From the inception of NFA trusts until ATF Rule 41F went into effect in July, 2016, NFA firearms transferred into a trust via a Form 4 or Form 1 did not require fingerprints, passport pics, etc. The entity, the Trust, “owned” the NFA firearms, therefore, the trustees of the trust were not required, at that time, to submit to a background check. 41F changed that. Now, trustees and beneficiaries (and others) meeting the ATF’s definition of “Responsible Person” must submit a Responsible Person Questionnaire, ATF Form 5320.23, often called a Form 23. The Form 23 requires each Responsible Person to submit information about the Trust, NFA firearm to be transferred into the trust, passport pics and fingerprints and the name and address of their chief law enforcement officer (CLEO). Each Responsible Person must also submit a copy of the Form 23 to their CLEO, although that copy does not require fingerprints, pics or the serial number of the firearm. In this way, the notice submitted to CLEO removes the CLEO approval required in the “good old days”.
41F requires the Responsible Persons to submit to a background check. Is that onerous? Yes, if compared to the prior requirement for trustees, which was essentially nothing.
However, I often hear people say that somehow 41F has devalued the usefulness of trusts. I hear that he burden is too great on trustees, etc. Again, compared to the prior requirements, yes, there are now more. However, when I ask people who the new requirements will negatively affect, i.e. how many trustees and beneficiaries they plan to have, the answer is usually a small number. Having a sibling or spouse who is an enthusiast submit to a background check doesn’t hinder people from acquiring NFA firearms to transfer into their trust. Additionally, when I hear people say they’ll have NFA firearms individually transferred to them due to 41F, I remind them that the individual transfer doesn’t resolve the issues with probate assets, privacy concerns and accidental felonies in the form of other people having access to the NFA firearm.
Despite the new burdens, trusts are still the best way to possess NFA firearms.
For the ATF’s FAQ’s of Responsible Person, see: