Arsenal Attorneys is a nationwide law practice with offices in Fairfax, Virginia near Washington, DC and in Rocklin, California near Sacramento. We serve large and small clients, often remotely. Depending on the client's location, our services include estate planning, civil litigation, criminal defense, business law, landlord-tenant disputes, real estate, and firearms regulations. Our team of attorneys is licensed to serve clients in over 30 states. Contact us today to discuss your goals.
Arsenal Attorneys' Managing Attorney, Matthew Bergstrom, has been featured today as a guest blogger
BATFE collects statistics for submissions to its six month-old ATF eFile system on a weekly basis. For the week ending Wednesday February 5, 2014, BATFE reported the following:
Arsenal Attorneys has confirmed BATFE/NFA continues to issue tax stamps for the transfer of machine guns by trusts in Virginia despite recent confusion about Virginia State Police policy on machine gun registrations.
Arsenal Attorneys will be exhibiting at the Nation's Gun Show in Chantilly, Virginia this weekend starting Friday at 1 pm--Valentine's Day. Come meet us to discuss our various services and important issues, such as the Arsenal Gun Trust, ATF eFile, estate planning, criminal defense, business services, firearms' instructors startup packages, and more.
Arsenal Attorneys' Matthew Bergstrom testified before the Virginia Senate on February 12 in support of House Bill 878. Arsenal Attorneys worked with members of the firearms community to initiate this reform championed by Delegate David LaRock.
The bill addressed the problem of chief law enforcement officers (CLEOs) who fail to respond to the requests of law-abiding citizens to register firearms regulated under Title 2 of the National Firearms Act (NFA), such as silencers, short barrel rifles, and vintage machine guns. Currently, when a CLEO ignores such requests or refuses to consider any such application by any person, there is no recourse for the citizen.
HB 787 would've required a CLEO to make response, yea or nay, to the request. It did not change which firearms are legal in Virginia, nor would it force a CLEO to accept requests for ineligible applicants.
Opponents testifying against this reform expressed their wish to use any means available to obstruct law-abiding citizens to own legal firearms. From this point of view, even a law abiding citizen should be at the mercy of an individual CLEO. Outside the committee meeting, anti-reform activities falsely claimed the bill intended to make bazookas legal.
Speaking in favor of the bill, Mr. Bergstrom argued for the rule of law. He said the current system is broken because it is subject to abuse because there is nothing to stop a CLEO from rejecting NFA registrations based on personal politics, ideology, or prejudice. Regardless of the vote, Mr. Bergstrom said, Arsenal Attorneys would continue helping clients successfully overcome these obstacles, but the principle of the matter required support of 878 to prevent what is obviously a case of abuse or neglect perpetrated by some CLEOs.
Ultimately HB 878 failed to proceed; however the amount of attention this issue received in Virginia and across the country is progress. We applaud Delegate David LaRock for his efforts at reform and to protect the rule of law.
Pictured left to right following the Senate vote are Matthew Bergstrom, members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, FFL Mark Attanasio of Immortal Arms, and Delegate David LaRock.
In a letter signed by Superintendent W.S. Flaherty, the Virginia State Police confirmed it will certify registrations of machine guns regardless of whether they are owned by a trust. Flaherty's letter said:
" . . . the State Police has been, for some time, accepting registrations listing the trustee as the person registering the weapon and the trust as the legal entity owning the weapon. This method complies with existing law and meets the requirement of the Virginia State Police as the weapon is registered to a person who is the human face of the legal entity known as a trust. As the State Police has never registered a gun in the name of a trust but only in the name of a person (trustee), all existing registrations formatted in this manner remain valid and new registrations are done in this manner."
While this written statement is good news for existing and prospective machine gun owners in Virginia, Flaherty's letter also reiterated what we argue to be a false interpretation of Virginia law. He claimed the definition of a 'person' in the Virginia Uniform Machine Gun Act (UMGA) does not include a trust. Our analysis concluded the broader rules of interpretation governing the entire Virginia Code does include trust in that definition.
The confusion over this issue first arose because of a legal opinion written by then Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Like Superintendant Flaherty's opinion, it quoted the UMGA, but it failed to recognize the Virginia Code's 'general rule of construction'. While the UMGA does not mention trusts, Virginia's general rule of construction states that trusts should be assumed to be part of the definition of a 'person' in statutes just like the UMGA.
While we believe the law is clear, clarity is needed to avoid the future possibility an individual government official will apply their own interpretation of these statutes to the detriment of gun owners. Arsenal Attorneys' Matthew Bergstrom has worked closely with Virginia Delegate David LaRock to find a solution. Initially their efforts resulted in HB 1266. That bill would have simply added 'trust' to the language of the Uniform Machine Gun Act. Unfortunately HB 1266 failed to advance out of the House of Delegates. Consequently we are pursing alternative strategies with Delegate LaRock to overturn the Cuccinelli opinion. To read more about these issues, see our full analysis here.
For now, BATFE will approve transfer of machine guns in Virginia by entities, like the Arsenal Gun Trust, and the Virginia State Police will accept machine gun registrations by a natural person on behalf of a trust. Despite the recent confusion, we are encouraged by the fact elected officials like Delegate LaRock are taking up the concerns of gun owners, particularly with respect to firearms regulated under Title 2 of the National Firearms Act (NFA), such as machine guns, silencers, and short barrel rifles.
Arsenal Attorneys is committed to answering your questions about estate planning, firearms, business law, litigation, and criminal defense issues.
We'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.