Earlier this month the National Fraternal Order of Police sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, urging him to allow off-duty law enforcement officers to bring their guns into NFL stadiums. The Fraternal Order of Police believes that if off-duty cops have their guns, they will be able to prevent an ISIS attack. Seriously. Via the Buckeye Firearms Association:
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.
This isn’t the first time the Fraternal Order of Police has raised the issue. When the NFL updated their firearms policy in 2013 to prohibit off-duty and retired law enforcement officers from bringing their guns into stadiums, the Fraternal Order of Police wrote Goodell a letter then too. Two Minnesota police officer associations challenged the restriction in court (they lost earlier this summer), and now Detroit cops are also citing terrorism in a letter they plan to send to Goodell.
In a 2013 response to the Fraternal Order of Police, the NFL laid out why they believe everybody is safer if off-duty officers can’t bring their weapons in:
Recognizing that reasonable people may hold a different view, the 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. On average, more than 500 civilian security personnel and 150 on-duty uniformed armed law enforcement officers were assigned to protect public safety and enforce the law in every NFL stadium.
They also explained the risks in not doing so:
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. ... 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 that [sic] restrict their use of alcohol or subject them to other on-duty behavior standards.
While the Fraternal Order of Police didn’t explicitly cite the recent terrorist attacks at the Stade de France, it is clear they are trying to take advantage of a renewed focus on stadium security issues. But their argument isn’t compelling.
If you truly want to prevent terrorist attacks inside of sports stadiums, the place to do so is outside of them. The reason the Stade de France attack wasn’t nearly as deadly as it could have been was because a security guard found an explosive vest while conducting a low-tech pat down (metal detectors don’t detect most explosives). Does the Fraternal Order of Police really believe an off-duty officer with a gun will notice a terrorist and shoot them dead before they can blow up an explosive vest?
On the other hand, the NFL’s fear of allowing more guns is completely reasonable. NFL stadiums are filled with liquored-up assholes who tribally identify themselves with colored jerseys, spoiling for a fight. Adding guns to that volatile mix sounds like a terrible idea. The stated worry about “‘blue-on-blue’ response confrontations” in the event of an off-duty officer pulling out their gun for a legitimate purpose is also justified. That’s why an armed Air Force veteran refused to intervene in the Umpqua Community College mass shooting: he was worried about being mistaken as an attacker by police and being killed.
A pro-gun think tank president told Fox News that off-duty officers were allowed to bring their guns into stadiums “‘from the time the NFL started until about a year-and-a-half ago,’” which is basically true, and that there were never any problems. But the same logic is also an argument against allowing off-duty officers to have their guns. After all, when was the last time an armed off-duty officer used their gun to prevent an attack inside of an NFL stadium?
The Fraternal Order of Police represents hundreds of thousands of police officers, and I have little doubt their members would feel safer if they could bring their guns into stadiums. The problem is there’s no evidence that allowing them to do so would actually increase the safety of the other 60,000 fans in attendance, and would in fact make make most of them feel less safe.
Photo via AP