GUN TRUSTS: PROPER AND LEGAL TRANSFER OF FIREARMS

LEGALLY DELICATE AREA OF THE LAW

This blog explored the topic of gun trusts in the past and it is high time to reexamine the matter in some more detail. While it is probably true that most people with a fairly sizable gun collection are hunters and gun enthusiasts, that is certainly not the only class of firearm collectors. History buffs and historical reenactors collect also amass a large collection of firearms. They often loan these items to museums or traveling exhibits rather than use them for hunting or skeet or target shooting.

Many times these rifles hold a lot of sentimental value as it may have been through the Battle of the Bulge or Iwo Jima or have some similar family value. Possessing a firearm, whether it is a historical piece from the Revolutionary War or a hunting rifle, can be a federal as well as a state felony if the transfer is not properly documented or held by a certain class of individuals. In either event, however, the government creates laws regulating the transfer and ownership of firearms. New York has the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY SAFE Act), while the federal government has the US Gun Control Act as well as the National Firearms Act, which is actually part of the tax code.

TRANSFER OF GUNS IN NEW YORK PROBATE

The NY SAFE Act bars the executor of an estate from transferring a firearm without a probate Judge’s permission. More specifically, the law gives the executor 15 days to hand the firearms over to law enforcement for safe keeping. The executor has up to two years from transferring the firearms to the law enforcement agency to obtain the permission of the Probate Judge to transfer the firearm(s). Some police departments in New York have even taken to cross referencing death records and gun permits and going to the home of a deceased to collect their guns if an executor did not do so already. As a result of these issues, gun trusts are fast becoming a specialised popular estate planning tool for gun owners and enthusiasts. Business entities can obtain a firearms permit in New York (and across the country).

Transferring the guns to a gun trust or a corporation, provided it is properly documented and reported, allows families, friends or even the public at large if there are historical firearms that are on loan to a museum, to enjoy the use of the firearm. Furthermore, they are not subject to seizure by the local law enforcement, thus avoiding a run in with police officers at a time when emotions can be raw. This will also be a relief to police officers who no doubt would prefer to leave people to mourn rather than worry about collecting firearms. Letting a trust or some business entity to control the disposition of a firearm collection also avoids the larger public proceedings of probate. It should be noted, however, that in New York, the documentation regarding the transfer of the firearms is not part of public record in probate proceedings.  

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