What's A "Responsible Person?"

When you decide to file your applications under a gun trust, you will be prompted to choose a “responsible person.” Although it isn’t imperative to assign someone, and a responsible person is a relative term, it’s one of the main reasons most folks choose the gun trust route instead of filing as an individual.

The ATF defines a responsible person as “an individual who has the power to direct the management and policies of the applicant,” [18 U.S. Code § 841] but what exactly does that mean? We want to dive a little deeper into this term because in doing so, we hope it helps clear up some ambiguity prior to the submission process.

In the simplest terms, a responsible person is someone who is listed on your trust and has the authority to be in possession of the NFA item(s) that are registered to that trust.  For most, this is a spouse, sibling, hunting buddy, etc..

Depending on the attorney or template used to create a trust, a responsible person can be classified by various terms – but most responsible person(s) will be required to submit fingerprints, photographs, and personal information before the applicant can submit their form. These specific terms help outline suppressor ownership as well as sharing and using capabilities.

We hope this article helps clarify some questions you may be having.


Sometimes referred to as a Settlor

The grantor is the individual applying for the trust as well as contributing to the trust who also delegates and assigns roles pertaining to the trust’s assets. Grantors are allowed to modify the gun trust in any way and may purchase, sell, transfer, deliver, or posses assets on behalf of the trust, including terminating the trust. A grantor is also considered a trustee.


Sometimes referred to as Co-Trustee or Joint-Trustee

Trustee(s) are given many of the same rights as the person applying for the silencer themselves. When adding an individual as a trustee on your trust, this means that they can obtain the trust property legally without the grantor having to be present. These individuals also have the same ownership authority as the grantor. By that, we mean, the trustee is able to purchase, sell, transfer, deliver and possess on behalf of the trust.


If filing under a trust, a beneficiary has to be named (either through the gun trust or through the grantor’s will), in which someone named as a beneficiary will receive the assets upon death of the grantor. The beneficiary generally does not have any of the powers that a trustee or grantor does. If there is more than one beneficiary designated, the grantor can even delegate what percentage each beneficiary gets in the gun trust.

Successor Trustee

Upon the grantor’s passing, a successor trustee takes ownership of the silencer (of course, after legally submitting all of the necessary paperwork), however, the successor trustee has no responsibilities or ownership until then. The successor trustee can also be a beneficiary of a gun trust, therefore, they will have no rights to the trust property until the grantor’s passing. What this means is that the successor trustee does not have to fill out the questionnaire or submit fingerprints and a photograph during the grantor’s application process.

Although we’ve attempted to separate these terms out, in the end, it all depends on how the gun trust has been prepared and how roles have been delegated. If there is any question about that, it’s generally best to reach out to the attorney who drafted the gun trust and ask them to clearly define the roles. Alternatively, if you’re reaching out to an attorney to draft a trust, have an idea for how you’d like the roles to be separated out. 

One tip that we always recommend is to know your responsible parties’ information (i.e. name, email, number) prior to visiting one of our kiosks so that you’re able to submit their information correctly. This won’t only save you time, but it will, in the end, help move along the process of finally getting your stamp.

There’s technically no max to how many parties you can assign to your trust, but we’re racking our brain trying to think of how much responsibility we want to give to our parties. Either way, you can add all responsible parties at our kiosk and they will be emailed their own QR codes where they will be able to submit their information at any of our kiosks on their own time.

Also, remember that everyone named as a responsible party on the gun trust needs to submit their information before any document can be submitted to the ATF.

We may have just turned your world upside down with all of that information. As always, we’re here to answer any questions you may have. Comment below! We’d love to hear from you.

  • Filing your NFA items under a gun trust grants you flexibility that other filing methods cannot, such as assigning responsible persons.  
  • Responsible persons are individuals who are allowed to share possession of the items in your trust; this can be very helpful if you want your spouse, friends, or family to be able to use your silencers and short-barreled rifles.  
  • Adding responsible persons is simple with Silencer Shop trust; simply complete two documents and have them notarized.  

What is a Responsible Person on a Gun Trust?

For more than two decades trust ownership of silencers and other NFA items has been the preferred method of ownership for most buyers.


Silencer Shop offers two easy-to-use and reliable trust forms: the Single Shot Trust and the Silencer Shop NFA Gun Trust. These two forms offer slightly different advantages.


The Single Shot Trust is the fastest, easiest way to set up a trust when you don’t want to gather fingerprints, photos, and signatures from additional people. It’s a great choice if you plan to purchase multiple silencers over time because each silencer receives its own trust with a single trustee at the time of filing, which simplifies the filing process.


The traditional NFA Gun trust may be a good option for you if you prefer to keep all your NFA firearms under a single trust.


Many first-time buyers, and even seasoned silencer owners, sometimes have questions about how to use the Silencer Shop NFA Gun Trust form, what roles and powers the persons listed on the trust have, and what advantage trust ownership offers.


Trust laws vary from state to state. If you have specific questions or need to discuss individualized issues, please consult a licensed attorney in your state. 


What exactly is a trust?  

The Silencer Shop NFA Gun Trust form is a revocable living trust. These are trusts that transfer the ownership of items held in trust to the designated Beneficiary of the trust upon the death of the settlor.


“Revocable” means that the settlor can change or cancel the provisions of the trust at any time, offering you maximum flexibility.


“Living” simply means the trust is effective while you are still alive.


The trust document itself called the Declaration of Trust, sets forth the relationship and duties between the settlor, the trustees, and the beneficiary. This trust is not a replacement for a will.  


What are the advantages of using the Silencer Shop NFA Gun Trust form over individual or corporate ownership? 


  • Ease of creation - The Silencer Shop NFA Gun Trust form is simple, safe, and affordable. The Silencer Shop NFA Gun Trusts takes only minutes to create, has been tested with the ATF thousands of times, and is backed by the industry leader – Silencer Shop. 
  • Allows maximum flexibility and control over who can use and possess the NFA items - basically, any trustee can use and possess the items, as long as they are otherwise legally eligible to possess them. Trustees can easily be added and removed if the settlor's circumstances change.  
  • Privacy - because the item is held in the trust's name instead of the individual’s name, and unlike corporate or LLC documents, trusts are not publicly filed. 
  • Streamline the transfer process - when the settlor passes away because the items don’t have to go through the costly and time-consuming probate process. Instead, the trustee can immediately begin the transfer process to the Beneficiary.  
  • No annual upkeep or fees – unlike most corporations and LLCs, trusts require no annual upkeep or filings with your state. There is also no annual fee for your trust. 
  • These same benefits also apply to the Single Shot trust—you can add lawful trustees to your Single Shot trust after approval of your ATF filing. 


What is the settlor (other trusts may call this the grantor, maker, or trustor) of the trust? 

This is the person who creates and controls the trust.


Typically, this would be the person buying the silencer. The settlor will create and sign the trust, and transfer some assets into the trust. The settlor has complete control over the trust itself and can add or remove trustees, change the beneficiary or the trust, change the powers and responsibilities of the trustees, and even revoke the trust altogether.


Note, however, that the settlor should never revoke the trust while it still has silencers or other NFA items in the trust.


What is a trustee of the trust?

Trustees are the people who have the ability to hold, possess, control, and use the items, such as silencers or short-barreled rifles, held in trust.


Trustees also have the duty to transfer items held in trust to the beneficiary upon the death of the settlor. Trustees should stay informed about gun laws and regulations because they are responsible for complying with them. Failure to comply with applicable law can result in stiff penalties against the trustee as well as forfeiture of trust assets.


Because only trustees have the power to possess the items, the settlor should also be listed as a trustee if they want to possess the NFA items. Beneficiaries can also be listed as trustees, but it is not required.


Bear in mind, however, that anyone listed as a trustee will be considered a “responsible person” by the ATF. Each trustee must undergo a background check whenever you file an application to add a new silencer or NFA item to the trust. Thus, they have to submit a Form 23, fingerprint card, and passport photos with each application.


Each trustee is also required to notify the chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) of their state, city, or county of their application.


If you’re using a Single Shot Trust, which is designed to create a new trust with only a single trustee for each new NFA filing—then you can add lawful trustees after your filing is approved without impacting future NFA submissions.


Because of these extra steps and responsibilities, settlors will want to think carefully about who they name trustees for the NFA Gun Trust, and not name people who may not want the responsibilities, who are prohibited from owning firearms, or who may be reluctant to provide the required information for Form 4 submissions.


For most customers, their trustees may include (to the extent they are not prohibited persons): 


  • Spouse 
  • Adult children 
  • Siblings 
  • Parents 
  • Very close friends who use your silencers when you are not around 


One benefit of the Single Shot trust is that each silencer or NFA item has its own trust, so you can choose to associate different trustees/responsible persons with different NFA items for greater flexibility. 


What is the Beneficiary of the trust?

This is the person who will get the items owned in trust upon the death of the settlor.


Most settlors will name their spouse or children. Beneficiaries have no right to possess the items while the settlor is alive and, thus, are not responsible persons. They do not have to submit a Form 23, fingerprints, or passport photos to the ATF unless they are also named as a trustee.


What is a Responsible Person?

A Responsible Person (often called an “RP”) is a term coined by the ATF to designate the persons who have authority over the silencers or NFA items.


The ATF specifically defines it as “those persons with the power or authority to direct the management and policies of the trust [and] includes any person who has the capability to exercise such power and possesses, directly or indirectly, the power or authority under any trust instrument, or under State law, to receive, possess, ship, transport, deliver, transfer, or otherwise dispose of a firearm for, or on behalf of the trust.”


For the Silencer Shop NFA Gun Trust, the RP's are all trustees - because they have the power to possess the silencers.


How to add or remove a trustee to my trust?

In order to add or remove a trustee, the settlor would need to execute a simple amendment to the trust (AMEND LINK WHEN LIVE) (this is also true for Single Shot Trusts).


Generally, the settlor is the only person who can amend the trust. It is good practice to have the amendment signed and notarized. Silencer Shop provides all relevant Amendment Forms free of charge. Only lawful individuals, who are not prohibited persons under federal or state law, may be added as trustees.


Once the trust is amended to add a new trustee, that trustee will have the ability to possess items held in the trust. 


Does the Sheriff have to sign off on my application when I use a trust?  

No. Instead, each Responsible Person (trustee) is only required to give their Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) notice of the application. This is accomplished by simply dropping a copy of the Form 4 and Form 23 in the mail to the CLEO—Silencer Shop handles this for you.


What is the Schedule A of the Silencer Shop NFA Gun Trust?  

The Schedule A is simply a document showing that your trust is “funded,” and thus is a valid trust under state law.


Many people also use the Schedule A as an inventory to add items as they are acquired in trust.


You are not required to update the Schedule A, though it is a good idea to keep a complete list of the items held in trust somewhere, such as a separate inventory sheet.


Why does my Schedule A have a dollar listed it on?  

Many states require a trust to own some property in order for the trust to legally come into existence. The dollar is an asset owned in trust, and thus it is valid when signed.


Many people call this step “funding” the trust.


Can I assign non-NFA items to the Schedule A of my trust?

This is not advisable. The Silencer Shop NFA Gun Trust form is a special-purpose trust form created for the limited purpose of acquiring and owning silencers and other NFA items. It should not be used for other items.


If you need a broader estate trust, we recommend you contact a licensed probate attorney in your state.


When do I list my silencer on my trust or inventory?

Your trust acquires the silencer when your Form 4 is approved by the ATF, and you (as a trustee) have taken possession of the item from your dealer. This is not required but is a good idea to keep your assets organized. 


Do I need to change my trust address when I move?

The Silencer Shop NFA Gun Trust does not have an address listed within the Declaration of Trust, so nothing is needed with the trust document itself.


That said, interstate moves or travel requires prior approval from the ATF in order to move NFA items (other than silencers) across state lines. This approval is obtained by submitting a Form 5320.20 to the ATF in advance.


What part of the trust do I have to submit to the ATF?  

Generally, you should submit the entire trust document itself (typically called a Declaration of Trust), along with all schedules and amendments. You can easily upload your trust in your Silencer Shop dashboard or email it to us at Trust@silencershop.com.  


Can I use the Silencer Shop NFA Gun Trust for Form 1's or NFA items I buy from other dealers?

Yes. The Silencer Shop NFA Gun Trust can be used for an unlimited number of silencer or other NFA purchases.


You can use the trust for all purchases you make though Silencer Shop, any Form 1's you submit to make your own NFA items, or any NFA purchases from other dealers or individuals.