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Minn. cops sue NFL over handgun ban in stadiums

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A pair of groups representing Minnesota law enforcement officers filed a lawsuit against the NFL today in Hennepin County District Court on the grounds that the league's ban on hand guns in stadiums should not apply to police officers.

Dennis Flaherty, president of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers' Association said the rule imposed by the league last September violates state law. In Minnesota licensed peace officers are exempt from a provision that allows private establishments to prohibit guns on their premises, he said.

Flaherty said some off-duty officers were prevented from bringing their guns into the Metrodome last season. He said law enforcement officers often carry handguns while off duty for their protection and so they can respond to crimes in progress.

"They had to either lock their weapon in a vehicle -- which is tremendously unsafe -- or they would be denied into the facility," he said.

An NFL spokesman declined to comment on the suit.  But the NFL did release an Oct. 29, 2013 letter to Flaherty from the league's chief of security, Jeffrey Miller, who denied that the policy violates state law.

In the letter, Miller wrote that the section of Minnesota Statute 624.714 on which the association and the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis are basing their suit does not nullify the NFL's policy, which restricts firearms possession to on-duty officers and security working at the stadiums only.

"The statute makes clear that, if a peace officer brings a weapon into a private establishment that prohibits weapons, the peace officer cannot be arrested or charged with a crime," wrote Miller. "By its terms, however, the statute does not require the private establishment to admit the peace officer or anyone else carrying a weapon."

Miller also wrote that the on-duty law enforcement personnel assigned to NFL stadiums are specially trained and required to participate in weekly meetings about pre-game day and game day security, law enforcement planning, strategy, and emergency response procedures and protocols. They also know each other, work together on a regular basis, and have specific game day assignments, responsibilities, and duties.

In contrast, Miller wrote in his letter, off-duty peace officers attend games as spectators and are unknown to working law enforcement officers. He said they may not have the same training and if permitted to carry concealed weapons at games could create the potential for confrontations between officers.