Firearms Lawyer Simon Munslow answers your legal questions.

Guns In Boats

Sporting Shooter reader, A.Z., asks “What’s the law on having firearms in your boat? Sea and river?”

Firstly, you have not disclosed where you are, your destination, or what type of boat you have, so I shall have to answer your question very generally. 

Essentially, the laws regarding possession of firearms in boats are exactly the same as those regulating them on land.

If you are thinking about carrying a firearm while you sail or motor your boat around Australia, or on internal waterways, you need to look at the purpose that you have established for the possession of your firearm. 

If a firearm on a houseboat or boat that is being used to access deer country, around a Victorian lake such as Eildon, the activity is clearly legal, and what you would then need to do is think about the security of the firearm when on the boat, just as you would if the firearm was carried in a car.

If you are carrying a rifle on a boat while fishing, this is another issue, unless you have made a case for a licence on this basis.

You need to be able to establish a bona fide reason for your firearm being on the boat, just as you need a reason for it being in your motor vehicle and also abide by the same storage requirements.

Remember, self-defence is not regarded as a genuine reason in Australia. Also, if you are thinking of slipping ashore to obtain some freshly-shot organic bush meat, even in remote parts of Australia, if the property is owned, you need to obtain permission to hunt.

If you are passing through Australia on a yacht or motorised vessel, Australian Customs advise that if you have a firearm on board, you need to alert Customs. If they take possession of the firearm, they will require one week’s notice of your departure in order to return it.

Carriage of a firearm into many foreign countries can land you in a great deal of trouble, with your arrest and seizure of your firearm and boat being possible outcomes.

This is unfortunate, because these laws have done more to encourage the international piracy industry than any other cause, because pirates (located Somalia, the Philippine island of Mindanao, certain and Indonesian Islands) know that vessels are not armed, making yachts and shipping highly vulnerable to anybody with a speed boat, Kalashnikov and the inclination.

It is my guess that some appropriate ordinance aboard boats travelling near areas known for piracy, or other areas with a piracy problem, would do much to diminish the problem.

The reason for this is that most of today’s piracy is opportunistic, and it usually represents an alternative catch for impoverished fisherman who are looking to earn a quick, dishonest quid, and who operate from fast outboard-powered soft skinned vessels.  They have no more desire to be shot at than you do.

If you are planning on sailing overseas with a firearm I suggest you research the firearms laws in every country that you propose to visit, and ensure that the firearms are disclosed to Customs immediately upon arrival.  Do not fail to disclose them, and hope that they are not found, because if they are, you will probably face charges for smuggling firearms.

Note that disclosure is not in itself fool proof,  I understand from looking at cruising yacht websites in preparing this article, that disclosure will not protect you from prosecution in some countries such as Mexico.




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