Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

NC Sheriff: NFA items acquired under gun trusts are illegal, but we won’t prosecute

Written By: Bob - Nov• 17•11

After I decided to have another barrel built for Gretchen in  300 BLK I contacted the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office and the Wake County Sheriff, attempting to ascertain what I needed to do to get a suppressor to take advantage of the 300 BLK’s subsonic loadings.

North Carolina House Bill 650 had been signed into law and was going to make a number of changes to NC’s gun laws when it goes into effect on December 1.

The nice lady I emailed and then spoke with at the Department of Justice did her best to explain the murky changes to the law that covers NFA items, but sections 8 (G.S. 14-288.8(b)) and 9 G.S. 14-409(b) of the bill were clear as mud, and were all but unexplainable in plain English.

I then sent an email to the Wake County Sheriff’s Department, and was told in no uncertain terms that sheriff Donnie Harrison would not sign off on a suppressor, “Unless an individual meets one of the exceptions listed in NCGS 14-288.8.”

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, assemble, possess, store, transport, sell, offer to sell, purchase, offer to purchase, deliver or give to another, or acquire any weapon of mass death and destruction.

(b) This section does not apply to:

(1) Persons exempted from the provisions of G.S. 14‑269 with respect to any activities lawfully engaged in while carrying out their duties.

(2) Importers, manufacturers, dealers, and collectors of firearms, ammunition, or destructive devices validly licensed under the laws of the United States or the State of North Carolina, while lawfully engaged in activities authorized under their licenses.

(3) Persons under contract with the United States, the State of North Carolina, or any agency of either government, with respect to any activities lawfully engaged in under their contracts.

(4) Inventors, designers, ordnance consultants and researchers, chemists, physicists, and other persons lawfully engaged in pursuits designed to enlarge knowledge or to facilitate the creation, development, or manufacture of weapons of mass death and destruction intended for use in a manner consistent with the laws of the United States and the State of North Carolina.

As I am not licensed or contracted in any way to qualify for the Sherrif’s sign-off, I spent some time investigating NFA Gun Trusts, which is a way of seemingly circumventing the sheriff’s sign-off requirement.

It looked like a possibly valid solution, so I wrote back to the Wake County Sheriff’s Department, asking the following:

I have seen others – including some lawyers – suggest that NFA trusts are another option by which one could obtain items classified as a “weapon of mass death and destruction,”  such as a suppressor, I do not, however, seen any provision for trusts in the statute.

Are trusts legal or a gray area?

Obviously, I have every desire to comply with the law, as I don’t think I’d like to become a legal test case.

The Sheriff’s representative’s response was, well read it for yourself.

Mr. Owens,

We are aware of the trusts and that purchases have been made under the trusts.  We are still of the opinion, and attorney John Aldridge, Special Deputy  Attorney General with the NC AG’s office, is of the opinion, that unless a person falls within one of the exceptions listed in NCGS 288.8, purchases under trusts are illegal.  That is not to say that the purchases will be challenged in court.

If I’m reading this correctly, is he say that they view gun trust obtained NFA items as criminally acquired, but not crime they will not enforce?

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  1. Phelps says:

    Pretty much. He thinks it is illegal the same way we think the second amendment makes it all legal.

  2. KevinM says:

    Looks like your way through might be to qualify for category 2 as a collector with a Curio & Relic FFL. That’s the standard route we subjects of the Peoples Republic of Massachusetts use to qualify as a “bona-fide collector” to get a PRofMA machinegun license.

    Not that we can have suppressors at all in MA, of course.

  3. Curly says:

    I don’t know. Couldn’t surpressors be viewed as an aid? Why an aid? Well think of it this’s aiding you in dealing with a criminal relatively quitely, while protecting not just your own hearing, but the hearing of anyone else who might happen to be around. :)

  4. Bob,

    I’m sure you’re aware of the Gun Trust Lawyer, but he has a blog post up about that very thing (though he uses the example of a machinegun).

    If you’ve got squirrelly laws, an attorney would be a good thing to have.

  5. […] NFA laws went into effect. Seems a local sheriff and the AG think that acquiring NFA items via a trust is illegal. But they won’t prosecute. Interesting. Most states ban NFA items and say that having them […]

  6. After 12-1-11, it won’t matter what they think. There will be another exception made to NCGS 14-288.8. The new exception adds if a silencer, full-auto firearm, short barreled rifle or shotgun is properly licensed under NFA with the Feds, you are excepted. See Section 8 & 9 of Session Law 2011-268.

    It says the Sheriff can still refuse to sign off the ATF paperwork but that isn’t an issue if you use a trust.

  7. Electronic Person says:

    Here’s the (I think) primary question: What makes a suppressor a Weapon of Mass Destruction?

    Secondary: Where in federal or state law is that defined?

  8. Bryan S. says:

    Weapon of… mass death? a suppressor?

    You got to throw it a bunch of times and very hard.

  9. A NC Gun Trust Lawyer has told me that the AG’s interpretation appears to be based on the concept that something is not legal unless it is provided for in law. He said that this is not how things work in the USA and NC where you are given rights unless they are taken away and Trust law is very clear and based on the statutes. This issue has been dealt with by the ATF who has agreed and approved hundreds of transfers after talking with North Carolina Gun Trust Lawyer®, Gregory Herman-Giddens, I would suggest that you contact him in regards to NC Trust law as well as how it pertains to the NC statutes regarding certain firearms. If you want to contact Gregory about a gun trust you can reach him through or read more about Gun Trusts on the Gun Trust Lawyer® Website