NRA fights to allow guns at Disney World
Nick Langewis and David Edwards
Published: Tuesday July 8, 2008

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Walt Disney World, backed by the Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, has sparked a row with state lawmakers and the National Rifle Association over Florida's "Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008," enacted July 1, which allows employees with concealed weapons permits to store their guns in their cars during work hours.

Disney maintains its zero-tolerance policy towards guns, warning that taking a gun onto company property could be grounds for termination. Disney's Animal Kingdom security guard Edwin Sotomayor, accordingly, was fired on Monday following a Friday suspension; Sotomayor had announced to local media that he would be storing a gun in his car in accordance with the law but in violation of Disney's policy. He refused to let his employer search the car.

"It seems if you work for Disney," the NRA said on its website, "you give up not only your Second Amendment rights, but your First Amendment rights as well."

Tampa's Busch Gardens Africa and three Anheuser-Busch-owned parks in Orlando cite their employees' Second Amendment rights in accepting the new law, the Orlando Sentinel reported, while continuing to prohibit guns inside the parks themselves. Universal Orlando, to the contrary, claims exemption from the law because the park houses the Universal Education Center, staffed by Orange County Public Schools, and they are "required to follow school district policies."

State Rep. Stan Mayfield, who helped pass the law, insisted that it was meant to safeguard workers' Second Amendment rights, and that the guns would be inside locked cars, and not inside the theme park itself. He disagreed with Disney's claim that they were entitled to an exemption written into the law for employers that "deal in explosive materials," saying that the language was meant for companies that transported and handled explosives, not "a theme park that happens to be launching fireworks on the other side of their property."

Mayfield also denied to MSNBC's Dan Abrams that the coalition of lawyers that lobbied him and his colleagues for the exemption were actually representing Disney.

"I'd say hooray for Disney here," said Brian Siebel of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "Thank goodness the Magical Kingdom (sic) doesn't want to have guns on its property, and is willing to fight for that."

"I have kids," he continued. "I like to go to Disney World, I like to take them there. And I'll really have to think twice if 60,000 employees of Disney can bring guns to work every day."

Siebel noted the June 25 incident in which a press operator at a Kentucky plastics plant, after arguing with his supervisor, pulled out a gun and shot the supervisor and four coworkers before committing suicide. Interpreting the new Florida law to allow Disney's employees to keep guns in their cars during work hours, he said, could facilitate a scenario much the same.

Siebel asked: "How are [Disney] going to protect those people if they can't decide who gets to have guns on their property?"

Siebel also disagreed with Rep. Mayfield that the law's requirement to hold a concealed weapons license made it a "higher standard."

"I have a list of hundreds of concealed carry licensees in Florida who have committed crimes all the way from rape to robbery to murder," Siebel countered. "Just having a concealed carry license in Florida does not mean you're a law-abiding citizen."

The accompanying video, with an exchange between Rep. Mayfield and Mr. Siebel, was broadcast on MSNBC's Verdict with Dan Abrams on July 7, 2008.

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