Questionable Mabry Mill gun ban

Sign by the door of Mabry Mill Restaurant on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Floyd County, VA.

Found a new sign quoting federal law, Title 18, Section 930, warning that anyone carrying a firearm into Mabry Mill faces arrest and up to five years in jail.

Title 18, Section 930, prohibits carrying or have knowledge of someone else carrying a firearm into federal facilities or federal courts.

In a National Park Service Bulletin : Firearms in the Parks Implementation of Section 512, P.L. 111-24, the law says “customers must refer to the applicable state law.”

Mabry Mill is on the Blue Ridge Parkway and modifications of federal law in 2010 gave those on the lands of National Parks to carry firearms in states where concealed or open carry laws exist where those parks are located.

Blue Ridge Parkway is located in Virginia and North Carolina, which allows both concealed and open carry and those laws allow users of the Parkway to carry weapons if they want.

The NPS also states in the guidelines issued to concesssionaires: No Firearms in Federal Facilities, (18 U.S.C. 930(g)(1)) – Generally prohibits possession of a firearm in a “Federal facility,” which is described as 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 (e.g., visitor center or regularly scheduled NPS talks/tours).

Does 18 U.S.C. 930 apply to Mabry Mill?  The National Park Service does not lease Mabry Mill from anyone.  The federal government owns the facility and it is leased by Cape Leisure, the current operator. Our inquiries to  Cape Leisure in Cape Canaveral, Florida, have gone unanswered.  The overriding control in this situation, however, appears to be covered in a notice issued by Steve Stinnett, Chief Ranger, in 2010:

A change in federal law effective February 22, 2010, allows people who can legally possess firearms under federal, state/commonwealth (North Carolina or Virginia), and local laws to possess those firearms in the Blue Ridge Parkway. The new law (Sec. 512 of P.L. 111-24) was passed by Congress and signed last May by the President.

The new federal law makes possession of firearms in national parks also subject to the firearms laws of the state/commonwealth and communities where the parks are located.

Visitors who wish to bring firearms to the park are responsible to know what state/commonwealth they are in and are subject to the laws of the different state or commonwealth and counties, depending on their location.

“We have been working closely with local, state, commonwealth, and federal officials to ensure that we clearly understand the provisions of the laws that will now apply to our visitors when they are in the park,” said Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis. We encourage every visitor who may wish to bring firearms to the park to do their research ahead of time and ensure that they are aware of and abide by the laws that apply.  Our goal is to provide safe, enjoyable park visits for everyone, and to preserve this very special place for people today and future generations.”

The new federal law has no effect on existing laws and regulations regarding the possession of other weapons, the use of firearms in national parks or hunting. Hunting still is not allowed in the Blue Ridge Parkway. Federal law continues to prohibit firearms in federal facilities, such as park visitor centers; these facilities are posted with appropriate notices at public entrances. In addition, firearms are not allowed in concession managed facilities that are posted with firearms prohibited signs, in accordance with state or commonwealth law.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis said, “We will administer this law as we do all others – fairly.  For nearly 100 years, the mission of the National Park Service has been to protect and preserve the parks and to help all visitors enjoy them. The parks belong to all Americans, and our commitment to the American people is to ensure the safety of our visitors and the special places that have been entrusted to our care.”

For more information about firearms laws that apply to the Blue Ridge Parkway, please visit http://www.vsp.state.va.us/Firearms.shtm and http://www.ncdoj.com/Files/About-DOJ/Law-Enforcement-Liaison/2007-NC-Firearms-gun-Laws.aspx. For more information about the Blue Ridge Parkway visit www.nps.gov/blri.

Virginia’s gun laws do allow a private establishment to ban carrying firearms on their premises but the notice of not doing so should note the ban is a decision of the establishment. The posting beside the door of the restaurant of Mabry Mill refers to a federal law that may not apply.

A more pertinent question might rest with those who feel a need to boycott business establishments that bans the legal possession of a firearm in their premises.  In nearby Christiansburg, we have seen boycotts urged for Regal Theaters for its banning of concealed weapons while attending a movie and restaurants like Panera Bread.

Singer/songwriter Toby Keith opened a restaurant in Woodbridge, Virginia, a few years ago and had what many felt was a hypocritical attitude when the restaurant banned weapons, given Keith’s support of the right to own and carry firearms.  The restaurant closed in less than two years after opening.

Cape Leisure took over Mabry Mill with a 10-year lease in 2014.  The new operators get mixed reviews on websites like Yelp and we have received a number of complaints about the service, prices and quality of the meals.

We tried the restaurant after Cape Leisure took over in 2014 but never went back, primarily because country ham, which used to be a featured item at Mabry Mill, was no longer on the menu.  That, to us, showed a lack of understanding of the history of the restaurant or the area culture.

There’s also better food and service nearby off the Parkway.

And they don’t ban my concealed weapons — if and when I choose to exercise my rights under Virginia law.

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