Reader: “My father just recently passed away. I live in Maryland and I don’t know what the laws are concerning inheriting my father’s guns. There’s two shotguns, a hunting rifle, and three revolvers.”
DISCLAIMER: I’m not an attorney and my advice is not legal advice.
GH: Guns are considered property like tools, vehicles, et cetera. They can be inherited or willed through an executor of the deceased’s estate. However, state laws may prohibit how these firearms are transferred.
In a state like Maryland, I don’t believe they regulate the sale or transfer of rifles and shotguns — so long as neither meet their definition of “assault” firearm. The Maryland State Police publishes a list, by manufacturer, of rifles and shotguns which may fall into that definition.
When it comes to handguns, additional restrictions may apply. For instance, the Maryland State Police has a published list of handguns that are allowed to be sold in the state. For handguns made before 1985, different rules apply.
If there’s a doubt in your mind about the process, contact either a Maryland attorney and get his or her lawful advice or contact the Maryland State Police and ask them their preferred process.
So long as you are legally allowed to possess the guns in the state of Maryland, I believe you should be able to receive them. The revolvers may require additional steps.
States Regulate Gun Inheritance
In my research, so long as a person is legally able to possess guns and the guns inherited don’t fall within some Class III/NFA situation, the federal government is mostly hands-off on the process.
When it comes to individual states, though, their individual regulations will govern how firearms can be legally transferred from one person to another. When it comes to the deceased and the execution of a will, there may be little regulation if the state doesn’t typically require a resident to purchase a pistol permit prior to purchasing a pistol.
The obvious exceptions will be New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, D.C., Hawaii, and California. These states heavily regulate the sale and transfer of guns.
A big hiccup also happens any time the transfer of firearms occurs over state lines.
Check Before Crossing State Lines
For instance, if your father died in Virginia but you lived in Maryland, you would have to follow Maryland’s statutes for taking possession of the guns. If the reverse occurred, I’m uncertain as to whether you would need to go through Maryland’s process.
In traditional gun sales, if the person purchasing the pistol was from another state than the one in which the transaction occurs, the seller would need to transfer the gun to someone with a Federal Firearms License in the state of the buyer. The FFL would do the paperwork and, once the paperwork passes NCIS, the guns would be transferred to the buyer — pending any local state requirements.
When in doubt, it may be useful to have the transfer occur through an FFL dealer. This ensures that the revolvers are properly documented and handled and reduces the risk of anything ridiculous occurring when you go to take possession of the guns.
Hope this helped address your question. Thanks for taking the time to write in. We love fielding questions from our readers. Don’t hesitate to email in your questions. If there’s something we can’t tackle, we’ll at least try to steer you in the right direction.