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What are “NFA” Firearms/Devices?
The National Firearms Act of 1934 (“NFA” for short) is a set of federal laws that taxes and regulates the creation and transfer of certain types of firearms, as well as suppressors (“silencers”) and “destructive devices.”
The firearms covered by the NFA include:
- Silencers (any device designed to muffle of reduce the report of a firearm)
- Machineguns (any firearm that fires more than one shot with a single trigger activation)
- Short-barreled rifles (any rifle with a barrel under 16 inches or total length under 26 inches)
- Short-barreled shotguns (any shotgun with a barrel under 18 inches or total length under 26 inches)
- Any Other Weapon” (AOW) – has a broad definition, but most commonly refers to firearms hidden inside an enclosure that disguises its true nature, such as a “cane gun.”
- “Destructive Device” refers to a firearm (other than shotguns) greater than .50 caliber, or an explosive missile with more than 1/4oz of charge.
Are these legal to own in Virginia?
Nearly all NFA items are legal to possess in Virginia, provided that they are properly transferred to and owned pursuant to federal law. The only enumerated exception in Virginia law is the Striker 12 shotgun (a drum-fed shotgun sometimes called a “streetsweeper”) which may not be possessed or transferred in Virginia.
Machineguns (only) must be registered with the Virginia State Police within 24 hours of their acquisition. The Virginia State Police provide a form for this registration, and the dealer from which you acquire a machinegun will likely have it available and submit it for you.
What is a trust and why would I use one to acquire NFA items?
A “trust” is a legal entity, like a corporation, that is recognized as having its own legal “personhood” under the Internal Revenue Code. Because the NFA is a tax law at its core, a trust is a legal “person” to which NFA items may be transferred.
In most cases, you (or you and your spouse) will be the “Settlor” of the trust, the one(s) that actually create the trust and put property – in this case NFA items – into it. The NFA trust will be a “revocable” trust, one which you may add and remove items to and from during your lifetime, and which you will control during your lifetime.
Individuals (i.e., human beings) may acquire NFA items in their own names. A trust offers a number of significant advantages, including the ability to have permanent or temporary "co-trustees" who may be authorized users of the NFA items in the trust.
A trust also allows you to grant unsupervised use and access to the NFA items by others as you see fit, which is not possible with an individually owned NFA item. Finally, the NFA trust allows you to protect and direct the disposition and custody of these items when you pass away or in the event you become incapacitated.
Can wife/child/cousin/friend be “on the trust” as well to allow them to access and use the NFA items?
Yes, any adult (over 18) who may otherwise possess firearms legally may be authorized under your trust to possess and use its NFA items. You should carefully consider, however, who should be given this authority. In addition, under new regulations effective July 13, 2016, any person who is a trustee at the time an application to transfer or make a NFA item is submitted must submit fingerprints and photographs. We can discuss how to handle this issue during your initial telephone consultation.
Do I have to record or register my trust with any court or state agency, or pay an annual fee?
In Virginia, there is no requirement to register or record your trust, nor is any annual fee required to maintain it. This is one of the advantages of using a trust (as opposed to a corporate entity) to own NFA items.
What happens to the NFA items in my trust when I die or become incapacitated?
You get to control all of these scenarios via your trust, and Virginia Gun Trusts will discuss these issues with you prior to creating your trust. You may name one or more successor trustees, for example, to control the trust property if you die or become incapacitated, and hold it until your designated beneficiaries are ready to receive the NFA items. You may direct that the items be given to your children once they are of legal age, direct that they be liquidated for your benefit if you become incapacitated, be donated to the NRA … it’s entirely up to you.
How much does it cost to have Virginia Gun Trusts create a trust for me, and what do I get?
Virginia Gun Trusts charges a flat fee of $400.00. This includes an initial telephone consultation to gather information and discuss the client’s needs and wishes, drafting of the trust and schedules, and an in-person meeting to review and execute/notarize the trust and answer any questions. There are no extra or "add-on" charges for printing, notarizing, providing a folder for your documents, or later issues or advice involving ATF forms or speaking to the ATF on your behalf if needed.
The package you receive will include detailed written instructions on how to use and update the trust, how to make or acquire NFA items using the trust, example BATFE forms, and electronic copies of the schedules that you can change and update as needed.
If you ever have an issue with the BATFE regarding the wording or validity of the trust, Virginia Gun Trusts will help you resolve any issues without further charge.
If you have other questions or would like further information, please feel free to contact us!