NFL, cops debating guns in stadiums

The NFL will be back in court fighting a legal issue with law enforcement groups over the league policy banning anyone (including law enforcement) from carrying handguns into NFL stadiums.

At a time when police and the general public appear to be at odds over altercations taking place between the armed and the unarmed, the Vikings may be in the middle of a scandal of legal proportions as it pertains to off-duty cops butting heads with The Shield.

Off-duty police officers typically have carte blanche to conceal and carry when they attend large events like Vikings games. For years, off-duty officers routinely have carried handguns into sporting events and, whether fans notice or not, they’re in the crowd of every Twins, Wild and Timberwolves game that has been played for decades.

But the Vikings are turning into another story. As has become its wont to do, the NFL has been bold enough to proclaim that its rules should override those of local city and county governments (as well as when its players union feels it is getting the short end of the legal stick). In Minneapolis, they tend to disagree with the NFL and, as history has shown us, judges in Minneapolis tend to rule against The Shield at every turn.

The NFL has adopted its own policy as it pertains to off-duty law enforcement packing heat inside one of its 31 stadiums. As the saying goes, “Not so fast, my friend.”

While other professional sports consider is wise having law enforcement officers armed in the event a situation escalates quickly, the NFL frowns on that and has a policy in place that prevents off-duty officers from being armed at NFL games.

Of course, Dallas and Houston are able to bypass the policy because there is a state law in Texas that allows off-duty officers to be armed wherever they want to be and even the NFL bows to state laws in such cases.

Of the 31 stadiums in the league, TCF Bank Stadium is the only one that has faced a legal challenge. While a similar state law allows off-duty officers to carry handguns into games, the NFL has taken its own interpretation of the law, claiming the state didn’t intend the law to include officers in a private venue to carry a handgun. While The Bank is a public institution, the league is fighting its policy in court for when the Vikings head into U.S. Bank Stadium.

When the NFL imposed its ban, the Vikings were still playing in the Metrodome. Two organizations representing local law enforcement sued the NFL for the right for off-duty officers to carry firearms into games. The case went to court and the judge ruled in favor of the cops. The NFL is appealing the case in the Court of Appeals and a ruling on the appeal is expected by August.

When it comes to public safety, the NFL and off-duty law enforcement officers are looking for the same outcome – keeping those inside the stadium safe. It’s the approach they’re taking to assure that safety that has law enforcement and The Shield at odds. The case will likely be ruled on within the next month or so and, given the NFL’s record in court, much less in Minnesota courts, the odds may not be in the league’s favor as both sides look to determine who has the right to be in charge of public safety at Vikings games.


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