Regal Cinemas’ bag search policy provides only the illusion of safety


Last week, Regal Cinemas announced that they would start inspecting moviegoers’ bags, purses, and backpacks as a safety measure for staff and customers. This move comes as a response to the July movie theater shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, the Aurora movie theater shooting in 2012, and a number of other incidents that have involved gun violence inside cinemas.

Responses to this move have been mixed. Over at Collider, Dave Trumbore felt that this move was more about preventing moviegoers from bringing in outside food and beverages. It’s not hard to read profit as the motive rather than safety, but even if Regal does have sincere intentions, the bag search policy doesn’t seem to be about safety but rather the illusion of safety. People working at Regal aren’t trained as security personnel, and crazed gunmen will probably do what they’re going to do regardless of a bag search.

The Regal bag search policy is an empty gesture meant to make people feel superficially reassured. It’s a meaningless bit of theater: a bandage that lacks even gauze, a “sanitized for your protection” sash on a toilet seat, a flag pin.

But America tolerates the theater of problem-solving because the optics of a solution are easier than addressing the actual problem.

Sure, there’s mental health services to consider to prevent many of these murders, but the real problem is guns. According to this crowd-sourced mass shooting tracker, there have been at least 225 mass shootings this year alone. The United States has a gun problem, it has for many years. And calm down. I’m not saying they should take everyone’s guns away because I’m fine with responsible people owning guns for personal protection, hunting, collecting, and recreation. But Christ, would it really hurt that much to have some better wait periods, background checks, and licensing in place if it meant fewer tragedies every month?

(Also, if you believe that more guns are the solution–that armed civilians without any kind of crisis-situation training will suddenly become John McClane during a shootout, yippy-ki-yaying motherfuckers left and right without potentially harming others–you are an incredible imbecile.)

The worst part about this gun problem is that nothing changes. Following every tragedy, the pattern of behavior from political leaders is the same: rhetoric, platitudes, and grandstanding (aka political optics), but no legislation given the fear and the influence of the gun lobby. And then another shooting. Repeat. Have a flag pin.

I may just be cynical or feeling a bit defeated these days, but I’m starting to think that no one will do anything substantive about America’s gun problem and this is just one of the sad realities about this country we have to accept.

Well, actually, if you’re at a Regal theater, they will at least search your purse or backpack before you watch Inside Out.

I bet you feel safer already.

Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.