The answer depends partly on where you cruise and partly on your own philosophy about owning firearms. Remember, though, that most foreign countries have gun-control laws far stricter than those in the United States. Don’t expect foreign customs officials to look kindly upon tourists who enter their countries bearing arms.
Apart from the insult to their hospitality, they regard it as an act of overt hostility. You have to remember, too, that Americans have a well-deserved reputation abroad for being trigger-happy. Firearms kill more U.S. residents every year than those killed by guns in the world’s next 25 most industrialized nations put together.
Many cruising sailors get along fine without firearms, using common sense about the areas in which they sail and the company with which they mix — just as any cautious tourist would.
But if you really do fear that you’d be vulnerable abroad without your personal arsenal, here are some points to ponder:
Ø A handgun is not likely to be much use for anything at sea except to kill sharks — and a dead shark only attracts other sharks.
Ø A rifle might give a long-range warning to another vessel to halt its approach, but if they’re truly bent on mischief you’re likely to be outgunned anyway.
Ø A shotgun is probably your best form of short-range protection and it will injure, rather than kill, if you use suitable ammunition.
Ø You must declare all firearms to foreign customs officials. They will often confiscate them for the period of your stay and if they return them full of rust and pitting you have no recourse. If they catch you with undisclosed firearms they can confiscate your whole boat.
Ø If you do decide to take firearms, keep them safely locked up. Make sure you know how to use them and look after them properly.
Ø Be aware that a flare-launching pistol that uses 12-gauge or 25 mm cartridges might be considered a firearm in some countries. Also, I’ve heard sailors advocate their use for personal protection in place of a handgun, but I fear that’s fraught with possibilities for disaster, including setting your own boat on fire.
Today’s ThoughtThe three great elements of modern civilization, gunpowder, printing, and the Protestant religion.
— Carlyle, Essays: German Literature
TailpieceDid you hear about the duck who went to the psychiatrist?
“You’ve gotta help me, doc,” said the duck. “I think I’m quacking up.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said the psychiatrist. “You’re a duck. That’s perfectly normal. That’ll be $350. I’ll send you a bill.”
“Don’t bother,” said the duck. “If I’m normal, as you say, I’ve already got one.”
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)