Handgun law worries U officials

Some fans have said they will not renew their season tickets, and one official said the law would allow fans to carry handguns to some events.

by Mary Stegmeir

University officials said the state’s new conceal-and-carry handgun law creates potential safety issues for fans at its off-campus sporting events.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the law Monday. It mandates standards in authorizing permits to carry handguns.

University Athletics Director Joel Maturi said the Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act allows fans to carry handguns to University sporting events at the Metrodome, where the Gophers’ football and baseball teams play.

While the University cannot prevent patrons from bringing handguns into off-campus venues, the school’s conduct codes prohibit students and staff from bringing guns into on-campus venues, Maturi said. The conduct code prohibits guns on campus.

Several Gophers season ticket holders said they are concerned about their safety at the venue, and some said they will not renew their tickets next year, Maturi said.

“We all have concerns for the safety of our fans, and we want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable when they see Gopher games,” Maturi said.

Metrodome operations director Dennis Alfton said facility officials have not determined what effect the law will have on Metrodome sporting events.

“We’re looking at the law and doing further analysis of the law,” he said. “We won’t make any changes until we’ve researched it.”

Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission officials are discussing the issue with the professional and collegiate teams that use the facility.

The law might affect different teams in different ways, Alfton said, adding that security is one of the concerns teams will have to consider.

Alfton said each team contracts its own security firm and will decide whether to bolster security efforts.

The commission will also examine whether concessionaires need to take further security measures, Alfton said. The Metrodome contracts a firm to hire event food vendors.

Several University student groups work the Metrodome concession stands to earn money for their organizations or charity.

Travis Fischer, a technology sophomore, said he helped coordinate Beta Theta Pi’s work at four or five Minnesota Twins games last year.

He said gun-toting fans would make him think twice before working at the venue again.

“If I were to ever do it again, it would definitely be in the back of my mind,” Fischer said.

He said the safety concern will be on the minds of all the venue’s workers.

“Beer and alcohol are not a good combination with guns,” he said.

Fischer also said he did not think the law would initially dissuade many student groups from working as Metrodome food vendors because there has not been a violent incident in connection with the law.

Rep. Lynda Boudreau, R-Faribault, who co-authored the bill, said the University’s concerns are unfounded and based on rhetoric.

She said data collected from 34 other states with conceal-and-carry laws show no increase in violent acts by permit holders.

“(They) are not problem people,” Boudreau said.

Minnesota’s current permit holders are attending games at the Metrodome and University venues and have not caused any problems, Boudreau said.

“It’s amazing they haven’t killed anybody yet, isn’t it?” she asked sarcastically.

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