By Jeffrey Folloder
It is said that knowledge is power, and in this day and age, there are an infinite number of sources that are available for one to obtain such knowledge. Some of us may be old enough to remember having a treasured set of reference volumes proudly displayed for family to use: the encyclopedia. Such tomes, nearly out of date before their printing ink is dry, are now woefully archaic. We have the Internet. We have social media. We have Wiki. We have Google. LMGTFY. Seems like a jumble of letters, right? It’s actually an acronym for “Let Me Google That For You.” When somebody asks an innocent question, such as in a Facebook group, the hive mind, in a fit of condescension, will respond with memes (sarcastic cartoons and images) and intonations of LMGTFY. The implication being that all of the answers the innocent inquiry seeks are available with a simple search. Such powerful tools! All the answers are right there for anyone. Except that it is not necessarily so.
Obtaining answers from the Internet can be akin to attempting to get just a sip of water from a fully involved fire hose. Yes, the answer may be in that stream. But there is SO MUCH stream going past; so fast, that you might not get the right answer that you seek. And what if you are fortunate to stumble across a group of “experienced experts” who are all too happy to contribute their opinion on your quest for knowledge? They may mean well, but what if they are wrong? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
Take, for example, an inquiry in a Facebook group by what can only be assumed to be a US veteran who was dealing with some very real problems. This person bravely revealed that he was in the middle of treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that the next steps in the treatment process were looking like a voluntary check into a VA hospital for further psychiatric evaluation and treatment. To his credit, he was inquiring about what to do with his NFA weapons during the treatment phase and was polling the group on what to do with the items owned by way of his NFA trust. Such is the comfort we have in “trusting the net” to point us in the right direction. Unfortunately, this faith can be misplaced.
Answers ranged from “just lock the stuff up until you’re done” to “just give it to your brother (who was mentioned as being involved with the trust)” and to advise him to arrange to have a local NFA dealer hold the items. A very few responses suggested that the original inquirer get in touch with the lawyer who drew up the trust. And that is right answer! Despite a general sentiment that lawyers are not liked and that the person should just do the expedient thing, regardless of the ramifications, the advice to do it right was only mildly represented. Without having the text of the trust available, people were opining on what he could and could not do, who was and was not a responsible person and what a beneficiary could do (without knowing the trust terms that provide for the beneficiary to receive the assets). Many of the suggestions could not only be flat-out wrong, they could ultimately cause even more problems for somebody who was trying to do the right thing. That would be a devastating outcome for the person seeking help. Sure, many of the topic contributors applauded the original poster for recognizing the need for help. But many of the casual words resulted in yet more graffiti on the Facebook wall. Casual words for the participants and potential confiscation, prosecution or forfeiture for others.
The NFATCA continues to work to provide plain English answers to common NFA questions. We started that work by creating the initial NFA Handbook that is now maintained by ATF (and is in need of updating!). The NFATCA fields daily inquiries regarding process and practice. But when the matter becomes something that clearly involves the potential loss of property or liberty, we refer the inquiries to professionals who are properly equipped to appropriately deal with the matter at hand. Some answers are, indeed, easier than others. We want to make sure that you get the right one.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N5 (June 2017)|