Posted by: First Mate | July 11, 2011

Firearms and Open Water Sailing

Let me start this post with a clear statement – I am not a gun advocate.  That being said my husband, the Captain, brought up the idea of having a sidearm or a rifle on board when open water sailing.  Because we are married and I do love, respect and admire him – my response was not “are you crazy?”  The response was more along the lines of, let’s do some research to determine: what the laws are where we live and where we will be traveling, what it would take for all of us to be properly and effectively trained and knowledgeable on how to use and maintain a weapon and most importantly, consider exactly what situation would call for us to use a firearm, and would another weapon like a slingshot or a bow and arrow be more effective.

I grew up in a house with guns, in Arizona, and attended my first gun safety course at the age of 7 or 8; after 40 my brain has gotten a little less precise on the exact dates but I do remember a Tarantula spider walking across our path in the dawn of the desert as we strolled out to shoot our rifles at one of the courses.  During my adolescence, I fired many guns and even took a few ribbons at camp shooting contests.  (Yes, shooting contests for children existed in Arizona at Summer Camp.)  My husband who grew up in California and Alaska is extremely adept at all types of weaponry including a bow and arrow.  He also has a keen interest in all kinds of weapons as he was a former defense contractor. That being said, he is also a man that feels paintball should be outlawed because weapons, especially firearms of ANY kind, should NEVER be aimed at another human being.  Frankly, we both feel extremely strongly, that firearms should never be pointed at ANYTHING that the bearer is not willing to KILL or DESTROY.

We live in Hawaii and the gun laws here are extremely strict. A permit is needed to acquire a firearm, and all legal firearms are registered with the police department, one can apply for a carry permit and it will not be granted, silencers and automatic weapons are outlawed.  Find more info on Hawaii Gun Legislation here.  I like these policies.  My husband who has always be a responsible citizen and gun owner finds them restrictive for law-abiding citizens.

We are still participating in this debate and I know that countries, like Mexico, will seize your vessel and throw you in jail if a firearm is found on your boat.  There is also the question of what a gun (or multiple) would do if we were attacked or needed to use the weapons.  There are plenty of shady characters at our harbor, but I am really never in fear.  In open ocean, the attacker would likely have a firearm, thus resulting in a fire fight and the potential for innocent casualties.  Does owning a firearm, increase the statistical probability that one would use it in a stressful situation? I do want to protect my family and feel that knowledge based skills like sailing, applying stitches to a wound, baking bread and yes, maintaining and shooting a firearm are all things one should know how to do, but I am not sure that a gun is a better choice than a gaff hook and a sling shot.

See this interesting post Why HB 155 undermines the trust doctors have with patients,  providing a physician’s opinion about this legislation.  I am also astonished now when I meet people and they ask us, do you have guns?  As if they are asking if we eat out regularly or drink coffee?  Are guns that common? Is it our large military population or loads of hunters and recreational shooters?  There is a special office at the Honolulu police department that is dedicated to firearms registration.

My struggle with this concept of having a firearm is not with the weapons themselves – it is with the capacity to take, literally, or mame another human life – as a woman and a mother – I am not sure that is something I want to do.  The best weapon we will ever have is our intelligence and our ability to rationalize.  My preference would be to avoid any situation that could result in injury or death.  I hope that is possible.  What are your thoughts on this?  Please note when considering your answer, we always sail with our child.  Should that change our decision?


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