A view from Glen Hill: State gun legislation Outstanding bipartisanship

Connecticut legislators came together on gun control in a remarkable display of bipartisanship. They did so at a time when too many U.S. legislators are cowering in fear of the NRA and what it could do to them if they showed any spine at all.

So how did our state pull off this kind of bipartisanship? A lot of the credit goes to our state senator, Toni Boucher.  Invited to become co-chair of the legislature’s subcommittee composed of an equal number of Republican and Democratic legislators and charged with conducting hearings and coming up with legislative recommendations on school safety and security, both she and her Democratic co-chair counterpart knew that the mission they were undertaking would be very challenging: To be successful, it would require bipartisan cooperation and action in a time when bipartisanship at all levels of government has been in very short supply.

But Toni embarked on this mission with a strong sense that it was the right thing to do and with her mind open to what would be heard as the hearings unfolded. Toni has garnered a lot of trust on both sides of the aisle in the state legislature as a person of conviction who is prepared to address forthrightly controversial subjects both generally (e.g., legislation to legalize marijuana use that she has consistently opposed on health and gateway-drug grounds) and specifically within her party (e.g., as here, bucking the NRA). Among the three legislative subcommittees working in this area, her subcommittee modeled how to do bipartisanship.

She and her Senate colleagues reviewed huge amounts of often conflicting information. In addition to issues of school design and security unique to her subcommittee, they needed to address assault rifles and their magazines and how they should be defined and limited, what to do about those who already own these types of weapons, background-checking requirements, and, very tellingly, what an individual state can hope to accomplish when the traffic in handguns and assault rifles is a national problem that does not lend itself to easy single-state regulation.

So Toni and her legislative colleagues heard testimony from distraught Newtown parents as well as from parents of kids hit by stray bullets bouncing around inner-city neighborhoods in firefights among gangs or when drug deals go bad. And they heard testimony from police chiefs and officers from around our state who expressed strong support for identification and registration rules and for limits on large magazines and assault rifles. Those in law enforcement described how the time it takes for a shooter to reload is usually the shooter’s most vulnerable time for being taking down by law enforcement authorities and how there is no legitimate reason for someone to have an assault rifle with a large magazine. Masses of information and tons of pressure. But pressure merely serves to bring out the best in Toni, and for that we can all be grateful.

Does this legislation give everyone what they wanted on all sides of the debate? Of course not. It couldn’t, or that would be the end of bipartisanship. But in a nation where compromise to achieve consensus on almost any subject these days dies aborning, Toni helped her subcommittee, and her legislative colleagues generally, to find the way to recommendations that could garner the support needed for passage of important legislation on an overwhelming affirmative vote.

Those who say that this legislation infringes on Second Amendment rights seem to have little issue with infringement of constitutional rights in other areas when the safety of all of us is on the line: waiver of search and seizure rules, of due process rights, and of privacy concerns — whatever it takes to keep us safe from terrorists. Well, the fact is that terrorists come in many forms, and the wholesale slaughter of tiny kids and their brave teachers ought to be on everyone’s terrorism list.

Brooking no compromise and threatening dire consequences to those who seek to find it has never been the American way. Toni’s willingness to put herself on the line to reach a legislative result reflecting principled compromise is a model for all of us and especially for those who seem to think that there can be only one answer to any question — their own.

Let’s find what brings us together rather than what drives us apart. Let those of goodwill, compassion, intelligence, and brave heart, like Toni, lead us on the path to bipartisanship as the rule across our entire nation and not the rare exception.

Mr. Hudspeth lives on Glen Hill Road.