State and Federal Bans on Marine Flares
A Case for Electonic Flares
In 1998, the United States Coast Guard spent approximately two million dollars responding to false distress calls in the thirteenth district alone—58% of those distress calls were false alarms related to misuse of flare guns. More significant than the cost of the common false distress call from a traditional pyrotechnic flare gun is the time Coast Guard soldiers spent at these false alarms, which might better have been used for such issues as marine safety, search and rescue, and homeland security missions.
This often unintentional misuse of flare guns is characterized as a Class D felony under Title 14, U.S. Code, Section 858, leading to large fees or jail time varying from state to state.
Further fines are easily incurred by users when the time comes to dispose of expired guns. A mere 9% of pyrotechnic flare gun users properly dispose of these guns, which must be replaced approximately every three years.
Due to both the difficulty of properly disposing of and potential weaponization of flare guns, this type of visual distress signal has become the focus of legislation in a number of states.
Washington State’s Initiative 594 offers little differentiation between flare guns and traditional firearms, such that persons wishing to purchase a traditional flare gun may be subject to such scrutiny as a background check. “Firearm,” according to the legislation, “means a weapon or device from which a projectile or projectiles may be fired by an explosive such as gunpowder…. ‘Gun’ has the same meaning as firearm.”
Similar measures are under review in Connecticut and New York, demonstrating the increasing level of restriction for this antiquated and dangerous emergency visual distress signal technology.
Sirius Signal believes that LED electronic flares should replace pyrotechnic marine flares.