Weapons Policy

Weapons policies were one of the more controversial aspects of conventions beginning in the 80s.

Traditionally, edged weapons, both costume and real were carried by small numbers of people at conventions, often in connection with SCA events and both real and costume edged weapons and costume guns were sold in huckster rooms.

By the 80s, trends in society started to militate against the carrying of either costume of real weapons. More and more states and localities passed laws against carrying dangerous weapons, the public became more inclined to call the police when they saw an apparently dangerous weapon being carried (see the SWAT Team Affair for an example), and con-runners now were settling down and raising families and owning houses and started to worry about what the legal fallout from a preventable incident might do them, personally. Another issue which raised considerable concern was the reckless behavior of a few who would flail around with a sword in a crowded area when showing it off or when buying one in a huckster room.
There were significant regional differences. Because local laws tightened there first, the earliest and strongest weapons policies took hold in the Northeast, the Mid-Atlantic and the East Coast, while the South and the Midwest were considerably less concerned and took fewer and weaker measures.

The weakest policy was "peace-bonding" real weapons. Fans carrying real weapons were required to stop by the convention office and have the weapon secured to its holder so it could not be drawn and to keep it that way while at the convention. This was most common in the Midwest and South.

Stronger measures included banning the wearing of real weapons, also banning their sale in the huckster room, all the way up to banning the sale or display of anything which was a real weapon or which might be mistaken for one. (Sometimes costume weapons would be permitted, but only during the masquerade.)

Fandom never reached a consensus on what the right level of control of weapons at convention is. The coasts are still more restrictive than the middle of the country and mundane gun control politics still plays a role. As an issue, though, it seems to have become much less divisive among fans, partly because its no longer novel and partly because people have found newer things to worry about and to be outraged about.

(One especially silly reaction to the growth of weapons policies was Irv Koch's WeaponsCon.)