You might think the only thing you need to figure out for your beach vacation is how to get your .44 magnum in your swimming trunks, but there are other factors you need to consider before you head out for fun in the sun. We want to make sure you know the law before you go soak up the sun, and we have developed four tips for carrying your firearm to the beach.
- License to Carry a Handgun— Because Georgia law allows Weapons Carry License holders to carry on virtually any public or private property, you can protect your family on a public beach or a private beach. It is permissible to carry on public beaches: License holders may carry there lawfully. Private beaches are okay, too: License holders may carry onto private property unless expressly excluded or asked to leave by the owner or person in control of the property. State park beaches are okay, as are federal beaches: Georgia law allows carry for License holders in state parks, and the federal government follows state law, except NO CARRY is allowed in federal buildings. You can openly (difficult when swimming), and carry concealed in a beach bag, backpack, and yes, even in your swim trunks. Remember, however, for carry in parks, historic sites, or state recreational areas, only handgun carry is permitted. See O.C.G.A. §12-3-10.
- Storing Firearms While Traveling—It’s important to keep in mind how you’re going to get to your waterside destination, because the laws can be very different depending on your mode of transportation. When traveling by vehicle, Georgia allows you to carry a concealed handgun with or without a license, as long as you are eligible to possess that weapon. License or not, if not prohibited from possessing the firearm, you can keep it anywhere in the vehicle, openly or concealed. When traveling by airplane, TSA guidelines require that your firearm is unloaded, locked in a commercial gun case with a TSA approved lock, and declared at check-in. Make sure if you travel out of state your Weapons Carry License is honored through a reciprocal agreement (check the Attorney General’s website at https://law.georgia.gov/firearms-license-reciprocity for more information and a listing of states with reciprocity). You must follow the laws of the state you’re visiting when you are there with a firearm.
- Having a Firearm on a Boat—We know many of you like to go out on the water on a jet ski or boat. It’s important to understand how the laws can change when you’re out on the water, and what effect that has on carrying your firearm. A boat does not fit the definition of “vehicle” in Georgia, so the rules on weapons carry without a license for automobiles do not necessarily apply. Consequently, unless your boat is of a type that may be considered a “habitation” or home for purposes of carry without a license, you must have a Weapons Carry License to possess a firearm in a boat (should the boat be of a type that would be considered a home or habitation, an individual may be covered for carry without a license under O.C.G.A. § 16-11-126(a)). Inasmuch as O.C.G.A. § 16-11-127 allows for carry with a Weapons Carry License “in every location in this state” not prohibited by state or federal law, however, a WCL holder should feel free to carry a firearm in a boat in the same manner he or she would on dry land: on any public or private property, so long as not prohibited or excluded by the property owner. A caveat to this rule is carrying on land administered by the United States Corps of Engineers. Federal regulations restrict possession of firearms on Corps lands. 36 CFR § 327.13 prohibits “the possession of loaded firearms, ammunition. . . or other weapons” on Corps-managed property, unless carried by law enforcement, carried for hunting or trapping (note: self-defense is not a listed exception), at authorized shooting ranges, or by permission of the District Commander. Keep in mind also carry in parks, historic sites, and recreation areas is restricted to handguns. Federal and state regulations, specifically on waterways controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, can affect your lawful possession of a firearm. Check with an attorney before venturing far into unknown waters.
- Understand How the Law Changes When You Drink—While you may not be a person who takes part in wild parties over spring break, it’s important to know what can happen if you do drink while carrying your firearm on the beach. While there is no law restricting carry while drinking, it is against the law to discharge a firearm when you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Our best advice is: if you are consuming any alcohol, do not bring your gun.
If you remember these four things, you can maintain that peace of mind to enjoy your beach vacation. Remember, U.S. & Georgia LawShield is not just the 24/7/365 Attorney-Answered Emergency Hotline: if you have a question, don’t hesitate to call our Non-Emergency Business Line on the back of your Member Card or bring your question to one of our Gun Law Seminars. To find a Gun Law Seminar in your area go to www.uslawshield.com/seminar