3 Questions People Ask When Inheriting a Firearm

There are always a number of questions when someone inherits a firearm. We will try to address the three most common questions.

Do I have to register the firearm I inherited?

Here is a question we get asked a lot, “Unfortunately, someone passed away and I’m inheriting their firearm. How do I register it in my name?”

Well you can’t. There’s no such thing as a firearm registry either nationally or or federally so when it comes to long guns, traditional handguns, and pistols, there is no registration.

There is something called the NFA or the National Firearms Act that has to deal with short barrel rifles, short barrel shotguns, and any destructive devices, which requires registration. But when it comes to traditional long guns and firearms meaning traditional handguns, revolvers and pistols in Pennsylvania there is no registration.

Do I need an FFL for an Out of State Transfer?

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 (Federal Firearms License). 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 of traditional length) then there is no need to go through an FFL.

It gets a little bit more confusing when it comes to handguns. Traditionally, what we call handguns means pistols, semi-automatic pistols, and also anything that would fall under the rubric of what we call Pennsylvania firearms or handguns. There are two provisions. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111of our Uniform Firearms Act and 18 Pa.C.S. § 6115. These two separate and distinct statutes and that’s where the confusion lies.

It has been our published position on PennLago.com that when it comes to an out of state transfer of a handgun that it need not go through an FFL. That’s because of 18 Pa.C.S. § 6115 and in the provision that we very specifically lay out in that blog post that it falls under that exception that has to do with inheritance, bequest or succession and therefore an FFL is not needed.

However, there is a different school of thought that 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111 controls such things. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111 is our normal provision that has to do with the transfer of a firearm meaning a traditional handgun or revolver in Pennsylvania that it must go through an FFL.

For peace of mind it might make sense to go through an FFL in such a situation but it is our published position that that is not necessary when you’re dealing with uh bequests or successions.

What happens when a prohibited person is the intended receiver of a firearm in a will or bequest?

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. 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 federal law.

So that prohibited person doesn’t get the firearms and then what happens as a matter of course it would go to the next person that’s so named or the residual of the estate who is the person who catches everything else.

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. For out-of-state transfers there’s that tension between the statutes. And a prohibited person can’t either receive ,or you as the executor cannot distribute it to them.