There was an interesting article in the Seattle Times on Sunday titled, “Preppers do their best to be ready for the worst.” How many people would recognize the term “Prepper”if you asked them on the street? It was developed by their own group, generally part of the APN (American Preppers Network) to describe their ability to be prepared for civil unrest due to a variety of circumstances. But they also make it really clear that they are not “Survivalists” and don’t want to be lumped into the same box just because they believe in being armed. Preppers are just planners – planning for what could happen if a major catastrophe hit their area.
For example, if we had a major natural disaster like an earthquake or volcanic eruption, or economic system collapse, or anything else that would set people to panic, they are ready. They have stockpiled food and water and other necessary supplies to last from weeks to several months. The reason they are well-armed of course is to protect what they have stockpiled from those who didn’t stockpile and simply want to come and take theirs – it’s really that simple. And very different from a Survivalist…
So what does this have to do with the law? Lots! For example, we don’t know when a disaster will occur so in the meantime, they are gathering firearms in a similar fashion to other supplies. After all, one gun isn’t going to protect much if your house is stormed by hungry people. So the first question is, “What kind of guns are being stockpiled? Are these “legal” firearms or have some been acquired or modified that makes them illegal?” Either way, before a disaster strikes, being in possession of an illegal firearm is still illegal and needs to be dealt with accordingly. Having a machine gun might be handy in a disaster but is still illegal every day before the disaster!
The second question relates to their buddies – other Preppers. Preppers know other Preppers and I’m sure there has been more than one instance when they either traded or bought and sold guns from each other to balance their collection. This “transfer” of guns could carry with it some legal issues. Now that suppressors are legal in many areas, is there any doubt some or many Preppers have acquired one? These carry an entirely different set of laws and rules relating to possession (which means “access” too) and especially in transferring one where the ATF is charged with oversight, so very interested in any transfer that occurs… with severe penalities for those who do it wrong such as $250,000 fines or more and up to 10 years in jail!
Finally, what if the Prepper happens to pass away before the disaster? Now the surviving spouse and family has his (or her) gun collection. Are they continuing the Prepper program or do they want to dispose of them? Again, doing it right means no worries, and doing it wrong can be very painful and distressful. There are many legal issues surrounding transfers, and most spouses and family members are not aware of what to do, how to do it, or if using a “Gun Trust” set up ahead of time can make this all a lot easier.
Knowing about all the legal issues is important for Preppers too, not just food, water and hardware. The serious ones should be answered by a “gun savvy attorney” to help navigate these waters. Preppers are planners, so I just hope they added this one step of planning into their equation to ensure they don’t go to jail because of one oversight or miscalculation… when all that was intended was to defend their families in a disaster… and not to cause one.