Al Qaeda vs. The Mouse

A mouse tail of security at one of America's favorite vacation destinations


I hadn't been to Disney World since around 1998, and I saw a big change in Disney Security since then. Most of the security officers I saw in the parks last time were in "theme" costumes, in blazers and slacks, in plainclothes, and rarely, in uniform. Now, many more are in uniform, and the uniforms are much more police-like: round uniform caps with gold chinstraps, light blue shirts, dark blue trousers, and a silver badge. They wear plain belts or a Sam Browne, but no guns (at least none that I saw). There are armed local law enforcement officers detailed to patrol the parks in cars and on foot.

Bags are searched at the entrance to all of the parks, although the search is more for show than effect. I am certain that I could have smuggled any number of weapons in, had I been inclined to do so. There were no metal detectors, so the gun-on-the-ankle trick would have worked as well this last week as it did fourteen years ago.

I can understand Disney's thinking here. Violent incidents in the parks are relatively rare. Alcohol is sold in only a few locations, and there is ample video and bare-eyes surveillance at all times. Most guests are there with their families, not with their homeboys. The desire to create the illusion of a a sanctuary from the evils of the world is not consistent with a big security presence.

Of course, last week we all got a wake-up call on security issues when the Brits, bless their watercress-eating hearts, took down a terrorist cell before they managed to get several martyrs-in-training on board aircraft bound for the United States. Before and after that reminder, being the Gloomy Gus that I am, I couldn't help but look around Disney World and think, "Wouldn't this be a swell place to stage a terrorist incident?" In the midst of all this conspicuous consumption, and with citizens from all around the world in attendance, shoot up Main Street USA, or release nerve gas into "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience," or just drop in a dirty bomb or tactical nuke and turn the Reedy Creek Improvement District into a glass crater.

A few months back I heard Lt. Col. Dave Grossman speak, and one of the points he made was that an armed person with a little training could have made short work of the incidents at Columbine High School and Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, AR, just by being in place to take out the shooters before they could complete their intended missions. This is not a cheery thought, but it's a better outcome than what actually took place when the shooters knew that they could work without distraction or threat. I also not suggesting that a two-inch revolver is a fair match against a deadly nerve agent or a nuclear explosive, or even against a man with an AK-47. The advantage would come in having the element of surprise, when the bad guy thinks that all before him are lambs for the slaughter. Deploying a few sheepdogs with the lambs has been an effective deterrent against predators of real sheep; there's no reason to believe that it wouldn't work as well with the metaphorical variety.

So, if you have the capacity to lawfully carry a firearm, and you haven't been doing it for all of the usual reasons, rethink this. If it became known that covert sheepdogs were deployed among the flock, some predators might decide to stay home and wait for the next Simpsons episode to come on.

Tim Dees, CPP, is an ASIS member and currently serves as the editor of Officer.com, a sister website to SecurityInfoWatch.com. Officer.com is tailored for the information and community needs of sworn law enforcement officers