I recently spent two weeks vacationing in Orlando. Orlando is a fairly gun friendly city, in a mostly gun friendly state. However, a huge asterisk must be applied when you are dealing with the theme parks. Let’s just say they are NOT gun friendly—at all.
I figured out a way to minimize the risks of being on a theme park vacation. My technique was not perfect, but it did reduce the risk to only when I was in the theme park, itself. Bottom line, most of the theme parks realize there are police officers whose agencies force them to be armed at all times as a parameter of employment. With those officers in mind, they have storage lockers in the security area where they house the firearms of visitors. Of course, this means you are unarmed in the park. It also means you are NOT disarmed from the time you leave the hotel, until the time you return to the hotel.
I cannot confirm any of the other parks have equal facilities or policies, but I do know that Universal Orlando (all three of their parks) does. The way their policy works, find a security guard and explain to them you need to utilize one of their firearms lockers. That security guard (with a silver badge) will radio for a Sergeant (gold badge) to come assist. The Sergeant will ask you half a dozen questions, then guide you over to the video monitor center.
They will enter without you and confirm the door to the monitor room is secure, then invite you in. At that time, they will have you put your firearm and any other prohibited items in a locker. Pocket knives of ANY size are forbidden, but I was allowed to keep my tourniquets and (blunt nosed) trauma shears. The locker has exactly one key. You will be in possession of the key and if lost, you will pay $150+ for a locksmith to drill out the lock.
I did this for the entire five days we spent at Universal Parks. Day one, was a bit awkward as I did not know the process. Day two, was a bit weird as they made me surrender my knife to be stored separately in their “big” safe. I was given a claim check for that and a plain clothes security officer (recently retired local Sheriff Deputy) gave me the “civilians should not be allowed to own guns” speech. Even the uniformed security guard rolled her eyes at that.
Day three, was a complete cluster, as when I offered to leave my firearm at the normal entrance, they said no. I was told Volcano Bay (the Universal Studio water park) had separate facilities and it would be easier to do there. After several phone calls by security, I gathered an escort detail of NINE security people and with guidance from me, it was all worked out. Day four, was much easier, as I dealt with two of the security people who had assisted on the previous day. Day five was super smooth as I got the woman from day two and she was as efficient and professional as she had been at our first meeting. It helped that Mr. “civilians shouldn’t own guns” wasn’t there to interfere.
All-in-all it was a hassle, but worth it. It cost me between 10 and 30 minutes on the way in and roughly 5 minutes on the way out. Their security is better than just theater, but it isn’t what I would call tight. I can say with 100% certainty, I could have gotten my firearm into Volcano Bay. The original guard I approached at an overflow entrance was so completely distracted by my request, someone riding an elephant could have walked past him without comment. There were also zero cameras at that location for back up. The main entrance to the other parks had cameras everywhere, so getting past a guard in a similar manner would have been more difficult.
The metal detector and X-ray process is acceptable; but twice my belt buckle triggered the alarm, on three occasions it did not. I am also fairly certain a TSA Personal defense pen would easily make it through security, just like it does at the airport. I didn’t bring one, so I don’t know for sure. I would say next time, but there won’t be a next time for me with Universal. I am not much of a theme park person to start with and the big draw, Harry Potter does very little for me.
Bottom line, I am not Law Enforcement nor did I claim to be. There was only one truly sour apple in my five days. There was one day of complete confusion as to (their own) policy, but it was worked out. I was able to reduce my vulnerable time to just park time. The process of securing and recovering my firearm was a fairly simple and straight forward process, every time.
Now you know an option you may not have known in the past. Hope it helps.
In all fairness, a ride that shakes you around and spins you upside is not the best place to carry concealed. Rather than banning things altogether, Universal seems to be trying. Do you think it is enough or too little? Share your answers in the comment section.
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