Guns and Bankruptcy

By: Timothy McFarlin | Published: May 10th, 2010 | Category: Bankruptcy

The right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Constitution.  In California, certain rules exist for who may possess firearms.  In general, felons, drug users, and offenders in domestic violence cases may not own firearms.  For those that have made the choice to keep and bear arms, the possession of these weapons is a matter of personal conviction.  Any person who legally owns firearms would most likely hate to see their weapons be taken in order to settle the debts of a bankruptcy. 

Under the federal rules of bankruptcy, certain forms of bankruptcy allow the property of a filer to be sold in order to pay off certain debts, but the law also allows for certain property exemptions.  These exemptions allow a person to retain portions of their property such as household goods and vehicles.  The law allows these exemptions because it recognizes that all people, even those who owe money, need a certain amount of their property in order maintain a livable quality of life.  For many people who happen to be gun owners, their quality of life includes the ability to feel safe through the possession of a firearm.

Even though bankruptcy is a federally controlled program, a person who files for bankruptcy may choose between a federal or state list of exemptions.  A person can choose one or the other, but not both, and not parts of both.  Residents of California may choose to be bound by the exemptions issued by the state or those issued by the federal government.  Contact a local bankruptcy attorney for guidance on which exemption list would be the most beneficial for a specific set of circumstances.

When it comes to firearms, the state of California does not specifically list them as an exemption, even though some states do.  Those who are dedicated enough to the idea of gun ownership may do better for themselves by deciding to recognize the federal list of bankruptcy exemptions which allows a wild card exemption up to a certain amount.  This amount may change but it is generally enough to allow the retention of some firearms.

The only way to specifically list firearms as an exemption under the California list is if those firearms are a tool of a trade, such as for security officers, police officers, or any other person who uses a firearm as a part of their occupational duties.  This is to allow a person to continue to work so that they may improve their financial situation without having to place themselves in further debt as a way to continue earning an income.

As a general rule, deciding to recognize one list over the other is a matter of personal choice.  Some sacrifices may have to be made in order to hold on to the most important pieces of property.  Those who feel strongly about gun ownership may have to sacrifice other exemptions in order to maintain ownership of their firearms. 

The good news is that a person does not become ineligible from owning a firearm if they have filed for bankruptcy, so they may re-purchase firearms at a later date when their financial situation has improved.

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