Here are a few of the most common questions I receive about NFA (National Firearms Act of 1934) firearms and NFA gun trusts:
If I’m carrying an NFA firearm in Florida, and am stopped by a LEO (law enforcement officer), what do I need to produce to prove that I legally possess that item?
Technically, you have no obligation to prove ownership to a police officer, sheriff, deputy, or FWC officer. Only the ATF and perhaps the IRS have the legal authority to demand to see your tax stamp. But, unless you potentially want to spend a night in jail, common sense dictates that you produce a copy of your tax stamp. That’s all that’s required. You don’t have to carry around a copy of your trust. (Although, I do have several clients who store a copy of their trust and their tax stamps in the cloud so they can access them if absolutely necessary). Keep your original tax stamps somewhere safe, put a copy in your binder, and keep a copy with the weapon AT ALL TIMES.
I’m at a range with friends and my NFA regulated weapons are present. Can my friends legally handle and fire those items?
As long as your have your tax stamp in your possession and the weapons are within a few feet of you, you can share away. This is true whether your NFA weapons are in a trust or not. However, if none of those people are named as current trustees in your NFA firearm trust document, the law is strict – within your presence means within your presence. As long as those NFA weapons are where someone who isn’t legally authorized can touch them, you can’t leave the immediate area to go to the bathroom, buy more ammo, or grab something from your car.
I have a friend who I know is a responsible non-NFA gun owner. He’d like to use one of the NFA regulated firearms in my trust for an afternoon at the range when I cannot attend. My brother has also asked me whether he can take it on a hunting trip if I’m not with him. Can I let them borrow an NFA firearm that’s in my trust?
It depends on how your NFA firearm trust document is written. Some are written to allow the Grantor/Trustee (you) to appoint a temporary special trustee and lifetime beneficiary. This person can possess and use the trust property for a certain period of time while you’re still alive, but has no power to sell or otherwise transfer the property and has no power over the trust document. Other trusts make no provisions for a special trustee. Consult with the attorney who drafted your gun trust to see if it’s allowed and what you’d have to do to make it legal.
Of course, NFA firearms that are owned by individuals – not trusts – can never be loaned to anyone who isn’t a couple of feet away from the registered owner.
What are the legal risks to the trust and to me if there is a mishap involving a NFA weapon?
Most NFA firearm trusts are revocable living trusts, which means the trust provides absolutely no liability protection to you or anyone using any of the guns – NFA firearm or not. If you loaned the firearm to someone else, you’ll probably be sued. To protect yourself, do your due diligence and make sure the person you loan any weapon to isn’t a criminal and doesn’t have a history of carelessness, drug or alcohol abuse (remember – medical and recreational marijuana users are prohibited from possessing any guns), anger issues, domestic violence, etc).