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The Joy of Unintended Consequences

10/19/2013

Many laws have unintended consequences, whether at the national, state or local level.  Republicans believe that is proof the government never understands what it is doing.  Democrats believe that unintended consequences are a normal part of legislating.  Existentialists find unintended consequences to be absurdly amusing.

Over the last few years, there have many changes in laws regulating ownership of guns, especially at the state level.  This can pose a significant problem to executors of estates, as they try to distribute personal effects of the decedents to beneficiaries across state lines.  The executors can incur both financial and criminal liability for distributing guns illegally, even if innocently.

Rising to the occasion, a cottage industry is developing among lawyers to create “gun trusts.”  While the details are fluid, the basic idea is that a person would transfer ownership of his guns before his death to a trust that would continue after his death, relieving the executor of any responsibility to transfer the guns.  The trustee of the trust would be whomever the decedent wanted to have the guns.  That trustee would have the right to pick his successor trustee, presumably based upon some exchange of money.  Of course, the trust would have to be established in a “gun-friendly” state, like Virginia.  Voila — an end run around restrictive gun laws!

Republicans, who feel strongly about the second amendment, will undoubtedly applaud this evolutionary step.  Democrats, who feel 300 million guns in this country are enough already, will undoubtedly feel the need for more laws.  Existentialists will just chuckle.

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