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Disney fires guard who protested gun policy

Walt Disney Co. fired a security guard who protested a company policy that bars employees from keeping guns in their cars at work.

Edwin Sotomayor, 36, was fired Monday after refusing to let security managers at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando search his car when he arrived for work on July 4. Earlier in the week, he had alerted the media that he would bring a gun onto Disney's property to protest its "ridiculous" stance that the company is exempt from a new law letting employees with permits keep guns in their locked cars, he said in an interview.

"He would not confirm or deny he had a weapon in his vehicle," Disney spokeswoman Zoraya Suarez said Tuesday. "He refused to allow a search of his vehicle. He was terminated for a violation of company policies, including failure to cooperate with an investigation."

Suarez said Disney, which operates theme parks and resorts in the Orlando area, is exempt from the new gun law because it stores fireworks. The law, enacted on July 1, doesn't apply to schools, jails and nuclear power plants or employers in national defense, aerospace, homeland security and explosives manufacturing and storage.

"The exemption is clear," she said. "The safety of our guests is our top priority, and we don't want it compromised."

Supporters of the law say it protects a citizen's constitutional right to bear arms. The Florida Retail Federation and the state's Chamber of Commerce sued in federal court to strike it down, saying it exposes employees and customers to "physical harm and death." A judge is expected to rule later this month.

Sotomayor, who made $15.13 an hour, said he refused to let the managers see the Springfield XD .45-caliber gun that he brought in a box in the trunk of his white Chevy Impala. He said he'd never before brought a gun to work.

"They said, 'We need to see your car,"' he said. "I said, 'No, the law says you cannot look into my car.' They asked me one question, 'Do you have a weapon in your car?' I said 'Maybe, maybe not. I cannot confirm or deny your question. Both possibilities are there."'

A native of the Bronx, New York, who was raised in Puerto Rico, he said that Disney's Animal Kingdom is "very safe." He said he was concerned for his safety on his 23-mile commute to work because of rising crime in central Florida.

Sotomayor said that while he is a member of the National Rifle Association, which supports the new law, he acted on his own in challenging Disney's policy.