I grew up around guns. My grandparent’s place (an admittedly remote farm) was lousy with them; rifles stacked in the kitchen corner, pistol tacked under the kitchen counter, massive gun rack in the living room and uncles that’d stroll in and place their pistols atop a pantry shelf. Statistically speaking, we kids were a decent sample size when it comes to gun accident issues, yet we all operated under the fear of the Almighty lest we touch any of the armament. Even in our teens, we pretty much respected that order partly because there was a lot of supervised firing time.
My point is, I’ve got standing to make a few comments about rifles and handguns. Comment No. 1 is that maritime law is sort of curious about arming your vessel. Comment No. 2 — and the one I’ll just jettison right now so some of you can peel off and head in another direction — is that the cure for the policing in this country is back to the .38 special. You want a fancy handheld powerhouse with a German-sounding name and 14 rounds, sign up for the military. I say my tax dollars hired a cop with good people skills, not a Ranger.
On the maritime law front, we could spend a lot of time unfolding all the legal issues involved in guns aboard vessels and my next several blog entries will do so. Still, since I’ve touched on piracy in the past, I want to start with a relatively new law with the unassuming title “Use of Force Against Piracy.” While some laws provide rights, this law provides protection. That is, this law states that if you cause injury or death to someone while you’re resisting an act of piracy, you’re not responsible in monetary damages. Importantly though, your actions have to be in accord with certain use of force standards in order to obtain the benefit of the law’s protection.
I don’t know where I come out on this law. To be clear, I’m no advocate of nor do I possess any tolerance for piracy. Still, do we need a specific law carving out immunity from civil liability? The only other area I can think of in which civil liability is tempered arises in the context of the good Samaritan situation. Wouldn’t acting in accord with the use of force standards in general have protected an individual or business from civil liability arising from a piracy encounter? Is this law too much? I’m interested in your thoughts. I will say this: as you’ll see in my coming entries, the maritime law is not easy on punishment and you can still land yourself a death sentence for scuttling a vessel.
Underway and making way.