Conventions Update Cosplay Weapons Policies in Light of Orlando Massacre

Flame Con, the New York City-based queer comics convention occurring August 20 to 21, has recently sent out an email to all of its attendees, stating that toy guns are banned from the convention center. This change, coming in FlameCons second year running, has been announced due to safety concerns stemming from the Orlando, Florida shooting, which killed 49 people at a queer nightclub earlier this month. Pleas read the email below.

Official 2016 Flame Con banner
Official 2016 Flame Con banner.

Dear Flame Con Fans and Attendees,

Last week, we lost 49 members of our queer community in what has become an all too common tragedy in this country.

In the days since that event, Geeks OUT has been spending a lot of time talking to the management and staff of the hotel that will be hosting Flame Con about the safety of our attendees. We have also been reaching out to concerned fans. In response to the massacre at Pulse in Orlando, we plan to bolster Flame Con’s security, and will be working with local law enforcement to ensure that even outside of the con, there will be people looking out for us.

Acknowledging the shock and trauma and grief our community is experiencing right now, we feel the need to go even further in making Flame Con a safe space for us all.

As a show of solidarity with victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, their families, and anyone else affected by homophobic gun violence, Flame Con is asking you to leave your toy guns at home.

Because guns are not toys. Guns are not accessories that can be flaunted in public without inherently making light of their intended use—while simultaneously making many people deeply uncomfortable.

If you bring a toy gun to Flame Con, no matter how unrealistic it might look or feel, you will be asked to check it.

Can you do a successful cosplay of Black Widow or Vash the Stampede without a gun? We think you can! If your cosplay isn’t quite complete without a gun, we’ll help you adapt to our new policy by providing some creative alternatives to traditional guns that you can pose with. Your cosplay at Flame Con will help our community make a strong, colorful statement against gun violence, and our culture’s toxic love of firearms.

Spread the word! Flame Con will not allow the following items:

  • Any weapon of any kind—bladed or projectile—that looks or feels real.
  • Any kind of gun or simulacrum of a firearm, no matter how fake it looks.
  • Any prop that is heavy, hard, or sharp enough to injure a person (Err on the side of caution).

When crafting your props, keep it light and keep it safe. You can do a lot with foam!

At Geeks OUT, we are committed to creating spaces that are safe—both physically and emotionally. Join us in making Flame Con a place where we can all enjoy ourselves!

Signed,

Joey, Josh, Nicole, John, Aria, Kevin, Avi, Kitty, Tom, Rachel, Angela, Blaine, and the rest of your Geeks OUT family

Flame Con is not the only comics convention updating its weapons policy after the shooting. Florida Supercon, which commences in the beginning of July and boasts that it is the biggest comic in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, recently announced its own weapons ban.

Please read this entire policy before attending Florida Supercon. Failure to follow this policy may result in your removal from the convention without refund. We have a ZERO TOLERANCE FOR WEAPONS.

The following items are NOT ALLOWED at Florida Supercon

* NO Live firearms: This includes modern guns, hunting guns, historic guns, air soft guns, BB guns, cap guns, paintball guns and pellet guns – either functioning or de-commissioned.

* NO CONCEALED FIREARMS EVEN IF YOU HAVE A PERMIT.

* NO Realistic replica firearms: This includes reproduction, fake or toy guns that can be confused for functional firearms – either metal, solid resin/plastic/rubber.

* NO Functional projectile weapons: This includes blow guns, functioning crossbows, functioning long bows, silly string, slingshots, water balloons and water guns. No props or weapons capable of firing any projectile or powder charge of any kind.

* NO Sharpened metal-bladed weapons: This includes axes, daggers, hatches, knives, kunai, shuriken, swords, sword canes and switch blades.

* NO Dull metal-bladed weapons: This includes replica swords, replica knives, and other dull metal objects.

* NO Explosives: This includes firecrackers and fireworks.

* NO Chemical weapons: This includes mace and pepper spray.

* NO Blunt weapons: This includes brass knuckles, clubs and nunchaku.

* NO Hard prop weapons: This includes props made of metal, fiberglass and glass. LIGHTSABERS ARE OK.

* NO laser pointers. If you have a laser pointer in your prop or weapon, make sure it cannot function by either removing the batteries, or simply not bringing it.

* NO Items that cause excessive noise levels like vuvuzelas, grenade whistles and grenade horns.

* NO Whips.

* NO Aerosol mustard.

* NO Tasers

Florida Supercon image
Florida Supercon image.

After receiving feedback from con attendees and hosting another discussion with the Miami Beach police force, Florida Supercon amended some of these rules. While clearly fake weapons are now permitted in the convention center and easy to confuse weapons are to be brought to and from the exhibit hall in bags, real weapons and exact replicas will not pass the conventions prop check. And, although the con leaders specifically brought up pepper spray to the police, both it and tasers are still banned.

Although I support these steps made by both Flame Con and Florida Supercon regarding weapons and replicas of weapons that may cause anxiety, even panic, among con attendees, I question the banning of pepper spray and tasers (both of which are illegal in New York City—a law obviously far beyond the authority of Flame Con). Pepper spray and tasers often are owned and used as self-defense tools, not weapons, primarily by women. Some readers may recall a certain incident at San Diego Comic Con last year where a female publisher had to pull out her taser to deter a drunk comics writer from assaulting another cartoonist unprovoked. While both Flame Con and Florida Supercon state that they plan to boost security, Im not so sure the safety of women is at the forefront of everyones minds here.

That said, the Orlando shooting may have catalyzed these recent changes, but it certainly did not start all safety measures in public spaces. Earlier this year, AMC theaters changed company policy to ban all real and imitative guns from entering their establishments during opening night events (such as this years Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War). Previously, the chain allowed realistic-looking replicas as long as they were capped with bright-colored plastic. Cobb Theatres (where a man shot to death another for playing with his phone within a showing in 2014) has a zero tolerance policy toward real or imitative guns as well as masks and hoods. Cinemark, which owns Century theaters, such as the Century 16 location where the Aurora, Colorado shooting took place, now bans simulative weapons, masks, and facepaint.

Cosplay of Winter Soldier by MarcyFromMars
Cosplay of Winter Soldier by MarcyFromMars

While I feel safer (somewhat) attending opening nights at these chains due to these policies, it leads me to wonder what steps, if any, the larger comic cons will take toward safety. San Diego Comic Con, the largest comics convention in America, is rapidly coming up with no changes yet to its policy (which includes prohibition of real weapons, inspections of all costume weapons at the entrance of the exhibit hall, and security tags that con attendees must wear after inspection). ReedPops New York Comic Con—which prohibits functional firearms and realistic replicas, only allowing prop firearms with bright-colored plastic tips—has until October for a policy change. These conventions, beloved as they are, are exhausting enough without the added anxiety of wondering if someone in Rorschach cosplay managed to sneak in something dangerous underneath his trench coat.

Inevitably, Flame Con and Florida Supercon will not be the last big public establishments to roll out reassurances and updates in the face of annual mass shootings. In the meantime, in terms of prevention of gun violence, keep calling your state representatives. Im going to be full of trepidation by the time New York Comic Con rolls around, but at least I can go to Flame Con in relative peace.

Ray Sonne

Ray Sonne

A comics reader since the first Raimi-directed Spider-Man movie, Ray now works as a copywriter. When not writing or training in Krav Maga, she likes to expand her queer comics knowledge and talk with fellow nerds on twitter @RaySonne.

2 thoughts on “Conventions Update Cosplay Weapons Policies in Light of Orlando Massacre

  1. Banning non-lethal self-defense weapons, Nerf guns, and water guns?!? Meanwhile Lightsabers aren’t considered ‘hard’ props?!? That’s just insanity upon insanity because guess which one has the potential to cause permanent damage?

    But none of these measures will do anything to increase the safety of participants, only reduce the trust we share and creative space we have to express ourselves in. And while I respect the feelings of my fellow fans, there comes a point when the favor has to be returned. Should Storm Troopers be banned from all cons because they wear hard ‘armor’ and LITERALLY represent a fascist empire? Should masks be banned at NYCC because one street performer in an Elmo costume tickled the wrong person?

    Should guns and concealed carry be banned from nightclubs because of the Pulse tragedy? Sure, but they already WERE. They’re also banned from schools, yet tragedy struck there too. Despite all the additional measures put in place to prevent it, mass shootings have been on the rise since at least 2000. The fact is we still don’t know what leads to them well enough or how to prevent them in any effective manner, and the issues involved are so politically charged that I’m afraid we never will.

    The only way this could get any worse is if people start saying that Pro Gun = Anti LGBTQ without any degree of nuance or irony.

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