Posted 3/11/2013 12:00 am
For gun owners who fear their weapons might be taken away through bankruptcy liquidation or a possible future ban on the transfer of assault weapons, there’s a relatively new legal maneuver that might help: a gun trust.
The gun trust would allow gun owners to pass down their weapons to their children even if there’s a firearm transfer ban in place, said Chris Rippy, an attorney in Maumelle. He is one of the few lawyers in Arkansas who handles gun trusts and has created between 60 and 80 of the instruments since he began offering the service in early 2012.
But the gun trust has created some concern among law enforcement officials.
“I think the firearms trust creates a loophole in that system that most people would be shocked to learn about,” said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation of Washington, D.C., a nonprofit organization that works to improve law enforcement.
Bueermann said that placing restricted weapons — a machine gun, for example — in a trust would allow people who haven’t had background checks to have access to those weapons.
“It completely circumvents the background check process which is intended … to ensure that only law-abiding people have access to guns.”
Rippy’s law firm, Nash Raley Rogers & Rippy, has been advertising the gun trusts heavily. A “sticky” ad recently attached to the front page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette read, “Are you a GUN owner? You need a GUN TRUST to protect your assets. Contact us today to see how we can help.”
Rippy said people didn’t understand what a gun trust was because “there’s no such thing as a loophole when you’re legally allowed to do it.” He said the person who establishes the trust has to go through a background check.
But Bueermann said a person could create a trust and name 10 to 15 people in the trust “who would have the legal ability to possess and use that machine gun, where they would not under other circumstances.”
Rippy said the people who normally wouldn’t be allowed to have access to a gun, such as a felon, still couldn’t have access to the weapon in the trust. “It’s not something that a felon … can just buy it through a gun trust and be home free,” he said.
Rippy added that if a felon were named a co-trustee of the gun trust, the felon would have to resign the trusteeship or he would be committing a crime.
Rippy learned about the practice of gun trusts in late 2011 when he attended a professional conference in Florida. He jumped “once I realized how many they did and that you were able to do that in Arkansas.”
“It’s a relatively new area of the law,” he said.
Rippy said most of his clients were creating an irrevocable trust, and he charges $2,000 to draw one up.
In the irrevocable trust, the gun owner loses ownership of the weapon, but he does not lose control of it. “And that’s how you get around it being an available asset for creditors, … stuff like that,” he said.