FLORENCE, Ala. - A controversial gun policy at the AMC movie theatre in Florence is causing shock waves on social media.
Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton and his daughter went to the movies on Wednesday night. When they stopped the counter to buy tickets and concessions, they were stopped by an employee.
"When I handed him my card, and he got it, he told me I would have to disarm before I could come into the theater."
Singleton quickly explained that he was the sheriff and showed his badge. But that didn't change the minds of those working at the theater.
The theatre's code of conduct policy states that carrying or displaying weapons of any kind, real or toy, is prohibited. Violation of the policy results in "removal from the AMC property without a refund."
Sheriff Singleton posted on his personal Facebook page about the experience and it has many people upset. "BE AWARE!!! If you attend a movie at the AMC theatre in Florence Alabama you are taking personal responsibility for your safety. The theater’s policy prohibits law enforcement officers from bringing their weapon into the theatre, even the Sheriff!"
"As sheriff, I'm responsible for the safety of everybody in this county," Sheriff Singleton told us. "Not just the people who live here, but the people who visit here or whatever. The more I thought about it, I thought if I`m sitting next to someone in the theater and something happens, they're going to expect me to take action."
The situation didn't sit well with some moviegoers that we spoke to. "I would feel safe knowing that the sheriff was able to bring his weapon in," said Trinecia Butler. "He`s trained with his weapon. So I think it's really ridiculous that they wouldn't let him bring it in."
"I know the policy is to not carry guns in there, but I carry my gun in there," said Amy Hendrix. "And if I would've been the bad guy then who would've been able to neutralize the situation better than the sheriff."
Singleton says he won't go to the only movie theater in his county — if it means having to be disarmed. "I do think that our citizens, I'm responsible for their safety. I think they need to know that if they see an off-duty officer or whatever in this theater, don't expect them to come to your rescue to defend you if something happens because, by their policy, they're not going to be armed."
According to Alabama firearms laws, only certain people can carry a pistol on private property, those that have concealed weapons permits and people with permission. This law does not apply to certain professions, including law enforcement officers, while they are on duty.
"Except as otherwise provided in this article, no person shall carry a pistol about his person on private property not his own or under his control unless the person possesses a valid concealed weapon permit or the person has the consent of the owner or legal possessor of the premises; but this section shall not apply to any law enforcement officer in the lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or to United States marshal or his deputies, rural free delivery mail carriers in the discharge of their duties as such, bonded constables in the discharge of their duties as such, conductors, railway mail clerks and express messengers in the discharge of their duties."
We reached out to the management at the theater, and they referred us to their corporate offices. AMC Theatres sent us a statement clarifying the events and apologizing for misunderstanding:
"For the safety of our guests, AMC does not permit weapons in our theatres. The only exception is members of law enforcement, who are welcome to carry, whether on duty or off duty. There was a misunderstanding by a theatre crew member about this policy, and we sincerely apologize for the confusion and frustration this caused. We have used it as a teaching moment with the theatre team."
Sheriff Singleton updated his post to thank them for clearing up the misunderstanding. "RESOLVED!!!! Thank you, AMC for clarifying your policy with our local AMC team. Local law enforcement stands ready to help you ensure your patrons have a safe, enjoyable movie experience."