More guns are needed at NFL games to keep fans safe, according to the nation's largest police union -- which recently asked the league commissioner to let certain firearms owners pack heat on Sundays.

The National Fraternal Order of Police has asked the NFL to lift its ban on fans carrying guns at games, at least for retired and off-duty law enforcement officers who hold permits to carry concealed weapons. In a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell, FOP President Chuck Canterbury said armed cops are the best bet for stopping a terrorist attack inside a stadium.

“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,” read the Nov. 20 letter, which was reported by “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," the letter continued. "Law enforcement, even when working actively with highly trained and skilled security professionals, cannot be certain that all threats will be detected and neutralized.”

“Well-attended venues and areas are being deliberately targeted by the radical killers who do not intend or expect to survive the assault."

- National FOP president Chuck Canterbury

The decision to allow or ban guns at games was up to teams or venues before a league-wide directive prior to the 2014 season. NFL officials said the no-gun policy was reached after an extensive process that included consultation with a multitude of law enforcement agencies and security experts. If the league were to reverse its prohibition, the decision would apparently revert to the teams and stadium operators.

“We concluded that public safety inside NFL stadiums on game days would be best-served by the carrying of firearms by on-duty officers specifically assigned to work the game as part of the comprehensive public safety plan for the event,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told “This approach has been certified by the Department of Homeland Security under the SAFETY Act (Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies).”

McCarthy added that game day security at all stadiums in the League includes on-duty, uniformed police officers and unarmed civilian security personnel who are trained in specific response procedures and security protocols. All are given specific game-time assignments and duties and subject to a chain of command. Off-duty police officers, despite their training, could present a danger, he said.

“Off-duty officers attend games as spectators and are unknown to working law enforcement officers and security personnel,” McCarthy said. “They may not have the same training and do not participate in the weekly preparation meetings. They are not included in the on-site chain of command. The well-intentioned display or use of gun could have serious unintended and potentially tragic consequences.”

Gun control advocates say Canterbury is just carrying the ball for the gun lobby.

"If the text of the letter is indeed, accurate, it's not surprising. Chuck Canterbury is a longtime ally of the National Rifle Association who has acted to protect the interests of the gun industry at every turn," Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the Campaign to Stop Gun Violence, told

“This fantasy he has about attendees at NFL games shooting ISIS members is laughable,” he added. "Thankfully, the NFL knows gun lobby-inspired tripe when they see it.”

Everitt also said that Canterbury omits a key fact in his letter: that most mass shootings in the U.S. are done by legal gun owners, with at least 29 American mass shooters since 2007 holding concealed carry permits. But he also added that off-duty officers bringing their weapon into the stadium is not a major issue.

"In terms of police officers currently serving, that is a much safer situation," he said, "because you are talking about individuals who have been through a vigorous background check, including psychological screening."

Those in the pro-Second Amendment camp say otherwise.

“Off-duty police had been carrying their guns with them at NFL games from the time the NFL started until about a year-and-a-half ago, and there has never been a single problem,” John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, told “Metal detectors can't be depended on to secure stadiums from terrorists.When seconds count, an armed off-duty officer might be the closest person available to stop an attack.

Lott also counters the NFL’s claim that off-duty officers carrying their weapons to the game could cause problems.

“The NFL claims that the off-duty officers might accidentally be shot by security, but not only isn’t there any evidence that even civilians who stop mass public shootings are confused for the attackers, these very officers whose lives are supposedly at risk want to carry guns and believe that it makes both them and the public safer,” he said.


Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @perrych