Trusts Can't Possess Guns 5th Cir. Holds

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By Melissa Heelan Stanzione

July 1— A trust can't possess a machine gun under federal law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held June 30 ( Hollis v. Lynch, 2016 BL 211710, 5th Cir., No. 15-10803, 6/30/16 ).

Plaintiff Jay Aubrey Isaac Hollis's argument that the trust, not he, would make and possess the machine gun “strains common sense and misunderstands trust law,” Judge Leslie H. Southwick wrote for the court.

The Fifth Circuit joined the Third Circuit in holding that the Gun Control Act's prohibition against machine gun possession extends to trusts. United States v. Palmetto State Armory PA-15 Machinegun Receiver/Frame, 2016 BL 157880 (3d Cir. 2016) (84 U.S.L.W. 1741, 5/26/16).

Relationship, Not Entity

The Gun Control Act prohibits any person from possessing a machine gun, the court said.

A trust is a relationship, not a legal entity, and a trustee has legal title and right of possession of the trust property, it said.

“Thus, Hollis, a person, would in fact possess the machine gun even if he is a trustee,” it said.

Not in Common Use

Nor does the Gun Control Act violate Hollis's Second Amendment right to bear arms, the court said.

This right isn't unlimited and doesn't apply to “ ‘dangerous and unusual,' ” weapons that are not in common use, it said.

There is no set of statistics that “allow a conclusion that a machine gun is a usual weapon,” it said, affirming the district court.

Judges Carolyn Dineen King and Catharina Haynes joined the opinion.

Stamboulieh Law, PLLC, and Law Office of Alan Beck represented Hollis.

The U.S. Department of Justice represented the government.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at

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