Police Union Asks NFL To Allow Guns Inside Stadiums

A Philadelphia police officer stands posted inside Lincoln Financial Field during warm-ups before an NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Miami Dolphins. CREDIT: MATT ROURKE, AP
A Philadelphia police officer stands posted inside Lincoln Financial Field during warm-ups before an NFL football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Miami Dolphins. CREDIT: MATT ROURKE, AP

The National Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, has written a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell requesting that he reconsider the league’s ban on concealed carry in its stadiums.

The union has been trying to get the policy overturned ever since the NFL instituted it in 2013, particularly the part of the ban that extends to even off-duty law enforcement. It seems the recent attacks in Paris, where a soccer stadium was specifically targeted by ISIS-backed militants, has prompted Chuck Canterbury, the president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, to raise the issue again:

Today, I am writing on behalf of the members of the Fraternal Order of Police to urge you to rescind this policy which weakens the safety and security of NFL players, personnel and fans. The terrorist attacks and threats of attacks from organizations like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are selecting targets based on the amount of death and injury they can inflict — mass murder and casualty events. Well-attended venues and areas are being deliberately targeted by the radical killers who do not intend or expect to survive the assault. Law enforcement, even when working actively with highly trained and skilled security professionals, cannot be certain that all threats will be detected and neutralized.

The Ohio Fraternal Order of Police has also reached out to the owners of the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns to try and get them to overturn the policy, and the New York Police Department’s Sergeants Benevolent Association has spoken out against the policy, even starting an online petition that claims the ban “compromises public safety.” The petition currently has 2,626 signatures. Last week, Detroit police union officials spoke out against the ban as well.

“Law enforcement officers often carry a weapon while off duty not only for their own personal protection but to provide a critical response when circumstances call for immediate police action,” the Detroit Police Officers Association, Lieutenants and Sergeants Association and the Command Officers Association, said in a letter obtained by Detroit News. “Current events, not least the unconscionable acts of terrorism we have recently experienced, only add to the desirability of having readily available armed law enforcement officers even if they are not officially ‘on duty.’”

Currently, only the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys’ have been granted an exemption from the ban — the NFL concluded that Texas state law overruled the league’s policy — but other states have sought to overturn the concealed carry ban as well. Minnesota is the only state so far that has issued an official legal challenge to the ban, but in August, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the NFL.

In response to the current outcry, an NFL spokesman reiterated what Jeffrey B. Miller, the league’s vice president and chief security officer, wrote in a letter in 2013 to the National Fraternal of Police in which he stated that while the league doesn’t consider off-duty officers a security risk, it believes “that public safety inside our stadiums is best served by limiting the carrying of firearms to on-duty law enforcement officers specifically assigned to work the game as a part of the public safety plan for the event.”

Miller explained that an average of 500 civilian security and personnel and 150 on-duty uniformed armed law enforcement officers were assigned to every NFL game in 2012, and stressed that the on-duty officers receive extensive training in game-day security and protocols, and are familiar with one another and their respective responsibilities and duties. He continued:

Conversely, off-duty law enforcement officers attend games as spectators. They are unknown to working law enforcement officers…. If permitted to carry concealed weapons, they create deconfliction issues for working law enforcement officers and increase the potential for “blue on blue” response confrontations. They also impact security screening personnel that are required to accurately identify, verify, and authenticate multiple federal, state, and local law enforcement agency badges and credentials. Moreover, off-duty law enforcement officers are not included in the on-site law enforcement chain of command or bound by department or agency on-duty policies that restrict their use of alcohol or subject them to other on-duty behavior statements.

While police officers are using the Paris attacks as a reason why off-duty officers need to be armed in NFL stadiums, it’s important to note that it was security outside of the stadium that actually prevented a terrorist from getting inside and detonating explosives, potentially killing hundreds more people. And while gun enthusiasts, particularly the National Rifle Association, often tout the phrase, “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” the FBI has casted doubts on that logic.

The NFL has extensive security measures in place on game days, going so far as to prohibit any bag larger than a wallet unless it is a clear, plastic bag — women cannot carry standard purses into any NFL stadium.