8:09 PM EST, January 29, 2013
Our democracy shows its strength when we disagree the most.
On Monday, hundreds of people shuffled in the snow for an hour or more just to get into the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, where a hearing on gun controls was underway.
People who harbored memories of loved ones brought down by gunfire mingled with others who clung as tightly to copies of the Second Amendment and their interpretation of it.
The views of each were so deeply entrenched that there seemed little likelihood anyone's mind would change.
Inside, the hearings went on until Tuesday morning. More than 2,000 people attended. Those testifying got three minutes to speak.
More important, for legislators and spectators, was the chance to listen and, maybe for once, to hear another view: from the practical assertions of gun makers that banning weapons would cost jobs in Connecticut to the heartfelt appeal of a parent to not let the death of his 6-year-old go unnoticed, unfelt and, worse, followed by inaction.
In the way of legislatures, the result will be new laws forging compromises that are likely to leave those on the extremes unhappy. Ideally, the chambers will vote to ban the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines, refine the state's ban on military-style assault weapons and require all guns in Connecticut to be registered. These would be sensible changes that wouldn't infringe on legitimate sporting uses of guns.
Perhaps for many at the hearing, nothing did change. There must have been, however, some who heard a differing view, on either side, and saw a place to meet.
In a state and country in which we do agree that people should not shoot each other, this could be the beginning of a change that will stop the Columbines, Virginia Techs and Sandy Hooks. They are not the legacy a great democracy — where rights and safety are protected — should be creating.
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