When you are the one entrusted by your loved one to administer his/her estate, many unexpected issues can arise. Certain issues require some additional action, and one of those issues is the proper handling of unregistered guns. Assuming that the guns are not classified as firearms under the National Firearm Act (i.e., machine guns, short-barreled rifles, short-barreled shotguns, etc., in which case, different requirements apply, and you should contact your local ATF office), the following are some guidelines which should provide you some peace of mind.
If you are the trustee of your loved one’s estate, and you come across a gun which you believe to be unregistered, there is no need to panic. The first thing to do is ensure the gun is not loaded and it is placed in a locked, secure location within your possession and control.
Once the gun is safely locked and secured, you can obtain a form from the California Attorney General’s website (www.ag.ca.gov/firearms/forms) called an “Operation of Law or Intra-Familial Handgun Transaction Report.” Once you have completed the form and submitted it to the Department of Justice at the address provided, the gun will be properly registered to you as trustee of your loved one’s estate, which should take approximately 4 to 6 weeks.
What if, once you have registered the gun, your cousin who lives across the country wants it? No problem. After you have given the proper notice to all people entitled to inherit, presuming no one objects to your cousin receiving the gun, you can contact any local Federal Firearms Licensee (“FFL” – a fancy name for a gun dealer) and explain that you would like the gun sent to an FFL in the state in which your cousin lives. (Your cousin should provide contact information as to the designated FFL to which he/she wishes the gun to be sent). Your local FFL will then send the gun to your cousin’s designated FFL for registration in his/her name. There will be a transfer fee associated with the transfer of the gun, so it would be prudent to contact several FFLs to confirm that you’re paying a reasonable fee.
Once your cousin’s designated FFL receives the gun, the FFL can assist your cousin to ensure that the gun is properly registered pursuant to his/her state’s registration requirements.
What if you ascertain, after the appropriate notice, that no one wants the gun? Easy. Save yourself some headache, not to mention paperwork, and simply surrender it to your local police or sheriff’s department, and be sure to request written confirmation that you have done so.