The NFL is facing a lawsuit by two Minnesota law enforcement organizations challenging its authority to prohibit off-duty officers from bringing guns into stadiums.
Since 2003, state law has allowed licensed peace officers to carry weapons in private establishments, even when signs banning guns are posted. But in September, the NFL alerted team owners that it was instituting a new policy forbidding anyone other than on-duty officers and private security personnel working its games to carry weapons in stadiums.
Not only does that policy violate state law, it’s unenforceable, argues a lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court. The suit picked up steam after an off-duty Minneapolis police officer attending the Minnesota Vikings’ final game in December was told to take his gun and lock it in his car.
“This is the most unsafe thing you could do,” said Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, one of the plaintiffs. “Officers are trained and encouraged to be able to respond 24 hours a day. This is terrible public policy.”
The suit appears to be the first legal challenge to the NFL’s gun policy, said Lt. John Delmonico, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, the other plaintiff.
When officers heard about the new NFL policy, Delmonico sought a legal opinion from the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which owns the Metrodome.
In letters sent several months ago to Flaherty and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, NFL chief security officer Jeffrey Miller wrote that the league believes that public safety inside stadiums is best served by on-duty officers assigned to the game.
The likelihood of law enforcement actually using deadly force inside a stadium is extremely remote, he wrote.
On average, more than 500 civilian security personnel and 150 on-duty local, state and federal law enforcement officers are assigned to every NFL game, Miller said.
Off-duty officers haven’t received special training on working in a stadium and are generally unknown to the officers assigned to the game, he said.
“Most states recognize that an NFL game ticket constitutes a license that reserves to the licenser, in this case the Minnesota Vikings, discretion to deny admission to any ticket-holders,” Miller wrote. “That license extends to the denial of admission to anyone that violates the NFL’s policy prohibiting firearms and other weapons inside NFL stadiums or facilities.”
Miller said he is willing to discuss the policy further with police leaders.
Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s vice president of communications, said Tuesday that the NFL would decline to comment on the lawsuit beyond Miller’s letters. McCarthy said he isn’t aware of any other law agencies challenging or raising concerns about the gun policy, and no club or individual has been disciplined for violating it. (http://www.startribune.com/local/west/246059881.html)