What “Shall-Issue” Laws Mean and How They Affect Your Rights in the Boat Lovers Dream State, Louisiana
Gun ownership is regulated by federal law, including restriction of the ownership of specific types of firearms. The National Firearms Act puts restrictions on the sale or possession of short-barreled shotguns, machine guns, and silencers. However, there are plenty of legal motivations for owning a gun. If you have a firearm, you might need it for a variety of reasons, from self-defense and deterring crime to sporting activities like hunting and fishing, and you will need to understand how to transport it properly.
Louisiana is one of the best states in the U.S. for fishing and boating. Here in Baton Rouge, we are about 118 miles from the Kisatchie National Forest, where you can go boating on the beautiful Lake Kincaid. Louisiana is filled with an abundance of other recreational lakes, like Caddo Lake, Calcasieu Lake, Cane River Lake, Lake D'Arbonne, False River, Henderson Lake, Lake Larto, Lake Pontchartrain Basin, Sabine Lake, and Toledo Bend Reservoir. This means that on an average day, the boating enthusiasts of our community have access to some of the best waters for boating in the country. Because boats can take you outside of your specific state of residence, you might be uncertain as to the legalities of carrying your firearm when traveling this way.
In most cases, carrying a handgun in a motor vehicle is legal in Louisiana. The state of Louisiana also issues permits for concealed carry. However, it is shall-issue state, which means that you must meet all gun law provisions before applying for a permit. While firearms can certainly be useful in a proper setting, they can be dangerous and wind you up in some legal trouble if you do not transport them properly.
Even though Louisiana is a “shall-issue” state, boating can take you to different territories that have different concealed carry laws and enforcements. For example, you could take the Mississippi River, the world's third-longest river system, on a journey from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Natchez and Vicksburg Mississippi, and end up in Memphis, Tennessee in a matter of days. This would give you a chance to check out Vicksburg Military Park and even visit Graceland, the mansion once owned by Elvis Presley that is now the second-most visited house in the U.S. next to the White House. In terms of privately owned homes in the U.S., it is the most visited. On a trip like this, it would be important to look into the individual carry laws in each area.
Does Law Enforcement Need a Warrant to Search a Boat?
All of these states, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi are “shall issue” states. Furthermore, possession of a gun in your vehicle is allowed as long as the vehicle is considered an extension of your home. LRS 14:14:95.2 states, “Any constitutionally protected activity which cannot be regulated by the state, such as a firearm contained entirely within a motor vehicle.” This means that if you have obtained the gun legally, you are allowed to have it in your vehicle, which extends to a boat as well.
However, if you were to be pulled over, on the road or on waters, the law enforcement officer has the right to take reasonable actions to ensure their security during an investigation. If an officer has probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or sees illegal activity in plain view, they would be allowed to conduct a search of your vehicle without a warrant. This means the officer also has the right to secure a firearm or other weapon from the vehicle while doing so, but they should return it at the end of the investigation. If you are stopped for a simple traffic violation and the officer is only issuing a traffic citation, they would not have the right to keep a firearm.
Although taking a firearm on a boat is legal in many cases, there are still a few important safety tips to remember. For one, you should be sure to not go beyond the boat's weight capability. This will look a bit different for each boat, but your boat should come with specific guidelines that point you in the right direction. Furthermore, if you are bringing a dog or children on the boat, it is important to be mindful of their safety. Some experts would also recommend reserving gun usage for times when the boat is stopped and anchored and the motor is off. This will help keep all of the passengers safe.
Can You Carry Guns in International Waters?
International waters are defined as at least 24 miles away from the coast. Being that Louisiana borders the Gulf of Mexico, the ninth largest body of water in the world, you could find yourself in territory not owned by the U.S., in which case the rules of your state would not apply. If you are an American boat entering the coastal waters of Mexico, you would then be subject to the laws of Mexico. These laws currently prohibit firearms except by special permit and with some exemptions, like the ship's emergency flare gun.
Need Legal Defense Against a Firearm Charge?
Even if you are careful about following all of the local gun laws as they pertain to your person and your vehicle, it is still possible to find yourself facing firearm charges. If this has happened to you or a loved one, Jarrett Ambeau at The Ambeau Law Firm can help uncover your legal options and present your case in the best light possible. We are here to protect your rights and freedom, and we will do what it takes to fight for your case and serve as the strong representation you need.