I was recently walking in Balls Bluff Battlefield Regional Park in Leesburg, Virginia, where I encountered one of those astonishingly inane policies that the federal government is known for.
Consisting of three acres, Balls Bluff is a regional park owned and run by a state entity called Northern Virginia Parks. It commemorates a battle that took place early in the Civil War, one in which Confederate forces defeated Northern forces that had crossed the Potomac and invaded Virginia.
Nestled in the middle of this state-owned park is a national cemetery in which 54 Union soldiers are buried. Consisting of a 1/2 acre plot, the cemetery is the third-smallest national cemetery in the country.
The small cemetery is encircled by a rock wall. Visitors can enter the small enclosed area through a gate.
There is one caveat, however, which is where the inanity comes into play: The federal government has posted a sign that prohibits people from carrying firearms onto the tiny plot of land on which the cemetery is located.
Virginia is an open-carry state and also has concealed-carry. Thus, it is entirely legal for Virginians to enter onto Balls Bluff Battlefield Regional Park with loaded guns.
But when they reach the middle of the park and encounter that tiny cemetery, the feds prohibit them from carrying their weapons into that area.
I have tried to figure out what the federal reasoning would be for this inane policy but, for the life of me, I simply have been unable to do so. Are the feds concerned about people having a shoot-out on that 1/2 acre cemetery over who won the Civil War? Are they concerned that a sniper might set up behind the rock wall that encircles the cemetery and begin firing at visitors to the park? Do they consider it a sign of disrespect for people to have guns in a place where soldiers were killed by guns? Is the policy simply a way to put down Virginians for having defeated Union soldiers in that particular Civil War battle?
None of the explanations I have come up makes any sense.
It’s worth mentioning that in 2010 the federal government enacted a law entitling people to carry loaded weapons into national parks and applying state concealed-carry laws to national parks. So, why is a national cemetery treated differently from a national park?
At the bottom of the federal sign at the Balls Bluff national cemetery, the following federal statute is cited: 18 USC Section 930. I figured that that law must explain the reason for what is clearly a federal inanity.
The law states in pertinent part: “Except as provided in subsection (d), whoever knowingly possesses or causes to be present a firearm or other dangerous weapon in a Federal facility (other than a Federal Court facility), or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.”
So, there you have it. Federal law requires the feds to enforce that inane policy at its Balls Bluff national cemetery … well … except for one thing: Later in the statute, the law states: “The term ‘Federal facility’ means a building or part thereof owned or leased by the Federal Government, where Federal employees are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties.”
So, why cite a law that is clearly inapplicable to justify what is obviously an inane policy?
Who knows? All that we know is that armed visitors to Balls Bluff have three choices on encountering the cemetery: Take their guns and leave them on the ground before entering the cemetery and then retrieve them on their way out, violate the law and carry their guns into the cemetery, or simply stay out of the cemetery.
This federal policy sure seems inane to me.