Gun Planning for Grownups

Posted on: December 19th, 2013
Changes in the law cause many gun owners to worry that family ownership of firearms is in danger.  Like in most areas of life, those concerned might benefit from creative planning.  A gun owner can redefine what a “transfer” is and even the concept of “possession”… key terms to understand in applying gun law to accomplish personal goals.

Two tools exist that are often expressly written to help gun owners, the “Gun Trust” and the “Gun LLC.”  Each is a special version of mainstream planning tools used in estate and business planning.  They can be combined to provide a variety of benefits for ongoing ownership of firearms.

First, let’s look at what most gun owners use to plan for their firearms collection, the revocable Gun Trust. Generally, a revocable gun trust:
  • May own conventional guns, personal property, cash, etc.
  • May own NFA firearms
  • Provides guidance on possession and transfer of ALL firearms… with specific guidance on NFA licensed firearms
  • Serves as an estate plan for firearms, covering the possibility of legal incapacity or death
  • Is simple to change
  • Is a person under the National Firearms Act, but is NOT a person under Title I of the gun control act (requiring a resident person to take possession of certain firearms in a particular state)
Next, let’s see what a purpose-built Gun LLC can generally accomplish…
  • May own conventional guns, personal property, ash, etc.
  • May own NFA firearms
  • Can serve as a vault for firearms – a creditor protection vault from ex-spouses, plaintiffs, etc.
  • Can have a manager or managers, officers, employees, multiple members, one member, or just members with none of the foregoing!
  • Is relatively easy to change
  • Can be used in multiple states
  • Can be perpetual… thereby preventing future “transfers” of any firearms owned by the LLC, because it won’t die with you
  • IS a person under both Titles of the Gun Control Act (GCA).  Title I is “State Firearms Control Assistance” and Title II is the “National Firearms Act”.  This means that an LLC can purchase firearms, both conventional and NFA, anywhere it is registered to do business.  A “person” must sign a 4473 to purchase a handgun from a dealer, for example, and an LLC meets the definition of “person” under both Titles of the GCA.
There are substantial benefits in using both entities to create a flexible and easy way for you to acquire, possess, and transfer your firearms to your children or other beneficiaries.  “Sharing” is part of the gun owner culture, but having a legal framework in which to do so provides far greater safety. 

However, there are a couple of things to consider.  First, firearms are not like other kinds of property in that they are heavily regulated by federal and state law in terms of possession and transfer.  Second, there are hefty criminal and civil liability penalties with these issues, in addition to liability for criminal or negligent use.  Third, many people set up these entities using generic or Internet forms which do not mention firearms law at all… an incredibly risky thing to do.  Finally, even with the best documents in place… some people ignore what the documents require them to do. 

Firearms are important tools of freedom and have a great deal of meaning to many individuals and families.  For those proactive enough to do some planning, firearms can be owned, used, shared, enjoyed… and passed on to future generations.
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