With President Obama and the Senate Judiciary Committee currently discussing gun reform, we thought it would be an apt time to discuss the laws surrounding guns in self-storage.
Pursuant to personal preferences and state law, self-storage owners have different policies on whether or not their tenants can store guns. Assuming you operate a facility in a state that allows gun storage, like Arizona, providing gun storage can be an excellent way to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Guns and Storage Auctions
Veteran storage auctioneer Wayne Blair facilitates auctions in 20 states and makes sure he is well-versed with every state’s particular lien laws before holding an auction.
“When it comes to guns, every state has a different set of laws. Ohio’s law says you have to call the police if you see a gun when you open the door.”
However, in Michigan and many other states, Blair does not remove guns from lockers.
Depending on your state law, if you see a gun in the locker of a tenant in default, you may want to think long and hard before selling it at auction.
Ohio has particularly strict lien laws concerning guns, and Ohio-based self-storage attorney Jeff Greenberger believes it is better to auction off guns separately from the rest of the items. He recommends taking the guns to a licensed gun dealer for an appraisal to ensure that it is “commercially reasonable” to sell them at auction.
Taking the gun away from the facility for an appraisal, inspection, or sale may be a violation of one of your state’s lien laws. In Greenberger’s opinion, however, “having a gun dealer sell it for you is still the best course of action.”
Federal law mandates that gun sellers perform a background check on buyers, unless the gun comes from a “private collection.” Sometimes referred to as the “gun show loophole,” the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 states that unlicensed gun dealers can sell guns from their private collection without performing a background check on the buyer. However, some states have recently mandated background checks for all gun sales–even for “private collection” sales. If your state requires you to perform a background check, it is probably no longer “commercially reasonable” to sell the guns.
Guns Made Before 1899
According to the Gun Control Act of 1968, most firearms made in 1898 or before are considered “antiques,” and not subject to federal laws. If you find an old rifle, you can check the serial number with BAFTE to see if it qualifies as an antique.
If you see an automatic weapon in an abandoned unit, contact BATFE immediately. Per the Brady Bill of 1986, it is illegal to sell automatics to civilians unless the gun was manufactured before 1986 and licensed with BATFE.
Assuming that the automatic weapon was licensed with BATFE and manufactured before 1986, you can have it transferred to you. However, this entails paying a $200 transfer tax and undergoing a background check. The whole process takes anywhere from four to five months, so it’s vital you get the advice of a knowledgeable gun dealer before gaining ownership and selling it at auction. If the gun is not very valuable, it’s probably not worth your time and effort.
Ammunition and Minors
In most states, it’s illegal to sell ammunition, and it is always illegal to sell guns to under-aged buyers–18 or 21, depending on the state.
Guns and Auction Winners
Per federal law, the auction winner is never required to bring the guns to the authorities.
According to Blair, “the ATF says there’s no place in the law that says [the auction winner] has to turn those guns in.”
Fully automatic weapons are an exception to this rule. Also, state laws and local ordinances are a different story altogether. If you do win guns at a storage auction, it’s prudent to bring them to the authorities regardless of whether or not you’re mandated to do so by state law. After all, these weapons were found in an abandoned storage locker, and you don’t want to be liable if they were stolen or used in a crime.