GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Allowing patrons to carry concealed weapons inside the Van Andel Arena would be a “big mistake,” according to the head of the security firm for the arena and other public venues in West Michigan.
“We are vehemently opposed to allowing firearms in the arena building by patrons,” John Kendall, president and CEO of DK Security , told the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention-Arena Authority (CAA) Friday.
Kendall said mixing guns and alcohol consumption inside a crowded concert hall is a recipe for disaster that his firm and SMG, the arena’s management company, do not want to handle.
“Our staff and SMG’s staff don’t need that exposure,” said Kendall, who said his firm will conduct “wand” searches or “pat-downs” at the request of event promoters. While they find the occasional knife, they never find firearms because of the current ban, he said.
The state Senate is considering a bill that would allow concealed pistols in so-called “gun-free” zones — such as churches, schools and sports stadiums — for those who receive extra training.
The bill, which also would reform the permit process for concealed weapons, was approved last month on a 5-1 vote of the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.
Kendall, who was responsible for courtroom security when he served as U.S. Marshal for Western Michigan, said they even forbid FBI agents from bringing guns into a courtroom to avoid confusion among officers if guns were pulled.
SMG General Manager Rich MacKeigan said he does not want patrons carrying firearms in the arena, but did not take a position on the legislation.
MacKeigan said he is researching the legislation and will ask the CAA to take a formal position next month.
Kendall, whose firm employs 1,200 security guards at venues ranging from the Soo Locks and National Guard camps to outdoor concert venues and office buildings, said he wants to avoid the politics of guns laws.
“Our issue is not politics. Our issue is the safety, security and management of an entertainment facility,” said Kendall, who said he has 31 years of experience in law enforcement and 15 years in private security.