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Old 24-03-2009, 02:54   #1
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pirate Several new questions relating to cruising with firearms

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If all goes as planned I'll be living aboard a coastal cruiser full-time in 18 months. The only articles of personal property I can't bring myself to part with are my firearms. Most these heirlooms will spend their entire cruising career vacuum-bagged with desiccant to prevent rust. One or two may do bedside duty.

That said, what I'm concerned about is running afoul of various state, federal and local laws when crusing coastal waters. I have a basic knowledge of US firearms law and the classes of weapons I suspect may land me in hot water are as follows:

1) Handguns. Some states appear to require registration of all handguns within their territory.
2) Legally registered NFA weapons, including a "short-barreled rifle" and a suppressor. Some states ban these, and BATF requires paperwork to be submitted each time the NFA item moves interstate. The paperwork can take up to a month to process.
3) Ugly guns. Some states ban long guns that have non-pc cosmetic features such as pistol grips and bayonet lugs. I have one or two of these.

My hypothetical cruise is a leisurely year-long voyage from Texas to Maine and back again, possibly including a brief detour in the Bahamas.

So, what jurisdiction (if any) do states exercise over coastal waters? Would I be risking imprisonment if I moored for a week off Long Island?

To what extent does FOPA '86 (Firearm Owner Protection Act) protect boaters crusing through unfriendly states?

If the firearms are locked in a secure container, would I be required to allow the Coast Guard to inspect them upon request, or does the CG require probable cause to search locked boxes? It has been my experience that law enforcement is generally ignorant of NFA.

ATF's NFA change of address form wasn't made with cruisers in mind. Is it enough to notify ATF that the NFA items will be arriving at the destination state after a 6 month cruise (if the weather holds)?

What paperwork (if any) would need to be completed in order to move the firearms into international or foreign waters and back again?

Recommended reading would be appreciated.


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Old 24-03-2009, 07:24   #2
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If for no other reason then the Bahamas, you will want to find a secure place ashore to store your 'extra' guns. The salt will be unkind to them, even vaccum sealed bags can fail. I would also be concerned about the time you dingy ashore for dinner and come back to find your boat has been broken into... not common, but you would be loosing a bunch of money for no reason.

I mention the Bahamas because you have to declare the guns, serial numbers, and each round of ammo when you clear in. Anything beyond the expected self defense (about which they will not even raise an eyebrow) might draw attention.

I doubt you would have any problems in US waters, but would post your question on a gun forum to make sure... don't know about those states north of the Mason-Dixon on the east coast, they might have some laws that would affect your plans.

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Old 24-03-2009, 08:31   #3
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Thanks for your reply.

I'm actually more concerned about American authorities than the Bahamanians, particularly in the coastal states between Maryland and Maine.

I'm aware of several cases where airline passengers traveling with firearms having layovers in NY have been arrested by port authority police for possession of "unregistered" firearms. Each of the cases was ultimately dismissed as preempted by FOPA, but at least one unfortunate man got to spend a week in an NY jail cell before the error was detected.

I wish I knew how FOPA applies to boats, whether states exercise territorial jurisdiction over coastal waters, and if so, whether there was some mechanism by which a US citizen could "declare" firearms when entering port in a less friendly state.

If the Bahamas are unsafe, though, I may just avoid them. My work will require me to work from US waters anyway.

Much obliged,
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Old 24-03-2009, 09:41   #4
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Since you seem to enjoy owning these firearms, I would strongly urge you to find a place to store them ashore -- with a trusted friend, in a safe place -- while you go cruising. The salt environment will get to them, no matter what you try to do (and what's the point of having them with you, just to have them with you? Why risk the damage?) More than a single firearm, and you will be raising suspicion about your intentions everywhere you go.

You'll also have to bypass one of the nicest cruising grounds on your trip -- the south coast of Massachusetts. Getting caught with an unregistered gun in Massachusetts will get you a mandatory one year jail sentence.

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Old 24-03-2009, 10:42   #5
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Originally Posted by sailorcrat View Post
Thanks for your reply......

....If the Bahamas are unsafe, though, I may just avoid them. My work will require me to work from US waters anyway.
Not at all what I intended for you to take from my post. IMHO much safer then many places in the US. I would expect you to raise suspicion of being an arms dealer if you were to clear in with a significant quantity of firearms. Selling thing on the black market (without paying taxes) in the Bahamas is a crime they take very seriously. Their government primarily functions on the capital paid on import taxes and they would likely frown on your sailing in with a large quantity of firearms... declared or otherwise.

You would have similar problems if you came with 12 television sets, or a boat full or watermelon (there was a 'ring' of watermelon smugglers a few years ago according to one official I spoke to).
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Old 24-03-2009, 10:53   #6
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Funny you should mention watermelons I was known as the Watermelon man for years over there/ by some folks- I would load my boat with only a few dozen melons and trade them off to the big conch/ lobster boats and i would also eat them- ive seen 1 good sized melon go for $25 and that was 10 years ago
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Old 26-03-2009, 11:22   #7
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Originally Posted by S/V Elusive View Post
A simple search on this forum would show two things: 1 - there have been LOTS of threads on weapons on board ... ad nausium and 2 - every single one degrades into gun talk ... this is NOT a gun forum. You want to talk guns, try the NRA forum or some other one. This is NOT the forum.
This is not a "head forum" or a "solar power forum" either. The original post was about "cruising" with firearms. This seems like a perfectly reasonable place to post the question. I doubt that a NRA forum would have any information about cruising with firearms.
Judging from the flavor of your post, there appears to be an underlying issue. Am I out of line or do other members feel the same way?
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Old 29-03-2009, 09:05   #8
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I think what he is trying to say is that there are numerous discussions about guns on-board. You will have to check each states' laws. Any time you are boarded, they will ask if there are any weapons on board. In Maryland, our nanny state has an extensive list of "assault" weapons. And there are restrictions for transporting a handgun in a vehicle.
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Old 29-03-2009, 11:06   #9

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Basically, boaters have no rights, and boaters have even fewer rights to keep arms. You can hide them, and risk arrest for the simple fact of doing so if they are found, or you can arrange to store them ashore.

Maybe you can officially place them "on loan" the the NRA's firearms museum for the duration.
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Old 29-03-2009, 12:20   #10
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Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the topic which includes a lot of links and references...
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Old 31-03-2009, 04:23   #11
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You will not be able to travel through these states with anything more then a shot gun. Handguns are considered regulated firearms in Maryland together with assault weapons. You cannot transport them other then to and from the range or gun smith. I recommend the NRA store as they sell a booklet that lists all the state local gun laws up-to-date. But anything beyond a shotgun in a locked gun safe, claiming "Castle Doctrine" as the boat is your home will get you in trouble along the north eastern coast line.
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Old 31-03-2009, 07:48   #12
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Secure Storage Ashore

FWIW it would seem wise to simply store the weapons in secure storage ashore and avoid the difficulties of transporting them entirely. After all, a firearm isn't a "warm and fuzzy" that has much to recommend it aboard ship and I have little doubt that the authorities in most countries will look askance of anything other than a shotgun and will likely impound that durng a visit.

Why create a problem for yourself?


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"It is not so much for its beauty that the Sea makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from the waves, that so wonderfully renews a weary spirit."
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Old 31-03-2009, 11:23   #13

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Yargh, Shark Rifle!

Ya get a passel full a sushi with one shark and one fifty caliber round, only $5 on the surplus market.

Do shark teeth count as "assault dentures" ?

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