Do you have kids? Regardless of whether you do or not, you know someone close to you who does so this is relevant to everyone. So when one of our gun trust clients inquired about age limits for children in possession of firearms I knew I was in for a learning experience. Now, I generally think I have most answers to legal questions… but I have also learned that being right is more important than being too quick to answer, or too egotistical to say “I don’t know”.
Past experience has proven to me, painfully, that if I get on my high horse about what I “know” that I may just get knocked off that horse. And gun law is one of those things where you really cannot afford to be partly right or totally wrong.
Possession of a firearm by the wrong person, in the wrong locale, or of the wrong firearm can be a crime. And the word “possession” can mean different things at different times, too.
The gun trusts I have been writing, in an excess of caution, require a person to be 21 years of age to receive benefits. Not any more… because my client, who does have kids, wants to teach them about firearms, safety, and to share a passion with them. They are not 21. So my fears about differing state laws, etc., and being cautious with trust drafting, must be addressed another way.
I have had the opportunity to review gun trusts in regard to a variety of different state laws. Those that have strong pro-hunting and sport shooting features have laws about children accessing firearms, but always with certain safety requirements and supervision in place. These laws may be spread across the criminal code, hunting and fishing laws and regulations, and provide for a variety of age restrictions and exemptions. Other states are far more restrictive and lean towards treating children with access to a firearm as being questionable, negligent, or criminal by insinuation.
A proper gun trust should balance client intent and trustee discretion and temper both with an appreciation of local law. The one area where federal law dominates this discussion is with NFA (National Firearms Act) firearms which sets the bar at 21 years of age. It’s easy to make that a standard… but it kind of leaves kids out.
After thinking about safety and benefits, it occurred to me to permit the trustee of a gun trust, within the trustee’s discretion, to provide benefits to a person who is under 21 years of age consistent with state law. It also means taking the time to instruct trustees about state law concerning children and possession of firearms.
This reinforced the lesson that we gun owners need to take the time to test our knowledge, educate each other by making sure we know the correct answers, so that when we share firearms we are behaving responsibly. It’s up to us… or we can rely on the government to tell us what we can and cannot do, and to add more and more restrictions on our exercise of free will.
The majority of gun owners I know prefer limited government, but recognize that when we do not step up, something fills the void. More law, more restrictions, like a parent grounding a child for bad behavior.
“Our” kids deserve our time and attention. We can afford a little time to KNOW the law… and not just say what we think it is. What are you doing in regards to your kids or those of someone you know? Might be a good time to check this out…