Dear Editor:

An open letter to all legislators - I’m writing to implore you to support legislation that would restrict access to certain types of guns and to create tighter criteria on who may obtain and possess firearms.  

I’m well aware that our gun violence epidemic is not exclusively attributed to the availability of guns, however, it remains that guns are being used to commit these atrocities and there is consistency in the type of gun used in the vast majority of mass shootings. There are many facets to this issue but the fact is, people are being killed with guns.

I thought, as many Americans did, that after the Sandy Hook shooting there would be some meaningful reform of gun laws in the U.S., after all, if the killing of twenty little children in an elementary school was not enough to compel our legislators to do something, what would be necessary? As it turns out that was not enough … not even close.  

And so the killings continue at a rate that is truly beyond belief and still no will from our representatives to enact change or even have meaningful conversations about the issues. You do however, seem to be quite willing to discuss and act on measures that relax gun restrictions, expand concealed carry, allow possession of sound suppressors and promote Constitutional carry, all of which represent the potential for increased risk to public safety.

Sadly, many of you seem so consumed with keeping your job and capitulating to the NRA that you refuse to do anything … anything at all. Sure you cloak your refusal to address this issue in the worn out excuse that “it’s a Constitutional right” or “it’s not a gun issue” but the truth is, few of you possess the strength of character to do what is clearly right and urgently needed, even if it puts your own self-interests at risk.

As a Police Chief my worries about this issue exist on several levels. I worry about the lives and welfare of the people in our communities, especially those who are most vulnerable. I also worry about my staff.

Law enforcement officers across this country put their own self-interests aside every day when they go on duty and risk their lives responding to incidents they have little control over and on behalf of people they don’t even know. You and everyone else would be appalled if we ran away from danger and the responsibility we have to the American people, not just as police officers but as decent fellow human beings.  

Your refusal to come together to find real solutions is shameful and makes you complicit in this worsening epidemic of gun violence. Your refusal to address this places my friends and colleagues, people I care a great deal about, at greater risk. The risk they face is not limited to the guns that can inflict great harm, but the emotional trauma they will experience if they have to respond to a mass shooting incident.  

This is a life-changing event for all of the people who must respond to and deal with the aftermath and no one should ever have to do that. But unlike you, as guardians we are willingly take on that risk and burden, even at the cost of our own lives and emotional wellbeing. You certainly would hold us accountable if we behaved as you do … by looking the other way. Isn’t it time you place greater value on human life than on a gun?

Bill Nixon

Chief of Police, Decorah