A Gun Trust is a trust specifically established to purchase, own, and convey firearms at the grantor’s death. Gun Trusts are usually established to purchase “Title II firearms”, which include, but are not limited to machine guns, short-barreled rifles, and silencers. In order to transfer a Title II firearm, the ATF needs (among other information) fingerprints and a photograph of the transferee, and the signature of the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) of the jurisdiction in which the transferee resides. The CLEO signature can be particularly burdensome to get, sometimes impossible. When an entity such as an LLC, corporation, or trust purchases a Title II firearm, no photograph, fingerprints, or CLEO signature are required. A trust is the entity of choice because no annual fees are required as with an LLC or corporation. Because the ATF does less investigatory work with a Gun Trust than an individual, the ATF tends to approve transfers much quicker. Furthermore, when an individual purchases a Title II weapon, the owner must possess it at all times; thus, the owner cannot lend it to his brother, spouse, or anyone else. With a gun trust, the trust can have multiple trustees (which are the legal owners); thus, multiple people can possess the Title II weapon. The grantor of the trust can amend the trust as to add or remove trustees at anytime.
For example, Johnny wants to buy a silencer to use on his rifle to hunt with. Because Johnny doesn’t want to send the government his fingerprints, photograph, and get a CLEO signature, he settles a Gun Trust. He intends to let his brother use the silencer also, so he makes his brother a co-trustee also. Johnny uses the Gun Trust to purchase the silencer. Later, Johnny gets married, and his wife wants to use the silencer, so he amends the trust (as fairly simple act) to add his wife as another co-trustee.
Although a simple concept, Gun Trusts must follow both state trust law and federal gun transfer law, both of which contain many nuances. The slightest discrepancy in the trust document can make you and/or those who use the trust’s weapons criminals. It may be tempting to use an internet program to settle a gun trust, but you should seek advice from a lawyer well versed with gun trusts in order to unintentionally violate federal law.