The NFL’s gun ban for off-duty police may be out of bounds

March 27, 2014

NFL stadiumOn February 11, 2014, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis filed a lawsuit in Hennepin District Court challenging the NFL’s ban on off-duty police officers carrying their guns into games. Complaint available at 2014 WL 618202.   The groups claim the NFL’s ban violates Minnesota law.  The NFL claims the policy is intended to protect patrons.  Unfortunately, for the NFL they might find themselves on the wrong side of state law on this one.

What is Minnesota’s law regarding off-duty police officers carrying guns in private business?

Minn. Stat. 624.714 subd. 17 states a person carrying a firearm under a permit may be ordered to leave a private establishment; however, paragraph (g) provides an exception for “an active licensed peace officer.” The definition of “peace officer” can be found in M.S.A § 626.84 and includes tribal, part-time, and reserve law enforcement.

What do the courts say regarding the peace officer exception in 624.714?

According to a letter sent to the statewide police association, the NFL’s position is that state law does not apply because 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).”  However, there is one case that suggests the NFL is wrong on this point.

The court in Schroeder v. Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians stated the following:

“The exemption of peace officers means that (1) the private establishment may not order a peace officer to leave and (2) a peace officer who does not leave when so requested is not guilty of a petty misdemeanor.”  Schroeder v. Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians, A10-229, 2010 WL 3220147 (Minn. Ct. App. Aug. 17, 2010)

It should be noted that although the court found in favor of the defendant, it was because the plaintiff was an employee of the casino and violated its ban on employee’s bringing guns on the premises.  “The statute does not create an affirmative right to carry a gun in a private establishment notwithstanding any other rules.” Id.  The NFL may attempt to use this language to justify their policy; however, this situation is easily distinguished as the plaintiffs in this case are not employees of the NFL.  As much as the NFL is attempting to promote safety for their patrons; it is difficult to see how their policy doesn’t violate state law.