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 handgun to the beach.

  1. License to Carry a Handgun— Virginia law requires a Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP) to carry a concealed handgun. Virginia law does not require a permit to openly carry a handgun.
  2. Storing a Handgun While Traveling—It’s important to keep in mind how you are going to get to your waterside destination because the laws can be very different depending on your mode of transportation. Any person who may lawfully possess a firearm and is carrying a handgun while in a personal, private motor vehicle and such handgun is secured in a container or compartment in the vehicle is not required to possess a CHP. 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. According to Virginia law, it is unlawful to possess or transport a firearm into any air carrier terminal unless the firearm is being checked with luggage or it is being retrieved from the baggage claim area.
  3. 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 located on public property, a beach outside of a private home could be the private property of that homeowner. Virginia law recognizes a private property owner’s right to ban firearms. If your plans take you to a private beach, be sure to check with the owner. Public beaches, on the other hand, should be treated like any other public property in the state.
  4. Having a Handgun 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 handgun. Any person who may lawfully possess a firearm and is carrying a handgun while in a personal, private vessel and such handgun is secured in a container or compartment in the vessel is not required to possess a CHP. Unfortunately, boats and watercraft vessels can lead to a complicated intersection between the laws of different states because rivers, lakes, and waterways often separate two states. Additionally, some waterways are controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers and federal regulations, which can affect your lawful possession of a firearm. Check with an attorney before venturing far into unknown waters.
  5. Understand How the Law Changes When You Drink Alcohol—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 alcohol while carrying your handgun on the beach. Generally, guns and alcohol do not mix. Va. Code § 18.2-308.012 makes it illegal for any person permitted to carry a concealed handgun who is under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs to carry such handgun in a public place. This offense is classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor, which is punishable by 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Any CHP holder who is convicted for being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs while carrying such handgun in a public place shall have his CHP revoked. Such person shall be ineligible to apply for a CHP for a period of 5 years. This law also prohibits any person who carries a concealed handgun with a CHP onto the premises of any restaurant or club as defined in Va. Code § 4.1-100 that has an Alcoholic Beverage Control license to sell and serve alcoholic beverages on-premises to consume an alcoholic beverage while on the premises. A violation of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. This law does not apply to law-enforcement.

If you remember these five things, you can maintain that peace of mind to enjoy your beach vacation. Remember, U.S. LawShield is not just the 24/7/365 Attorney-Answered Emergency Hotline. If you have a question, then please 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