Rules You Must Know When Inheriting Firearms in Pennsylvania

One of the saddest phone calls that we get at U.S. LawShield is when a family member has passed. Our heart goes out, our condolences, but when it comes time to settle affairs, and to settle up possessions, inevitably there are questions that have to do with inheriting firearms and making sure we’re all on the right side of the law.

What we want to do in this video is talk about three specific things to know about inheriting firearms. First one is there is no federal or state registry. We get phone calls all the time, from people who are quite distraught, and they want to know how they can register a gun in their name. As we all know, or should know by now, there are no state or federal registries in Pennsylvania when it comes to firearms, so that’s an easy one.

The second has to do with an out-of-state transfer. Now, federal law makes an exception for the inheritance of an out-of-state transfer of a long gun, and may be completed without going through an FFL. So in other words, if someone in another state dies, and they send you, or they want to send you, a long gun, meaning a shotgun or a rifle, with traditional lengths involved with it, then there is no need to go through an FFL.

Now, it gets a little bit more confusing when it comes to handguns. Traditionally what we call handguns mean pistols, semiautomatic pistols, and also anything that would fall in the rubric of what we call in Pennsylvania firearms, or handguns. There are two provisions, 6111 of our Uniform Firearms Act and 6115 of our Firearms Act. Two separate and distinct statutes when it comes to an out-of-state transfer of a handgun that fall under that exception that have to do with inheritance, or bequest, or succession, and therefore an FFL is not needed.

However, there is a different school of thought that 6111 controls such things. 6111 contains our normal provisions that have to do with the transfer of a firearm, meaning a traditional handgun or revolver, in Pennsylvania, that it must go through an FFL. There is tension there. For peace of mind, it might make sense to go through an FFL in such a situation.

The third thing has to do with what happens when there is a prohibited person who is going to be the intended receiver of a firearm in a will or bequest, and in this case, firearm. By firearm, I mean long guns, shotguns, pistols, anything that basically goes bang, that would be covered by the Uniform Firearms Act.

Well, it’s really simple. If you’re a prohibited person, either through state or federal law, you can’t have a firearm. No will or anything that has to do with the transfer upon death can overcome your disability to own, possess, or use a firearm, and that’s just very simple. What happens in that case, if you’re the executor, you cannot knowingly transfer a firearm against the provisions of the Uniform Firearms Act, or also under federal law, you can’t violate that, obviously, so that prohibited person doesn’t get the firearms, and then what happens? The firearms would go to the next person that’s so named, or the residual of the estate as it’s called, the person who catches everything else, if you will.

So those are the three things that we want to go over with respect to when it comes to death and inheriting a firearm. There is no registration, out-of-state transfers, there’s that tension, and prohibited person, you can’t either receive, or you as the executor cannot distribute it.

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