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How the ATF’s New Rules Affect Your Next Firearms Purchase

Thursday, 25 February 2016

by Brendan Bybee, JD MPA



On January 15, 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) published new rules affecting the transfer of firearms regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA). These changes have been on the horizon for a while now and will go into effect July 13, 2016. The new rules represent significant changes to how you buy and sell your regulated firearms and may influence when and how you make your next firearms purchase.

What if you don’t have a gun trust?

If you don’t have a gun trust, you may want to wait until after the rules go into effect before your next NFA regulated firearms purchase. Under current rules, the purchase of a regulated firearm by an individual requires signed certification of your local “chief law enforcement officer” (CLEO). This requirement has long been a big driver for gun trust purchases because it effectively gives your local CLEO veto power over your purchases, putting you at the mercy of your CLEO’s personal philosophy. Once the new rules are in force, you will only be required to send notice of your purchase to your local CLEO, cutting out a big obstacle in the process. As always, individual purchases will require submitting passport photos and fingerprints.

How will the new rules affect my gun trust?

Though the new rules diminish some of the advantages we’ve become accustomed to, we still recommend owning and purchasing regulated firearms in a gun trust. Like individual purchases, your trust will need to submit notice of your purchases with the local CLEO. Trusts will also be required to submit photos and fingerprints of all “responsible persons,” which is understood to mean all acting trustees. This will add time and expense to the process and diminish some of the privacy benefits previously enjoyed with gun trusts. As compared with purchasing as an individual, trust purchases will be slightly more burdensome to the extent that your trust has multiple trustees. However, submission of photos and fingerprints will cover all purchase applications by your trust for the next two years, assuming there is no change in the composition of trustees.

Even though the process of purchasing is changing, the reasons for owning your firearms in a properly drafted gun trust remain the same. Laws regarding possession of regulated firearms are notoriously strict and the penalties steep. Gun trusts provide a means to safely manage and share experiences with your personal firearm collection without risking unintended felonies. Your gun trust also ensures that your firearms can be managed by someone you trust in the event of your incapacity and distributed upon your death without implicating ATF transfer regulations. Because the laws and regulations affecting possession and transfer of regulated firearms are so thorny it is critical that you treat these assets differently than your other property and make a gun trust a part of a comprehensive estate plan.

Get your gun trust now!

If you set up a gun trust before the rules take effect, you can take advantage of the current rules applying to trusts. You just need to make sure any ATF application for a firearms purchase is postmarked before July 13, 2016. Unlike purchasing as an individual, purchasing regulated firearms through a gun trust under current rules requires neither notice nor certification from your local CLEO. Additionally, timely applications won’t require photographs or fingerprints of the trustees. ATF applications are likely to take much longer after the new rules take effect given the bureaucratic learning curve associated with new rules and the additional submission requirements. If you have been contemplating a purchase, you should take advantage of the old rules while you still can. Spaulding Law can help. Click here to get started on your gun trust.

This information is made available by Spaulding Law for educational purposes only and not to provide legal advice. By using this website, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and Spaulding Law, unless you have entered into a separate representation agreement. This information should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.

Driving Directions from I-15:
• Take the Pleasant Grove exit 275 from I-15
• Turn North onto Pleasant Grove Blvd
• Turn left onto W. Grove Pkwy
• Quickly turn left into the Synergy/Spaulding Law parking lot.