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 five tips for carrying your firearm to the beach.
- License to Carry a Handgun— Good news! Thanks to the Open Beaches Act, Texas beaches are primarily public property, so you can carry your firearm under the authority of your License to Carry (LTC) just like you could in other public places. You can carry concealed in a beach bag, backpack, and yes, even in your swim trunks. Be careful with open carry because the handgun will need to be in a belt or shoulder holster.
- 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, Texas allows you to carry a concealed handgun with or without a license. If you have an LTC, you have the additional option of openly carrying your handgun in your vehicle in a shoulder holster or belt holster. 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.
- Public vs. Private Beach—Before you feel the sand between your toes it’s important to find out if you’re going to be on a public or private beach. Though most beaches are public property, the beach outside of a private home is often the property of that homeowner. Texas law recognizes a private owner’s right to restrict the carry of a handgun on their premises, including if that premises is on the beach. If your plans take you to a private beach, be sure to check with the owner and keep your eye out for 30.06 and 30.07 signs. Public beaches, on the other hand, should be treated like any other public property in the state. If you can carry in Texas, you can probably carry on the beach.
- 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. Texas law treats watercraft just like motor vehicles and allows you to carry a concealed firearm in a watercraft under your control whether or not you have an LTC. You can also carry to and from your boat and vehicle, as long as you take a direct route. Unfortunately, boats and watercraft can lead to a complicated intersection between different state’s laws because rivers and lakes often separate two states. Also, federal 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. Carrying a firearm while intoxicated is a crime in Texas, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 in fine or BOTH, as well as the revocation of your LTC for seven years! Texas does not specifically define what intoxicated means in the context of an unlawful carry, but if you lose the normal use of your mental or physical faculties, the law will probably consider you intoxicated. Our best advice is: if you are consuming any alcohol, do not bring your gun.
If you remember these five things, you can maintain that peace of mind to enjoy your beach vacation. Remember, U.S. & Texas 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.gunlawseminar.com