Hoops, and jumping through them.
I took my wife and oldest daughter to Six Flags Over Texas, yesterday.
Beyond the ticket booths, at the turnstiles, were big-time, airport-quality, walk-through metal detectors. I had noticed that they put these in about 10 years ago, just after Texas passed the Concealed Handgun License. It was kind of strange to have done, as the same law making CHLs law also banned handguns in amusement parks like Six Flags. But whatever. Now, in addition to having to line up like sheep to walk through the chute, one must be fussed over and wanded by a security guard, and challenged to explain any blip. They usually pay an Arlington cop to stand near the gate, but I rarely see him or her watching the proceedings. My understanding is that the rate of their off-duty pay is just silly.
You might wonder why Six Flags goes to such extremes, when any thinking person would realize that this is an affront to their customers, most of whom have paid in excess of $40 a head for the privilege. The answer is two-fold:
1. Arlington, TX, is a big city situated precisely between Dallas, TX and Ft. Worth, TX. It sees its share of gangs, and the park sees its share of gang members. Because it is illegal to carry a concealed handgun into the park, all law-abiding citizens are disarmed. By putting high fences around the park and metal detectors up front, the park is showing some due diligence in defense against the inevitable civil suits following the inevitable assaults that take place on their property. "Hey! We checked for weapons!" they'll say. That, coupled with the fact that the state legislature made the law in the first place, will probably cover them, to some extent. (Though I saw almost NO security guards there.)
2. The customers keep packing the gates, grasping high-dollar tickets in their sweaty palms.
_ _ _
As we walked the 300+ yards of parking lot to the gates, my wife sighed and said, "Are we going to have to wait for you to get checked in again?"
The last time we'd gone, I'd had to wait in line, explain at the metal detector that I was a peace officer carrying a pistol, and wait while they called a teen aged-to-early 20s security guard over, then cringe when he fairly shouted to the waiting (yes, they had line behind me wait, rather than have me stand to the side-- better keep an eye on me) crowd, "What? He's a cop with a gun? Come this way, officer-- we need to do some paperwork on that gun." He then led me to the side office, where I had to show my badge and ID, and fill out paperwork with my name, department, rank, ID number, Pistol brand and caliber and serial number (requiring me to get it out, because I really never memorized my pistols' SNs). I then was escorted... back to the back of the line! My wife and kids, waiting beyond the metal detectors in the park, were disgusted. I frankly was a bit, myself.
This time, I had a plan. "You two go ride on the Sombrero ride, and if I'm still not there, go to the Conquistador," I said. "I'll jump through their hoops, and meet you there." She sighed, but assented. She made it pretty clear that she'd rather I not carry in the park.
At the turnstiles line, I took a right, and went over to the office where I had been taken before. It had a sign directing me to another office to my right. Presently I arrived at a window, with a sign over it that said something like "Property Check-In and Claim," I noticed on the desk a bunch of pocketknives that had been checked in rather than be confiscated at the metal detectors, each sitting on a folded claim form. I thought back to the tragedy a few years back, when the Roaring Rapids ride had flipped over, and the riders were stuck upside down in the water, unable to release the straps that held them in to swim to safety. Some drowned, and at least one survived with brain damage.
I explained what I wanted, and the girl behind the window waved me through a nearby door. I was met in an office, and presented with a more abbreviated form, this time. I still had to give my pistol brand and SN (I only had to slide the KelTec P3AT and its Uncle Mike's pocket holster slightly out of my pocket, because the serial number is printed in white on the top of the tang, above the backstrap.), and sign the waiver that I had been advised that they had lock boxes available. She said brightly: "Next time you come in, you can just sign the next line down on the same page, which we'll maintain in our records for you. Now let me escort you to the gate..." I was surprised when she walked me to the front gate, opened a side gate for me that bypassed the metal detector and the lines, and wished me a good visit. How... refreshing.
Different policies? Of just different people implementing them?
I almost got to board the first ride with my wife and kiddo-- they waved at me as it started.
Two hours later, as we observed some highly-costumed, highly-tattoo'd angry-faced boys gathered up in a gang and challenging other boys that walked by, my wife held onto my 8 year-old's hand and stepped closer to me. Or perhaps I stepped closer to her. "Just another reason I carry," I murmured.
She did not nod and say, "You're right-- it's worth the extra effort to go armed!" But she didn't argue, either. And despite the heat of the muggy summer day, she didn't step away.