In a sign of how jittery the nation has become about terrorism and gun violence, all three major Orlando theme parks on Thursday installed metal detectors at the front of their attractions.
Walt Disney World would not say how long its metal detectors would be in place. SeaWorld said it had installed the devices as part of enhanced security for the holidays. Universal Orlando said it was testing using them as guests approach the theme parks.
The changes extend outside Orlando. Disneyland and Universal Studios in Hollywood are also installing the detectors.
Security in general has been a big concern following recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. On Wednesday, the federal Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin saying it was “especially concerned that terrorist-inspired individuals and homegrown violent extremists may be encouraged or inspired to target public events or places.” It said the public should expect to see more police and more stringent security at public places and events.
Disney World – where a man was arrested last weekend after trying to enter the Magic Kingdom with a gun – is now discontinuing the sale of toy guns. It is also banning people 14 and older from wearing costumes – even at Halloween parties. More deputies and security guards have been visible at the resort lately, and specially trained dogs have been patrolling key areas. The movie theater at Disney Springs where tonight’s high profile premiere of the new “Star Wars” movie takes place will also have at least one metal detector.
“We continually review our comprehensive approach to security and are implementing additional security measures, as appropriate,” Disney said in a statement.
Universal spokesman Tom Schroder said the decision to test metal detectors was not driven by a specific threat. He said in an email “we want our guests to feel safe when they come here. We’ve long used metal detection for special events, such as Halloween Horror Nights. This test is a natural progression for us as we study best practices for security in today’s world.”
SeaWorld said in an email it would be “enhancing security measures for the busy holiday season, including increased security presence both inside and outside the parks.”
On social media, many theme park fans welcomed the changes and called them long overdue.
Metal detectors have become more common for general security reasons. Travelers have walked through them at airports for years. Fans attending Orlando Magic games go through them. Major League Baseball has begun requiring them for its teams’ games.
Six Flags theme parks put up metal detectors, most of them after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, at the main gates. In 2004, Disney World experimented with metal detectors at its entrance but did not make them permanent.
Earlier this year, Universal put up metal detectors in front of some rides to make sure that people don’t bring on items such as cell phones.
Originally Posted in The Orlando Sentinel