Loophole for buying restricted guns in Florida

Some firearms owners are creating 'Gun Trusts'

LAKE WORTH, Fla. - Is it a legal loophole? Or a legal protection? Or both? Floridians do have the ability to purchase firearms that are currently restricted by federal law.

"They came up with this way so people can get around it a lot easier," said Chuck Papp, a manager at Palm Beach Shooting Center in Lake Worth.

Papp has seen a growing number of shooting enthusiasts creating legal trusts - gun trusts - to get their hands on Class 3 type items such as automatic guns, silencers and other firearms.

"They see it in the case and they think 'Oh my God, I didn't think you could own that', and you can," said Papp. "It just takes paperwork, time and money."

A Gun Trust is a legal 'estate planning' document prepared by an attorney specifically designed for these Class 3 weapons. Buyers would usually have to pass a background check, pay a $200 transfer tax for each weapon and complete necessary paperwork for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - or ATF.

Jacksonville attorney David Goldman pioneered these Gun Trusts years ago. He believes guns acquired with this method will not fall into the wrong hands.

"Nobody would spend a whole bunch more money and notify ATF of what they were doing if they had less than legitimate intentions," he said.

Ordinarily, owning a Class 3 weapon would require the chief law enforcement officer in the buyer's jurisdiction to sign off on the purchase. But with a Gun Trust, buyers do not need that law enforcement signature, fingerprints or photographs because legally it is the Trust that owns these weapons.

At the Palm Beach Shooting Center, there is much interest in the this 'loophole'. A half dozen people each week are said to be looking to purchase something from the Class 3 display case.

"People ask about it all the time," said Papp.
     
In 2012, 39,000 applications were filed with the ATF to create Gun Trusts. 11 states have passed legislation trying to close this legal loophole. The ATF is trying to make changes on the on the federal level now. It is unclear when or how that could even happen.

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