ST. PAUL, Minn - Senators moved a bill through committee Tuesday that could resolve a dispute over handgun policies for off-duty officers.
It's an issue that erupted in 2014 when the Minneapolis Police Federation sued after the NFL banned guns at stadiums for everyone except officers who are working the event.
The bill would allow armed off-duty officers into any public venues regardless of their gun policies. Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) presented the bill to the judiciary committee Tuesday.
"This would apply only to actively licensed peace officers," Ingebrigtsen explains.
Some members of the committee were concerned that the bill would undermine the security measures that are already in place at these venues.
"You don't want the security people to now know this person is a licensed police officer that's trained and is off-duty and carrying," says Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul). "They could think they're just an average person."
Dennis Flaherty leads the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. He argues officers have their guns with them at all times and forcing them to remove them before going into a public place can put them and the public in danger.
"They may see someone they've previously arrested or had a run-in with in the past," Flaherty says.
He also brought up a recent case at a St. Cloud mall where an off-duty officer stopped an attacker who had already stabbed multiple shoppers.
"If this attacker had not been encountered by the trained, armed off-duty police officer who was capable of confronting him, the attacker would certainly have harmed or killed many more people," Flaherty says.
Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll also testified before the committee. He cited current policies at the Xcel Energy Center, which he says currently allows armed off-duty officers into the venue.
"I've been a season-ticket holder for the Minnesota Wild since we got the team," Kroll says. "I'm a Minneapolis cop. I come in, I check in, I show them my police ID. They know where I'm seated and I go in."
Some committee members attempted to amend the bill so that venues can require officers to sign in with their name and badge number.
The bill now moves on to the Senate floor. A companion bill is also making its way through the House.