Convicted felons are not legally permitted to possess firearms. Generally, law enforcement officers confiscate a potential felon’s firearms until a court decides their disposition upon conviction. If convicted, the felon could not gift nor sell the firearms.
Felons Legally Allowed to Sell or Transfer Their Firearms
However, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in May 2015 that convicted felons do have the conditional legal right to sell their firearms after they are confiscated. According to the court’s decision in a case involving former Border Patrol agent (and now convicted felon) Tony Henderson, a convicted felon may transfer or attempt to sell their firearms only to individuals or parties that will not provide the felon access to the firearms. A felon does not necessarily need to possess a firearm in order to sell it. Between confiscation and a Federal Firearms Licensee as a third-party merchant for the sales process, felons would not be in possession of their firearms and could still receive proceeds from the sale. If the felony involved firearms, the felon would not have the right to transfer or sell the items they own. Overall, firearms transfers by felons are possible, but would need to be approved by the court.
For estate planning purposes, gun trusts preserve firearms for the benefit of surviving family members, help prevent accidental felonies, and provide instructions for the unique care and disposition of each firearm held in trust. According to the Wall Street Journal, in the case involving former agent Henderson:
Mr. Henderson couldn’t “place those guns in a secure trust for distribution to his children after his death. He could not sell them to someone halfway around the world. He could not even donate them to a law enforcement agency.”
Although gun trusts remain the most effective estate planning tool for firearms owners, the traditional benefits are not applicable when a trust creator or beneficiary is convicted of a felony. If you are concerned about a gun trust and a family member’s criminal record, contact a gun trust attorney to discuss more.