Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Open Letter to Missouri Legislators

Dear Legislator,  

On September 11, 2013, the General Assembly will convene to consider overriding Governor Nixon’s veto of House Bill No. 436.

My purpose in writing you is simple: I wish to express my strong opposition to this bill, and I wish to implore you – as a fellow citizen and a fellow public servant - not to lend your vote to the override effort.

I am aware that you have already been sent a similar letter by my friend and colleague, Chief Tim Fitch of the St. Louis County Police Department.  Colonel Fitch and I share a common vision about what constitutes a reasonable range of debate on most issues.  It says a great deal,  that different though our challenges may be, Tim Fitch and I both consider HB 436 to stand outside that reasonable range. 

There are many competing ideas about the best way to protect the Second Amendment.  For my part, I have always believed that the right to bear arms for law-abiding citizens requires a robust effort on the part of law enforcement to keep guns out of the wrong hands.  A key part of that effort is the nexus of cooperation between local, state, and federal agencies – a system built up with great patience over the years, in order to deal with the small percentage of habitual and violent offenders who commit most of our society’s worst crimes.

House Bill 436 mounts a direct attack on that cooperation, by making it literally illegal for the police to work with our partners at the next level of government.  In so doing, it threatens an erosion of hard-won gains in the reduction of crime and the improvement of public safety.  Indeed, as far as I can see, the only category of gun owner who would truly benefit from this bill is that of previously convicted felons. Why?  Because that is the only category of gun owner who realistically has anything to fear from the gun cases in which local police cooperate with the federal government.

I simply cannot believe there is anyone in this conversation who wants to see more guns in the hands of felons, so it appears that is just one more among the many unintended consequences contained in this unfortunate bill.

In many opinions of those directly impacted by HB 436, it goes too far, and does too much.  It contains flagrantly provocative features that all but guarantee a constitutional challenge, which must end with the law being overturned in whole or in part.  Worst of all, by the very nature of its extremism, this bill makes the act of defending the Second Amendment harder for the millions of Missourians who wish to fight for their gun rights with moderation and reason.

Far from being a defeat, the Governor’s veto is a golden opportunity.  It gives you and the entire legislature a second chance to design a better bill.

I cannot say it better than my friend already has.  Please listen to Chief Fitch when he urges that “Your local law enforcement agencies are depending on you to help us keep our communities safe.”

I would simply add one thing: reasonable supporters of the right to bear arms are also depending on you to help give them a bill that can stand the test of constitutional scrutiny, a bill that favors their cause with the light of reason and perhaps most of all, a bill that puts the long-term protection of the Second Amendment ahead of the short-term concerns of partisan politics and symbolism.

Your friends in the profession of law enforcement would be only too happy to help you craft such a bill.

                                                                        Very truly yours,


                                                                        D. Samuel Dotson, III
                                                                        Chief of Police

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