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First things first, let's just pretend the hyperspace ramming in the Last Jedi didn't happen, because hyperspace ramming means every FTL-capable vessel in the galaxy is a deadly weapon capable of destroying star destroyers, making this thread irrelevant.

Okay, so according to Wookieepedia, Han Solo won the Millennium Falcon gambling with Lando Calrissian. This explains how he was able to afford the ship. The Falcon is a YT-1300 Corellian Light freighter. Wookieepedia defines freighters as such:

A freighter, cargo ship, or barge was a kind of spacecraft used for hauling cargo from one place to another. Although light freighters could usually hold their own in combat against other fighter craft, larger vessels tended to be less capable. These large freighters could be easy targets considering their large size, slow speed, and weak armament. For this reason most heavy freighters required escorts when navigating more dangerous regions of the galaxy.

This is troubling; does this mean civilians are allowed to pilot spacecraft mounted with weapons capable of destroying other vessels? Spaceships can't be cheap, and I'm assuming Han has some sort of title and registration for the falcon, but in the real world most vehicles much bigger than an RV are owned by organizations, and in the case of naval vessels owned by shipping companies, merchant marines, or part of a country's fleet. With that comes all sorts of regulations, licensing fees, ID numbers, permits...

So what is Han Solo's official job title? We all know he's a smuggler, but that implies that his "official" job is something like cargo shipper or merchant. Or does he fly under the radar at all times, running from every authority he sees? What about other private vessels? Wookieepedia makes it clear that other freighters are allowed to have weapons mounted on their ships.

In the past during wartime private vessels were temporarily allowed to be mounted with weapons (relevant Wikipedia link), but that was an exceptional time (although granted the original trilogy does take many cues from WWII). Yes, armed guards with small arms are allowed, though expensive (Reddit, The Telegraph)... but ship-mounted weapons are a different story (Yahoo Answers, Quora). but what is the rationalization for a private spaceship like the Millennium Falcon being outfitted with weaponry capable of shooting down a pursuing fleet of Imperial Tie Fighters (the equivalent of fighter jets attacking a merchant freighter)? This "freighter" took out a Death Star for crying out loud.

My guess is it's allowed because of space pirates or the difficulty of maintaining law in the vast reaches of space, but then again, you'd think the Empire wouldn't allow much leeway considering their greatest threat is a massive covert rebellion and all. It seems like it would make more sense for freighters to be escorted or dangerous areas patrolled by the Empire.

I'm writing a sci-fi story of my own so it would be nice to know if there is a decent explanation other than "because it's cool." Example from sci-fi works other than Star Wars are welcome as well.

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    Why should we pretend that some element of a story didn't happen? – Adamant Apr 23 '18 at 5:06
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    @Adamant Oh, from the Last Jedi. Because Hyperspace ramming means every FTL-capable vessel in the galaxy is a deadly weapon capable of destroying star destroyers, making this thread irrelevant. I edited the post. – Dakacha Apr 23 '18 at 5:08
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    My understanding from all my readings : different planets, different laws. Some of them allow weapons, other don't. Generally people are allowed to have weapons. A lot of places are dangerous, as there are a lot of criminals, pirates and smugglers. And if weapons are not allowed, corruption is the key for authorities to not see them. – Neow Apr 23 '18 at 8:07
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    If we bring real world analogies, SW is like the age of high seas piracy. If pirates are recognized as a universal threat, then a cargo ship either has to be armed enough to fight back the pirates, or be accompanied by an armed fleet. Most ships of the age were allowed to carry cannons powerful enough to disable any ship in range (by knocking down the main mast). Also, regulation on ownership were a bit relaxed at those times. – TimSparrow Apr 23 '18 at 9:44
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    Also, the Galaxy far far away is a big place. Who's gonna check every single ship out there? – Rebel-Scum Apr 23 '18 at 10:20
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According to the Star Wars Official Fact File #51, transport ships and licensed freighters like the Millennium Falcon were permitted to carry a certain amount of low-energy weaponry, presumably for basic self-defence from pirates and to help navigate systems with natural obstructions such as asteroids.

Turbolasers and other high-powered weapons were illegal under Imperial law but ships on the Outer Rim (where those laws hold little sway) often toted them anyway.

"Out on the lawless fringes of the known galaxy, transport ships and independent freighters often sported heavier laser cannon armaments than Imperial-era legislatures permitted."

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    Also, in the Incredible Cross Sections, the quad-lasers that the Falcon had were considered illegal too. – CBredlow Apr 23 '18 at 17:35
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    Han admits he made modifications to the ship. – SiXandSeven8ths Apr 23 '18 at 21:49
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    A quick mention: One of the earliest Star Wars novels, Han Solo at Star's End by Brian Daley, published in 1979 (and set before the original movie), addressed this subject. In one scene, the "Security Police" (cops in one sector of the Galaxy) inform Han Solo that regulations have been tightened up, and his ship seems to be lacking the correct permits, etc., for the firepower, extra defensive shielding, long-range sensor gear, etc., that's obviously been added to his ship to make it much more of a "firecracker" than a privately owned freighter is supposed to be. – Lorendiac Apr 24 '18 at 4:48
  • Valorum, @Lorendiac, CBredlow, and SiXandSeven8ths: thanks! These were just the answers I was looking for. So the Empire did indeed have laws pertaining to legal private ownership of ship-mounted weapons... just not to the radical degree of the Millennium Falcon. So those were the "special modifications" he was referring to... – Dakacha Apr 24 '18 at 11:37

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