Despite NFL’s Gun Control Crusade, Tailgater Shoots Fan in the Head Outside League’s Premier Stadium

NFL Logo

A football fan endured a gunshot wound to the head outside of the Cowboys-Patriots game Sunday evening despite the NFL’s well-publicized efforts to make their venues gun-free zones.

AT&T Stadium’s “prohibited items” list includes “firearms and weapons of any kind, “[k]nives of any length,” and “[a]ny other item or action deemed dangerous or inappropriate.” Like every other NFL venue, the Arlington, Texas, stadium prohibits guns. But the Cowboys, who boast an NFL attendance record at 105,121, remain relatively powerless to check each incoming vehicle entering their lots for firearms.

Police suspect that neither the victim nor the suspect in Sunday night’s shooting even entered the stadium, where metal detectors and security greet incoming fans. A spokesman for the Arlington, Texas, police told the Dallas Morning News that the alleged perpetrator and the victim now in critical condition “might have been tailgating for a while.” reports that police sources told them that the fans possibly enjoyed the festivities in the parking lot rather than watched the game inside the stadium. The shooting occurred nearly two hours after the conclusion of the Patriots-Cowboys game and during a Blue Jays-Rangers playoff game at Globe Life Stadium. One report claims that a mob “egged on” the shooter.

The NFL’s prohibition on guns does not extend to alcohol. Anheuser-Busch remains an official sponsor of the NFL and provides the unofficial ingredient in a large percentage of fights among fans. The brewer signed a six-year, $1.2 billion sponsorship deal in 2011. The beer companies make the league more money through concession sales, advertising within stadiums, and dollars paid to networks for commercials that indirectly make their way to the NFL in television deals.

In contrast, the league bans advertising from ammunition and weapons manufacturers. Along with strip clubs, cigarettes, casinos, and other sindustries, munitions and weapons companies remain unwelcome during the broadcast breaks of NFL games. The league leans on NBC, ESPN, CBS, and Fox to bar such commercials. “Firearms, ammunition or other weapons” appear on the “Prohibited Advertising Categories” list, “however, stores that sell firearms and ammunitions (e.g., outdoor stores and camping stores) will be permitted, provided they sell other products and the ads do not mention firearms, ammunition or other weapons.”

The league’s zeal to ban guns at their stadiums extends to off-duty police officers. In 2013, Jeffrey Miller, the league’s director of security, wrote a Minnesota police group objecting to the policy that “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.” But the NFL’s two Texas franchises received exemptions due to the league policy conflicting with state law requiring off-duty cops to carry.

The gun-ban on fans pales next to the strictness of its firearms policy regarding players. “Put simply,” rules promulgated by the NFL state, “the League, the Players Association and law enforcement authorities urge you to recognize that you must not possess a gun or other weapon at any time you are performing any service for your team or the NFL.” The NFL explicitly bars its employees from carrying firearms on the property of any of its teams, citing parking lots as one area off-limits to firearms.  “In some circumstances, such as for sport or protection, you may legally possess a firearm or other weapon,” the NFL concedes. “However, we strongly recommend that you not do so.”

Despite the league’s blackout on gun advertising, its gun-control policy in stadiums, and its intrusions on the 2nd Amendment rights of players, a fan placed a gun to the heads of other fans, ultimately pulling the trigger on one unfortunate fortysomething man, outside of AT&T Stadium Sunday night. Like Washington, DC, Chicago, New York City, and other enclaves inhospitable to private citizens carrying guns, the NFL confronts a result at odds with their intention. But rather than catalyze an epiphany that such strict gun rules only disarm the people who follow rules, the extreme lack of self-control by an individual likely makes the control freaks within the NFL even more zealous in their campaign against firearms.

Patdowns in the parking lots? Coming to an enormodome near you. Border-style inspections of vehicles entering the sovereign land of NFL Nation? More likely than the London franchise. A ban on beer sales within NFL stadiums akin to the policy of its SEC minor league? You must be drunk.