Recent news items and an everyday question Floridians ask law enforcement officials involves the carrying of weapons, specifically firearms, on sailboats, yachts and other seaworthy craft capable of entering international waters.
Authorities are regularly asked what the legal implications are. And the answer is that it’s complicated, Craig Agranoff writes in a blog for the Huffington Post.
“Sadly, many legal issues we might take for granted as Floridians and Americans are non-existent or so confused as to be generally ignored once a vessel enters international waters,” Agranoff writes.
In international waters, vessels flying an American flag are subject to U.S. laws. But once they enter another country’s coastal waters, which can extend as far as 24 miles off the coast, they fall under the laws governing that country. For example, an American vessel entering coastal waters in Mexico would be prohibited from having firearms, except by special permit. (There are exemptions, such as a boat’s emergency flare gun.)
Even in domestic waters, the law changes as you enter and leave each state’s jurisdiction. That’s why many yachts carry no weapons beyond flare guns or non-lethal water cannons.