A somewhat little-known fact about me is that I worked for The Walt Disney Company for about five years. I spent time at several retail locations, at the Polynesian Village Resort and also at Adventureland/Liberty Square as an “attractions hostess.” (You may have spotted me as a skipper at The Jungle Cruise back in the day!) When I worked at the park, I typically got assigned late hours, often working the 14:00-22:00 timeslot … or even later. And I frequently had to walk the utilidors (underground passages at the Magic Kingdom) alone to get to and from work and to take breaks. I wasn’t armed at the time. I didn’t own a gun, nor did I really even think about it back then.
My family and I had visited the 30,000-acre Orlando attraction hundreds of times in my youth. It almost became a second home. We were comfortable there and rarely thought of the possibility of danger or wrongdoing. Even while bringing my own kids to the park throughout the last 16 years, it’s mostly been centered around fun, relaxation and positive memories … despite the rising costs, the hot temperatures and the outlandish crowds.
But over the last handful of years, my husband and I have both been armed on our Florida trips. Many people have theorized about theme parks like Walt Disney World being targeted for violence and acts of terrorism. Orlando and the surrounding areas aren’t known for tourism alone. Recent crime data reveals that the overall Orlando crime rates are 112 percent higher in comparison to the Florida mean and 126 percent higher than the national average. In regard to violent offenses (murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault), the city has a rate that is 82 percent higher than the Florida average and 94 percent higher than the national mean.
No Guns at the Parks
Of course, Disney is not blind to these statistics or trends. It has taken some measures to keep its patrons safe. Over the years, security has taken on a more noticeable presence. Stations have popped up at park entrances to check people, bags and strollers. More recently, metal detectors have been added to the mix.
“Security has gotten much tighter in recent years, and I’m glad to see it,” commented a good friend of our family, a firearms owner who has brought up his kiddos to love the Disney magic as much as we do. “I did carry concealed in [Magic Kingdom] the first time we went in 2005. But it was such a problem to keep it well hidden, keep it from getting wet, etc. that I never tried to carry again in the parks.”
“[Of course] I understand their [reasoning for] no firearms in the parks,” he continued. “The thought process is that the walls are thin, everything is fake, nothing would stop a bullet in the event of a shooting, [there are] lots of crowds, and you’d have to be a good shot to hit anybody. I do understand that. But I was against only metal-detecting certain people. Last year when we were there, they were sending everyone through the metal detectors. I’m OK with that. As long as no one has a firearm, I’m OK with not having one in the parks.”
No Guns at the Resorts
The bad thing is: Disney doesn’t just ban guns in the theme parks. It bans guns everywhere on the property. “They also don’t officially ‘allow’ you to carry [firearms] in Disney Resorts,” my friend stated. “I’m against that. There’s no way on Earth I’m going to drive eight hours and not have a gun on me. We always carry our small Glocks with us and lock them in the safe in our rooms. Been doing that for years and never had a problem. I’m not going to be anywhere like that and not have access to a gun. [My wife and I] also carry a full-sized gun each and lock them in the dash of the car. Too far to drive and too many dark roads to not be armed.
“At Disney Springs, [it’s the] same thing. If they catch you with [a firearm], they will either ask you to leave or perhaps ban you from the parks (from what I’ve read online). We typically carry a small gun concealed anyway. Disney Springs is a soft target. And I’ve noticed that most of the LEOs who are there congregate in small bunches. It would take them 10 minutes to get from one end of [the 120-acre shopping, dining and entertainment area] to another in the event of an active shooter. Not quick enough in my opinion, so we carry.”
My husband and I do the same thing. We carry where we can and we keep guns staged in locations that make the most sense for our family. We also teach the kids to use good situational awareness and to stay close and within view at all times.
No Toy Guns Either
Just in case you were wondering: There are no toy guns allowed in Disney either. We purchased my son’s first toy revolver in Adventureland (complete with blue plastic holster) about four years ago. And although I distinctly remember seeing a variety of toy flintlock options at the store right off the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, they are all long gone.
A friend of mine who currently works at the park affirmed, “Weapons of any kind (including toys resembling them) are strictly prohibited in Disney theme parks. And yet, lightsabers seem to be OK. (But they sell them, of course!) ”
So it seems that over the years, the self-proclaimed “Happiest Place on Earth” has gone completely gun-free. Keep that in mind the next time you visit the Walt Disney World (or Disneyland) resort areas and environs. Unfortunately, it may not be the safest place on earth.
About Beth Alcazar
Beth Alcazar, author of Women’s Handgun & Self-Defense Fundamentals, associate editor of Concealed Carry Magazine and creator of the Pacifiers & Peacemakers blog, has enjoyed nearly two decades of working and teaching in the firearms industry. Beth is passionate about safe and responsible firearms use and enthusiastic about teaching others. She is certified as an instructor through SIG Sauer Academy, ALICE Institute, DRAW School, TWAW and I.C.E. Training and is a USCCA Certified Instructor and Senior Training Counselor.