Walt Disney World Resort has seen a spike of visitors carrying concealed firearms over the past year, the Orlando Sentinel reports, a remarkable trend considering that the world’s largest theme park resort was closed for four months during the pandemic and then in operation at reduced capacity.
At least 20 people were arrested on gun charges in 2020, compared with only four arrests in 2016, according to sheriff’s reports obtained by the Orlando Sentinel through a public records request.
And 2021 is off to a record-breaking start. Deputies arrested at least 14 Disney visitors for carrying concealed firearms in the first three and a half months of the year, through mid-April. If that pace continues, there could be four dozen arrests of this kind this year.
Disney World did not respond to a request for comment.
“Firearms, ammunitions, knives and weapons of any kind” are banned at Disney World, according to its park policy. At the entrance to each theme park, security officials search each visitor’s bags.
Last July, just three days after the Epcot theme park reopened, a Georgia woman was arrested after park security at the Epcot entrance found a 9mm handgun and a plastic bag of marijuana in her child’s diaper bag, as reported by NBC Miami and other outlets. When Orange County deputies responded, they also found a .45 caliber handgun on the bottom of the diaper bag. The woman was arrested on misdemeanor counts of carrying a concealed weapon and marijuana possession.
While not all incidents result in arrest, Disney will separate gun-toting guests from their firearms if they are discovered on Disney property. Last September, a Florida man staying with his family at Disney’s Polynesian Resort packed an AR-15 in a tennis bag and also brought a 9mm Sig Sauer handgun with him, three rifle magazines with 30 rounds each and two Sig Sauer magazines with 10 rounds each, per a report by CBS-affiliated 10 Tampa Bay News. The man claimed he had concerns about recent protests in the area. The Orange County Sheriff’s office did not arrest him because he reportedly had a valid concealed weapons permit in Florida, however the hotel stored the man’s guns for the remainder of his stay. Guests are prohibited from bringing firearms, ammunition or any weapons to its properties, per Disney policy.