sale, the transfer of “Title II” weapons require payment of a $200.00 Federal tax per weapon, as well as registration of each weapon transfer. A transfer of a “Title II” weapon is not made without that registration.
Under Federal and State law, some people are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. A “prohibited person” includes a person convicted of a crime that was punishable by a prison terms exceeding one (1) year (generally, any felony), a fugitive from justice, a person who unlawfully uses or is addicted to a controlled substance, a person adjudicated to have a mental defect, a person dishonorably discharged from the military, a person who is subject to a restraining order, or a person convicted of domestic violence. A transfer to a “prohibited person” is unlawful, and also may result in the loss of the firearm.
Should the owner of firearms own them in a Trust? There may be several reasons to consider that option. First, a Trust can offer more flexibility during the owner’s lifetime. For instance, if the friend of an owner of “Title II” firearm requests the opportunity to borrow the firearm, that loan is a “transfer” subject to all of the Federal registration requirements and payment of the tax. Similarly, the return of the firearm to the owner is subject to each of the same. A Trust, however, may offer a means for two or more people to share ownership of firearm, avoiding the transfer restrictions.
Second, a Trust can offer more flexibility following the owner’s death. It can avoid a transfer to a “prohibited person”, which may require loss and destruction of the firearm, and possibly preserve the firearm to be available to the intended beneficiary at a time that the intended beneficiary is no longer prohibited from owning or having possession of the firearm. It may also provide a means to avoid re-registration if the firearm continues to be owned in the Trust.
If you own firearms and desire that they be distributed to family members, and also desire to protect them from being accidentally distributed to a “prohibited person”, you may wish to consider assuring that the firearms are assets of a Trust and that the Trust terms properly provide for the protection desired by you. If you are the Trustee of a Trust, with the fiduciary duty to distribute assets of the Trust that include firearms, you will need guidance to assure compliance with State and Federal laws regulating the transfer of any such firearms.
At the Thurman Law Firm, we have attorneys who are familiar with these laws and ready to assist you, either prepare a Trust, or to administer an estate or Trust.
Floyd T. Norrick