Individual gun ownership as a hobby and a method of self defense and the preservation of this fundamental freedom is one of the most important and most American rights we have given to us by God. The United States Constitution as well as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania specifically recognizes that the Government will not infringe on that right.
In the ever changing political climate, gun owners are often the target of false caricatures. In all my years of attending gun shows, gun bashes and dealing with the gun owning public, I have never felt more calm than around other gun owners. Individual gun ownership, in my opinion, is the freedom enshrined to protect all the other freedoms we hold dear. I do not take this responsibility lightly and work with clients to fulfill their needs both as collectors and to ensure that they are adequately informed as to their rights and obligations.
To that end, a Gun Trust is a specific asset trust designed with the sole purpose of owning and protecting all manner of firearms and firearm accessories. This includes Class III restricted weapons as well as traditional long guns and handguns. However, over the past few years a number of lawyers and companies have produced inferior trusts which are not written correctly or have glaring issues such as funding or lacking beneficiaries. These incomplete or incorrect trusts put the members of the trust at risk of losing their possessions or being prosecuted. Below I have laid out a few common issues which I can address.
I am worried that my trust is not valid or has mistakes.
I frequently get calls from clients who wish to have me review their Trusts that were produced by a company, other lawyer, or that they created themselves with forms found on the internet. Almost always these Trusts have issues, some of which are severe enough to invalidate the Trust. While I appreciate that all people have the ability to create and alter Trusts, this does not mean that everyone is capable of doing so correctly. With a normal asset Trust this means that beneficiaries may lose their benefit, with a Gun Trust this may mean that everyone in the Trust is subject to severe criminal penalties including a 10 year mandatory felony for violations. While many Trust mistakes are minor, any major mistake is enough to cause the Trust to be declared invalid and may trigger criminal penalties as well as civil remedies.
If/when suppressors are removed from the National Firearms Act can I still use a trust?
Yes. The trusts I write are designed with changes to the law in mind. If the suppressors are removed from the National Firearms Act (NFA) completely and the individual states are left to decide how to handle them and Pennsylvania treats them like any other firearm then they will be put into the schedule just like any other asset. The benefits of the trust will still remain including the named beneficiary/beneficiaries you have chosen and the private passage of your firearms, including the suppressors.
Someone told me that a Trust can only have one member, beneficiary, etc?
This is outright wrong. A Pennsylvania Trust must have a creator (Trustor) and a defined beneficiary who is to receive the assets. There are additional requirements but there is no one person limitation in Pennsylvania. If you are told this by someone trying to sell a 'Trust' move on
I was told that a Trust will give me a Class III/NFA license?
There is no such thing as a 'Class III license' or 'NFA license'. You are eligible to purchase Class III/NFA firearms by submitting the proper paperwork either as an individual, Trust or other entity. There is no license.