Imagine you were invited on a SHWAT™ tactical hog hunt with the founders. Our guide is Bill Wilson at his Circle WC Ranch, and since he’s supplying the guns they are going to be equipped with suppressors. Yes, this is going to be a good time!
Before the evening hunt, Bill takes us over to his range where we’re going to work on precision shots on hog targets. We head out that night, and you take your first hog using the suppressed rifle. Your conclusion after shooting nothing but that suppressed rifle that day? “Gotta have a silencer!” Or maybe two or three! But how? You’ve heard you have to deal with the ATF, that you’ll have to get permission from various levels of government, and there’s a rumor you heard a few years ago that suppressors on guns might be illegal for mere civilians…
You might just need a gun trust. It’s true that silencers, also correctly called suppressors, aren’t something you can just pick up at your local gun store with a box of ammo and some eye protection. The Federal government’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) regulates these and other NFA (National Firearms Act) items like short barreled rifles (SBRs). The BATFE (or “ATF”) also requires payment of a $200 tax stamp along with an application to obtain a Title II firearm, silencer or other regulated item.
Perhaps one of the best ways to facilitate legal possession or transfer of silencers is through a gun trust. But not all trusts are the same. In this case, what you don’t know could seriously create problems, both for you and for those affected by your Trust. To ensure accuracy in this article, we asked the founder of GunTrustLawyer.com attorney David Goldman to contribute content for this article.
Let’s start with the basics. What is gun trust, and how does it work? A Gun Trust is an estate planning document that has been designed to help you acquire, manage, use, and transfer firearms including those restricted by the NFA while protecting your family and friends from inadvertent violations of state and federal laws.
Here’s how it works: Imagine you’re a young child, traveling around the neighborhood with your little red wagon. The wagon is your gun trust. You are in control of the wagon, you decided what goes in and comes out of it, and as time goes on, the wagon is filled to the brim with your important possessions. You pull the handle; you decide where the wagon goes and what to do with the items that are inside. If you stumble or something happens that causes you to drop the handle, your wagon keeps all of your possessions safe. With a trust, like your wagon, all of your items are protected if you are injured or cannot direct the wagon yourself. If someone else needs to take over and help you, they will know what to do with the wagon because the rules of the trust are clear; all they need to do is pick up the handle and continue. Memorializing your rules and desires in a trust agreement between you and your friends or family members makes this possible.
One of the reasons gun trusts are very popular when it comes to acquiring silencers and other NFA items is this: Trusts are often used because, unlike individuals, they are not required to obtain permission from their local Chief Law Enforcement Officer (“CLEO”), or to submit fingerprints and photographs. Many CLEO’s refuse to sign off on these applications regardless of who is asking for the permission to purchase the silencer or other NFA item. This, despite the fact that according to the American Silencer Association thirty-nine states allow for silencer ownership. A gun trust simplifies your acquisitions.
Now you know that gun trusts can be far more valuable than merely a way to facilitate the ownership of NFA (National Firearms Act) controlled items. However, not all gun trusts are equal. Some trusts used to acquire and hold NFA items have not held up to BATFE scrutiny landing unwitting folks in hot water, a situation no one wants to be in. Beyond that, properly constructed trusts can also serve the more traditional roles of passing along your firearms (NFA or otherwise), silencers, etc. to others.
While expediting the NFA item application process is often one of the primary motivating factors in the creation of a gun trust, a properly executed trust can accomplish much more. In the past, gun trusts did not protect firearms from the claims of creditors, but that has recently changed with the new Asset Protection Gun Trust. This includes liability from professional negligence, car accidents, lawsuits, investor suits, bankruptcy, and can even be structured to protect from loss due to a divorce or the need for government health care assistance such as organ transplants or nursing home coverage.
Sounds complex, right? Well, in what some might consider an unusual twist of fate, this is where using a lawyer (or a lawyer’s tools!) can actually simplify things. If you can fill in the blanks, you can create your own gun trust online in less than ten minutes. Attorney David Goldman created GunTrust.com as a simple quick way where those of us mere humans could leverage his expertise. After you fill in the blanks and pay $349, you download your gun trust.
Once you’ve run a silencer, shooting without one seems a bit off base. Now you have a starting point for the process of acquiring one, or an SBR or other NFA item. Of course, you need to check local and state laws, and remember that SHWAT™ is the center of gravity for tactical hog hunting, not a law firm. This information is not a substitute for legal advice or that of an attorney. The information here is for your education only. Other great resources online include www.SilencersAreLegal.com and www.AmericanSilencerAssociation.com.