Last Updated:October 22 @ 07:58 am

Minnesota cops sue NFL over gun ban

By Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN)

CourtroomMinnesota's largest police group and police union are suing the NFL and the Vikings, claiming the league's new ban on off-duty cops carrying their guns to games is illegal.

The Minnesota law that allows businesses to bar weapons specifically exempts "active licensed" peace officers, and state law trumps NFL rules, the lawsuit says.

But the National Football League disagrees, saying the law doesn't apply to it. Although an NFL spokesman declined to comment on the suit, when police officials complained about the policy last fall, the league's security chief said a ticket to a game is a license that teams can revoke at will -- and being an armed off-duty cop is reason enough.

The NFL said that between on-duty officers assigned to games and rent-a-cops, there are enough guns inside NFL stadiums, and the league worries about "blue-on-blue" shootings.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. The latter is the bargaining unit that has 900 members.

Defendants are the NFL, the Vikings and the regents of the University of Minnesota. The Vikings will play the next two seasons at the U's TCF Bank Stadium while their new arena is built on the site of the Metrodome.

Vikings officials did not immediately return a call for comment. Chuck Tombarge, director of public relations for the U, said the school's general counsel had not yet seen the suit and therefore could not address it.

Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the statewide peace officers association, said the group sued because "the Vikings cannot be allowed to, in essence, thumb their nose at Minnesota law."

"The NFL or a private entity has no authority to supersede state law," said Flaherty, whose group represents 8,500 peace officers.

At issue is a subdivision of Minnesota's statute governing where people can carry guns if they have a permit. It allows business owners to ban guns in their premises if they post signs or orally tell people guns are prohibited.

But a portion of the law says it doesn't apply to "an active licensed peace officer" or a security guard "acting in the course and scope of employment."

The NFL adopted its policy last fall and sent a letter to the teams Sept. 11. The policy said guns were "strictly prohibited" within NFL facilities; the only exceptions were law enforcement personnel assigned to games and private security contractors who were licensed to carry a gun.

People or teams who violate the policy can be fined, suspended or fired, the policy said.

In October, after learning of the new policy, Flaherty wrote to Jeffrey Miller, an NFL vice president and its chief of security. Flaherty noted that some departments "require off-duty officers be able to enforce the law and to react to crimes committed in their presence," and that the "safety of officers and the public requires that the officer be armed," the suit says.

Miller wrote back Oct. 29. He said that while he had "the highest level of respect for people in law enforcement," the NFL decided football stadiums weren't safe when off-duty officers had guns.

"(T)he NFL believes the safest environment for all fans is achieved by limiting the number of firearms and weapons inside stadiums to those required by officers that perform specifically assigned law enforcement working functions and game day duties," Miller wrote.

He said on-duty officers at the games "are specially trained and required to participate in weekly meetings pertaining to pre-game day and game day security and law enforcement planning, strategy, and emergency response procedures and protocols."

Off-duty officers, he wrote, "attend games as spectators. They are unknown to working law enforcement officers. They may not have the same training and do not participate in the weekly preparation meetings."

Miller told Flaherty that when off-duty police bring guns into games, they increase the potential for "blue-on-blue" confrontations with working law enforcement officers.

Miller also said off-duty officers might be boozing it up while watching the game.

In his letter to Flaherty, Miller said he is aware of Minnesota's law involving concealed weapons but maintained it doesn't apply to the NFL. The reason: You can only get into a game with a ticket, and the ticket "constitutes a license that reserves to the licensor, in this case the Minnesota Vikings, discretion to deny admission to any ticketholder (except on grounds that would violate anti-discrimination or similar statutes)."

In an interview, Flaherty said he didn't know of any problems caused by off-duty officers who carried weapons into the Metrodome over the 31 years the Vikings played there.

"I am not aware of any incident there has ever been around or in the Metrodome involving any kind of problem with an officer -- on or off duty -- and a firearm," he said.

___

(c)2014 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)

Visit the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) at www.twincities.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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13 Comments

  1. gentlemanjimComment by gentlemanjim
    February 19, 2014 @ 1:05 pm

    Now if a rabid drunk starts shooting people in the parking lot and an off duty cop had left his gun in the car and can’t stop the perp I want to see if the NFL, National Fool’s League, can afford the money from the lawsuit.

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    • RobertRComment by RobertR
      February 19, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

      Or even worse the off duty cop is gunned down in cold blood by someone. Simple, if I were a police officer in those areas I wouldn’t go to the games. That’s called voting with your money. Be nice if the civilians backed this by canceling or not renewing their season tickets but they won’t. Everybody is for themselves and could care less about the other guy.

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    • lunchladyComment by lunchlady
      February 19, 2014 @ 10:13 pm

      Comment by RobertR: “Be nice if the civilians backed this by canceling or not renewing their season tickets but they won’t.”

      I would. I bet you would be surprised. If all cops stopped going, and made it known to the public why, I bet a lotta people would join in. Especially gun owners and gun rights advocates. We realize all kinds of forces are chipping away at the second amendment, and we have to stand up for each other.

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      Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)
  2. driffter67Comment by driffter67
    February 19, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

    Think about this outrage folks. Where was or is the concern for all those citizens when their rights are unconstitutionally denied by business and such. If one has the right to carry no institution has the right to deny such. So now that some of the elite have come under attack we are supposed to be outraged and come to their aid. Sorry but my empathy does not extend to those that have none.

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    • RobertRComment by RobertR
      February 19, 2014 @ 2:42 pm

      Good point. Goes along the line of police officers being exempt from ridiculous gun laws that apply to the rest of society. This country is so screwed up I don’t think it can be fixed. Lost cause – sit back and wait for the collapse and maybe then we can start over by using the original constitution that forbids anyone from voting who doesn’t own land. Great concept that was. Those carrying the load called the shots. Those coming along for the ride didn’t. It was a Republic for a reason and that system worked very well. Democracies can not work. Democracies should be called mob rule.

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  3. wallybluComment by wallyblu
    February 19, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

    All the Officers need is a friendly Judge to issue an open search warrant and all the Officers get in free.

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  4. Jota_Comment by Jota_
    February 19, 2014 @ 3:35 pm

    This is a ridiculous argument

    “constitutes a license that reserves to the licensor, in this case the Minnesota Vikings, discretion to deny admission to any ticketholder”

    Why?

    Because Minnesota Vikings are LICENSED by the state to even be able to hand out their own license and the terms of the state’s license to them requires they comply with the state’s laws

    Argument fails

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    • Jota_Comment by Jota_
      February 19, 2014 @ 3:42 pm

      Simple solution, state of Minnesota revoke the business license of the Minnesota Vikings from doing business in the state for non-compliance of state laws

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    • driffter67Comment by driffter67
      February 19, 2014 @ 5:36 pm

      No individual or business and or state has the right to supersede the Constitution even if the state passes a law to do so. “when a law is unjust, it is not only our right to resist but it is our duty to do so.” Thomas Jefferson.

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  5. middlegroundComment by middleground
    February 19, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

    Silly of the NFL to step into a situation where they could become liable. Don’t they have competent legal advice?

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  6. gopuc12450Comment by gopuc12450
    February 19, 2014 @ 8:42 pm

    Here’s what happens when you have Bob Costas for a spokeswimp.

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  7. aretiredgiComment by aretiredgi
    February 20, 2014 @ 1:18 am

    Do the bad guyz follow the rules?

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  8. constitutionComment by constitution
    February 20, 2014 @ 7:27 am

    Boycott the NFL,including TV, in all 50 states. Have all Law enforcement also boycott serving at all NFL stadiums. Get the unions involved , maybe even the Players Union! MN is constructing a new stadium with State of MN $$$. Sue to block payment of state funds until the entire NFL drops this stupid stuff. MN permit holders,(and others too) should stand with the LE community on this one and boycott the NFL. There is a lot of leverage out there to apply to the NFL! Wait until some LEO gets busted by the NFL- and wait for the bad publicity to begin against the NFL. I invite folks to store their NFL gear away, do not buy more, and have retailers put on notice to pull their NFL gear from the shelves. Sorry NFL, you are so in my rear view mirror with this stunt!

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