Gun Control Laws Are Under Unparalleled Scrutiny – How This May Impact Your Estate Plan if You Own Guns

With the unfortunate rise of mass shootings and school shootings, the federal gun law and Maryland state laws face new scrutiny. With strong arguments made for both sides, the issue has many levels of complexity in part because the right to bear arms is entrenched in the second amendment of the US Constitution. If you own guns, you have a responsibility as part of your estate planning process to ensure those guns are transferred after your death to someone who qualifies to receive them by law.

Qualifications for Purchase/Ownership

The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), which regulates firearms at the federal level, requires that citizens and legal residents must be at least 18 years of age to purchase shotguns or rifles and ammunition. All other firearms — handguns, for example — can only be sold to people 21 and older.

Potential firearm purchasers fill out a federal form known as the ATF 4473, which checks for prior convictions and other red flags. People with prior felony convictions that include a prison sentence exceeding one year, or misdemeanors carrying sentences of more than two years, are also prohibited from purchasing firearms. These laws refer to purchasing guns from commercial sellers and do not apply to someone who is obtaining a firearm from an individual whether it’s a purchase, inheritance or outright gift.

Permit Requirements

Permit requirements are state specific and Maryland operates on a “May Issue” policy for issuing a permit to carry certain types of guns. There is no permit requirement to carry rifles or shotguns. The “May Issue” policy means you must show good cause as to why you should have a permit and supply documentation to confirm your reasons for a permit to be issued.

Gun Trusts

The complexities surrounding gun laws and the transfer of ownership require consulting a knowledgeable attorney.  If you own firearms and plan to designate ownership of those guns to another individual after your death, then a properly drafted Gun Trust will ensure the weapons are properly distributed to the new owner(s).

Experienced Maryland estate planning attorneys know how to draft gun trusts using required language that shows the gun trust has every intention of complying with the Gun Control Act and National Firearms Act.

It is recommended to create a gun trust, whether revocable or irrevocable, as a separate trust and not incorporated into another trust.

Contact Stouffer Legal at 443-470-3599 in the Greater Baltimore area for more information on creating a gun trust to ensure your guns are safely and properly transferred to appropriate owners after your death.