Can I Carry My CCW Inside Movie Theaters?
If you hadn't heard, national brand theater chains across the nation are tightening up their weapons policies to reflect a growing concern of illegal firearms being brought into theaters. Regal Cinemas is only one of the more recent national chains which has instituted a “stop and frisk” policy for bags and containers of guests. What's more hilarious than a 16-year-old finding a box of wine and some smuggled M&Ms in a soccer mom's purse is the idea that national theater chains are in any way equipped to deal with theater attacks.
The most recent attack, which happened in Tennessee, had a very fast response by law enforcement. This only served to bolster the idea that law enforcement were more equipped and ready to handle theater attacks. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Can Theater Chains Ban Concealed Carry?
Still, given the recent climate of attacks on theaters, it's only natural we'd address the question on the rules governing bringing your concealed carry firearm into a theater.
First – a theater is generally privately owned or leased property. That means that as property owners/managers, they're allowed to make rules and regulations that would otherwise violate your civil liberties. Things like warrant-less search of bags or the prohibition on weapons are all within their rights in most states.
So the short answer (for many states) is yes, they can.
However, almost any state that allows businesses to designate themselves “gun free”, they have to post signage reflecting that. You, the concealed carrier, need to be notified prior to your entrance in that theater that this establishment prohibits the carriage of any weapons except by law enforcement.
Wait, let's get specific: uniformed law enforcement. Because recently we found out – even that definition gets a little hazy for businesses that are staunchly anti-gun.
Specific questions we've been asked concerning concealed carry in theaters:
Can I carry my concealed carry firearm into a theater?
If you're attending one of the few theaters in the country that doesn't have a specific prohibition against weapons posted clearly on the doorway and entrances – yes. At worst, if you're discovered, you will be asked to leave the premises. If you fail to do that, you may be charged with trespassing
“Can they really check my purse without a warrant?
YOU have to give them consent to check your purse. If you decline, they can refuse you service (and you can demand a refund). While they can check your bag, they aren't allowed to frisk you. So an inside the waistband concealed carry holster is all the more prudent in situations like this – don't you think?
“What if the movie theater is in the mall and the mall doesn't prohibit firearms?
The theater's policy is dictated by their national chain. If that national chain doesn't have a weapons policy on concealed carrying and you have not been notified by clear signage that you are not allowed to carry your concealed carry firearm – you should be good to go.
Should we avoid movie theaters from now on?
You can if you feel that it constitutes too much of a risk to travel into a theater without your concealed carry firearm. Ultimately, it's you who decides every piece of this equation. If anything, we recommend judicious reasoning and situational awareness.
Do you have any other questions related to carrying a concealed firearm into a theater? Ask away in the comments section below.
About The Author
James England (@sir_jim_england) is the contributing editor for Alien Gear Holsters. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and private defense contracting in Afghanistan.