This is a question that seems to arise at least once a week as I am speaking with clients and I think it would be beneficial to do a complete breakdown of the topic.
For purposes of our analysis we will discuss four ways that an applicant might acquire an NFA item:
1) ‘Making’ an NFA item on a Form 1
2) Being the transferee of an NFA firearm from a licensed dealer on a Form 4
3) Being the transferee of an NFA firearm from a fellow collector on a Form 4
4) Being the transferee of an NFA firearm as an heir or as a beneficiary of a trust on a Form 5.
Let’s start our analysis of each of these applications by noting that the controlling law is pretty straightforward.
– The NFA is silent as to age.
– The GCA limits sales by dealers of NFA items to those 21 and older. See 18 USC 922(b).
So … under our scenarios above:
An applicant who is at least 18 years of age may apply to make an NFA item on a Form 1.
An applicant who is at least 18 years of age may apply to have an NFA firearm transferred to them from another collector on a Form 4.
An applicant who is at least 18 years of age may apply to have an NFA firearm transferred to them as an heir or beneficiary on a Form 5.
In fact, the only method of acquisition that is prohibited to those under the age of 21 is the transfer of an NFA item from a licensed dealer.
In a guidance letter to young man in Florida, the ATF confirms this interpretation of the GCA and the NFA.
Disclaimer: This information is presented for educational purposes only and does not give rise to an attorney-client relationship. Additionally, I am licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia and this answer may not be appropriate for other states. You should always consult an attorney licensed to practice law in your state who is familiar with NFA trust planning before making decisions about your own estate plan.