Stepping up its security measures in the wake of recent mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, California, Disney installed metal detectors at eight theme park and water park entrances in Florida and California today. In addition, it added extra police patrols, discontinued the sale of toy guns, and banned people 14 years and older from wearing costumes or masks due to security concerns.
Walt Disney World, as well as SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando, began using metal detectors at the front of the parks. Safety scanners were also installed in Disneyland and Universal Studios in Hollywood. Randomly selected guests will have to go through the security process. Disneyland officials informed that security officers with bomb-sniffing dogs would patrol throughout the resort.
Disney has also discontinued the sale of toy guns — including toy blasters and squirt guns — at their properties. Stores like Pirates of theCaribbean-style gift shops inside the park sold them until now. Disneyland is known to have previously banned toy guns, but had been allowing their sale at such gift shops.
The security additions come one day after the Department of Homeland Security said in their National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin that they were "especially concerned that terrorist-inspired individuals and homegrown violent extremists may be encouraged or inspired to target public events or places."
Walt Disney World, which is located in Florida, has four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom — as well as two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Two Disney theme parks are located in California, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park.
The New York Times reported that metal detectors have been used previously by Universal to screen guests during its annual Halloween Horror Nights haunted house attraction.
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement, "Now, families can't even go to 'The Happiest Place on Earth' to escape the realities of gun violence in this country."
Disney never permitted visitors to bring guns into the parks, but in the absence of metal detectors, guns have often sneaked through the gates. The LA Times reported that in July, a man who had a loaded gun and a felony criminal record was arrested in the esplanade outside of Disneyland.
The measures also come ahead of the premiere of the Star Wars movie.
"The Sheriff has regularly called for enhanced law enforcement visibility along with additional measures to promote safety for our residents, visitors and tourists during the holiday season. In light of the recent attacks, our awareness and vigilance remain a priority."
The provisions in Florida's gun laws allow private landowners such as Disney to restrict visitors from carrying firearms on the premises and turn away those who violate the park policies, though it cannot press criminal charges if the owner legally possesses the weapon. Disney employees themselves are not armed.
Universal spokesman Tom Schroder said the security upgrades at the Universal parks are a test and not a response to any specific concern.
"We want our guests to feel safe and be safe when they come to our theme parks and so we have begun testing metal detection," Schroder said. "We feel this test is a natural progression for us as we study best practices for security in today's world."
So, the visitors need to be prepared to wait, as the queues are going to become longer henceforth with the metal detectors in place.