Nerd Culture

Phoenix Comicon Bans Prop Weapons, Increases Security After Arrest of Gunman

Phoenix Comicon attendees check out lightsabers for sale in the Exhibitor Hall on Thursday.
Phoenix Comicon attendees check out lightsabers for sale in the Exhibitor Hall on Thursday. Benjamin Leatherman
UPDATE: Phoenix Comicon is no longer enforcing an all-props ban at the event. Here's a guide to what props attendees can and can't bring.

You won’t be able to bring your big anime sword into Phoenix Comicon this year. Ditto for your M4A Pulse Rifle, Legend of Zelda shield, Mass Effect M-3 Predator pistol, or certain other props and weapons for that matter.

That’s because faux weapons officially have been banned from the event following Thursday’s arrest of an armed man inside the Phoenix Convention Center, the site of the four-day pop culture event.

Comicon organizers and Phoenix Police Department officials have also announced they will increase security measures at the convention center due to the arrest. Both changes will be implemented on Friday.

In a press release sent out on Thursday, convention director Matt Solberg cited safety concerns as the reason for the ban and security changes.

“In light of recent events, Phoenix Comicon, in cooperation with the Phoenix Convention Center and the Phoenix Police Department, will be implementing enhanced screening to ensure the safety of all our attendees,” Solberg stated.

Comicon organizers, police officials, and convention center management originally issued a blanket ban on all cosplay props, but softened their stance of Friday and permitted certain items such as helmets into the event. (Here's a full list of what can and can't be brought.)

According to Sergeant Jonathan Howard of Phoenix PD, the changes are in direct response to the arrest of Mathew Sterling, the 31-year-old Valley resident who allegedly slipped past event security with several weapons in his possession, including three handguns, a shotgun, and knives.

Howard told New Times that changes at the convention center will involve increasing the number of screenings, limiting the amount of entry points, and upping the number of security officials and Phoenix Police officers.

“There will be increased screening measures as people enter the buildings,” he says. “There will also be a decrease in access points, so you won't be able to enter at as many locations.”

As of Friday, the three entrances to convention center for badged Phoenix Comicon attendees are as follows: Second Street between Washington and Monroe streets (West building), Third and Monroe streets (North building), and Third and Washington streets (North building).

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A Phoenix Comicon attendee has her prop weapon peace-bonded by event security on Thursday.
Benjamin Leatherman
Attendees who need to pick up their badges from registration, which is located in the North building’s main ballroom, will only be able to use the Third Street and Monroe entrance.

Additionally, the outdoor "Con on Third" will no longer be open to the general public and will instead require a Comicon attendee badge to attend.

Howard says that the security changes may lead to lines. As such, people should be patient and plan accordingly.

“People should expect delays as they come in,” he says. “Because as they come in, they're not going to be able to go through as many doors as they could today.”

People should also leave prohibited props in their hotel rooms before heading to the event, which runs through Sunday afternoon.

“They won’t be allowed at all,” Howard says. “No exceptions.”

That includes shields, sabers, or giant mallets. (Sorry, Harley Quinns of the Valley.)

According to Solberg, props can still be bought from vendors in the Exhibitor Hall but will have to remain wrapped up while at the convention center. With that said, they’re also recommending that attendees remove them from the premises ASAP.

“We encourage you to take your purchases to your car or hotel as soon as possible,” Solberg says.

Full refunds are also being offered (and can be obtained by emailing organizers) to any attendees that are miffed by the prop ban.

And there have been plenty.

As any Phoenix Comicon regular can tell you, props are basically everywhere at the event. As a matter of fact, a majority of Comicon attendees had ‘em as they checked out the Exhibitor Hall on Thursday, the first day of the event.

New Times spoke with a few attendees about the ban. And while some were disapointed by the change, they also accepted that it was due to security concerns.

Alexander Saez, a cosplayer from Peoria, says he’s bummed that he won’t be able to bring his samurai sword out to Comicon after Thursday, but he understood the reasons behind the move.

“Honestly, it sucks that it had to happen because it's that guy's fault, not ours,” he says. “But I understand how they're trying to keep everyone safe, so they're doing what they need to do."

Phoenix Comicon 2017 runs from Thursday, May 25, to Sunday, May 28, at the Phoenix Convention Center and Hyatt Regency.

Editor's note: Previous versions of this story stated that all props were banned. It has been updated to reflect changes in that policy on Friday, as well as new information.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.