This is disturbing. At the Marcus Corporation theaters (NYSE:MCS) in Nebraska people with concealed carry permits can bring their real guns into the movies anytime they want. This includes the opening night of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. However, their costume policy says you can't bring fake weapons or props that look like real weapons into the theater. Fictional props, like light sabers, are okay.
As crazy as it sounds, the Marcus Theaters' fake gun policy is stronger than their real gun policy! I go into details below, but for now I think that Star Wars fans in Nebraska should know what they might be walking into.
Although I just spotted AMC's weapon and costume policy last week, (photo), the Star Wars cosplay people have known about various costume restrictions since October. Big chains even put their costume policy info on their posters. The costume policies were created in the wake of the Aurora and Kentucky theater shootings, it's very sad, but understandable.
But since I write about politics and gun violence, as well as science fiction, I wanted to confirm and compare the various movie chains' costume gun policies and their real gun policies.
First I checked with Starplex Theaters because the guy with the concealed carry license who shot himself in the leg did so in Starplex's Cinema 10 theater in Salina, Kansas. It turns out that AMC just acquired Starplex so AMCs policy of not permitting real weapons applies to Starplex.
Next, because I have friends and relatives in the Midwest, I contacted the Marcus theater chain about their costume policy. I got a voice message from Lindsey Weix, from Marcus Theaters explaining
"To make sure there are no distractions during the movie-going experience, our policy is that guests are encouraged to dress up as their favorite Star Wars characters while they are attending the show.
"We ask that they do not wear masks that cover their face. They can wear hats or helmets as long as their face isn't covered.
"They are allowed to bring props, for example light sabers. We are not permitting any fake weapons--I'm sorry--props, that look like real weapons, so no fake guns, but fictional props like light sabers are okay."
She also stated that the policy is the same across their entire circuit. There are no different policies state by state, it's all the same.
What I didn't know, until I talked to Amanda Gailey and a few others at Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, is that in Nebraska, Marcus Theaters allows people with concealed carry permits to bring their guns into the theaters.
I contacted Ms. Weix again for clarification about their real gun policy vs. the fake one she said that they "follow all state and local laws" regarding real guns.
(SIDE NOTE: I've heard this line before and if you don't know what it means for a specific state, you can be fooled. Gun rules vary state by state. In some states: "following all state and local laws" can mean no guns is the default, in others it means allowing guns is the default, unless specifically restricted and entities need to post that no guns are allowed.
The exact phrasing is here But basically if a business or property owner in Nebraskan doesn't want real guns on their premises, they need to post "conspicuous notice" of that at each entrance. The NAGV members visually confirmed that is not the case at two of the Marcus theaters on 12/15/15.)
Because Marcus Theaters are in multiple states (Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin), I called the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence to discuss the laws that would apply to Marcus Theaters. I also looked at the gun laws by state. The theater chain might allow guns in other locations in others states, but I just focused on Nebraska's concealed carry and location restrictions.
I've been writing about gun violence for years and one thing that I know is that the gun lobby and the "guns everywhere" supporters know their states' laws, oftentimes because they were the ones that paid to get them created.
Ari Freilich, staff attorney for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, pointed out when the gun lobby writes the gun laws, their rhetoric leads to this kind of farcical situation.
"[Some people] treat deadly instruments as less of a threat to public safety than we treat toys."
I still couldn't wrap my head around how this could be possible. Didn't the theater owners want to protect their movie-going customers? Did Rolando B. Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of Marcus Theaters, buy the, "good guy with a gun" bs line?
The management is selling fantasy and fantasy weapons on screen to their customers, which is great, but the reality is that by allowing real guns in the theater they are putting their customers at risk.
At this point the line "the bad guys won't obey the signs!" is trotted out, as if the only gun problem is from the outside. Right now I'm talking about the "good guy with a gun" (GGWG) who endangers everyone around them by bringing a gun into a theater. These are the people the NO GUNS signs are for. If, as they tell us, they are "law-abiding citizens," then they should prove it.
One big reason that GGWGs want to focus on the outside bad guy is because it sets the GGWG up for a heroic fantasy scenario. He must wear his gun everywhere in anticipation of the day he will take out the bad guy. This line of thinking minimizes all the deaths and injuries caused by negligent gun owners waiting to be a hero.
And these deaths and injuries are out there, in huge, tragic numbers. David Waldman has a big list of #gunfail stories detailing just the ones that make the news.
GGWGs want to obscures the fact that concealed carry permit holders aren't perfect and have accidents too. THE Violence Policy Center has a site called Concealed Carry Killers It includes hundreds of examples of non-self defense killings by private citizens with permits to carry concealed, loaded handguns in public. The lists starts in May 2007. Here are two stats from it:
Total People Killed By Concealed Carry Killers 763,
Number of Mass Shootings Committed By Concealed Carry Killers. 29
I can almost hear the GGWGs whining,"Why don't we get credit for all the people with concealed carry permit holders we DIDN'T kill, Spocko?"
Bringing a Gun to a Toy Fight
I think Star Wars is an appropriate film to discuss hero fantasies. Many people identify with Star Wars heroes.
It's one thing for Han to shoot first on the screen, it's another when a Greedo wannabe in the row behind you accidentally shoots first because he has stuffed a real gun into his pocket--just like the guy in Kansas did.
If you ask the GGWGs they will describe their own heroic theater shooting fantasy scenario. I spoke to Lindsay Nichols at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence about this.
"That some individual thinks he will stand up and defend himself against a mass shooter in a theater is a fantasy--a hero fantasy. It might make sense on the screen, but it doesn't make sense inside the theater."
Nichols also noted, the Nebraska state legislators have passed the buck on public safety to private property owners like the owners of these movie theaters. They can do something about it to keep their own customers safe, but right now they aren't. That's the reality.