Gun trusts have become very popular in recent years as a way for individuals and families to own weapons regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA). People have discovered the ease, flexibility and convenience of the trust as an alternative to individual registration, and this growing interest is reflected in the number of trusts being set up and in the increasing wait times for ATF approval. However, there is still a great deal of mystery surrounding trusts, and as a gun trust attorney I have many prospective clients approach me who are still not sure how these documents work. This article will answer some frequently asked questions about Mississippi gun trusts, and hopefully clear up some of the confusion.
What law or laws authorize the use of gun trusts in Mississippi?
Mississippi trust laws are found in Title 91, Chapter 9 of the Mississippi Code Annotated. This section covers the requirements for forming, executing, and filing a trust, as well as duties of trustees and distribution of trust property. Additionally, Mississippi Code 97-37-1 authorizes the possession of NFA weapons such as short barreled rifles and silencers.
Do I have to file my Mississippi gun trust?
Yes. Under the trust law I just mentioned, all trusts in Mississippi must be filed in the Chancery Court of the county where you live.
How exactly does a Mississippi gun trust work?
To understand how gun trusts work, you first have to understand the NFA and its registration requirements. Federal law requires all NFA weapons to be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. It also mandates that only the registered owner of that weapon may legally possess it. Giving or selling that weapon to an unregistered user is a federal crime. With a gun trust, though, anyone listed in the trust as trustee may legally possess that weapon. The weapon is not registered to one particular person, but to the trust.
At a minimum, the trust has to have a grantor and a beneficiary to be valid. The grantor is who establishes the trust, and the beneficiary is who inherits the trust property when the grantor dies. A trust typically also has trustees, individuals who may “hold” the trust property until the beneficiary receives it. In an NFA trust, this means that trustees may legally possess NFA weapons that are in the trust.
Is it true that you get to skip the requirements of getting fingerprinted and having your chief law enforcement officer sign your ATF form?
Yes. Fingerprints and CLEO signature are not required with a trust.
Does everyone who is in the trust go through a background check?
No, only the grantor. Trustees’ names are not listed on the ATF form, and the Bureau does not run checks on them. Essentially, everyone is on the honor system. My trusts explicitly state that everyone must be eligible to possess firearms, and must keep them only in a jurisdiction that allows NFA weapons. Should a trustee become ineligible, he/she must be removed from the trust and must return any weapons in their possession to the grantor.
Is it a good idea for me to have a trust?
It depends on your particular situation, but generally yes. A Mississippi gun trust is revocable, meaning you can make changes to it at any time in the future. It is yours for life. You never know what your needs will be in the future, so it’s a good idea to have the flexibility that a gun trust offers.
Patrick Stegall is a Mississippi gun trust lawyer. If you are thinking about buying a Title 2 NFA weapon like a short-barreled rifle or suppressor, contact Mr. Stegall to discuss establishing a trust. He can advise you on NFA laws and create a personalized trust for you and your family. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (901) 205-9894.