SC Lawmakers to Consider Mandatory Metal Detectors at Movie Theaters

Dozens of law enforcement and emergency responders work in the parking lot after a suspect wielding a hatchet and gun inside a Nashville-area movie theater died after exchanging gunshots with SWAT team members that stormed the theater, police said, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. The suspect, who was not identified, was armed with a gun and hatchet at the Carmike Hickory 8 theater in Antioch, said Don Aaron, a spoke, man for Metro Nashville police. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)


After two recent violent attacks in movie theaters, one in Louisiana and one in Tennessee, South Carolina Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, says he’ll pre-file a bill to require movie theaters and certain special events in the state to have metal detectors and at least one security guard. “It is time for more immediate action which will enhance public safety. Since we have the technology at our discretion, we should put it to use for the protection of our citizens,” he said in a written release.

Sen. Karl Allen, D-Greenville, says he’s also thinking about pre-filing a bill, but is first asking Gov. Nikki Haley to put together a task force or committee to study whether metal detectors are the best solution. He also wants input from the State Law Enforcement Division, state attorney general, theater owners and the Chamber of Commerce.

“I am leaning towards the legislation, but I want to hear from the theaters and law enforcement prior to making that requirement or prior to introducing that type of legislation,” he says.

Krista West, of Lexington, was heading into a movie theater Thursday afternoon with four children in tow. “I think it’s an awesome idea,” she said, when told about the bill to require metal detectors. “I mean, look who I’m with here. Definitely well worth it. I don’t care if it takes longer (to get in) or costs more money.”

Lindsey Hollis Smith, heading into the same movie theater, said, “Anything to help protect us and our children, I don’t see a problem with. You never know what someone’s trying to carry into the theaters, so I think the precautions are great.”
The big concern for theater owners is the cost. An average walk-through metal detector costs between $4,000 and $5,000, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report on the possibility of using metal detectors in schools. There would also be the ongoing cost of hiring security guards to be there whenever the business is open.

State lawmakers will pre-file bills in December for consideration when they go back into session in January.

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