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Editorial: Gun compromise better than filibuster

A GOP threat to filibuster discussion of gun control measures in the U.S. Senate has died down, thanks in part to U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who opposed the move intended to block the debate. And there are other positive signs that today will bring a bipartisan measure to fruition. It’s time something was done to curb gun violence, and no one knows that better than the families of the Newtown, Conn., shooting victims.

When President Obama went to Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, he called for measures to prevent mass gun violence. He also invited Newtown families to Washington, D.C., this week to bring the weight of their experiences to bear on the legislative talks. But it wasn’t clear Monday when the Newtown emissaries arrived that the two sides of the gun debate would be willing to talk, much less compromise.

It looked instead as if some were going to shut down Senate talks before they could even begin. The reason is simple: Some politicians would have to balance growing calls for gun measures at home with the gun lobby’s demand to not cede an inch. So precisely when we most need an open forum, the expedient answer was to stifle debate.

Yesterday, though, a bipartisan group of senators announced an agreement that would require background checks for online sales and at gun shows, but will exempt sales among family members. Some would argue that the compromise would take away the real teeth gun control groups have been calling for, like a proposed provision that would have limited online gun transactions. And it would do nothing to curb the sales of semi-automatic weapons. Still, in this highly fractured Congress, any compromise can be considered a victory, and hopefully it will set the table for a continued debate and stricter measures down the road. For today’s political battle, there’s no time to sit back and rest on our ideals.

Those who say gun controls violate the Second Amendment and the intentions of our Founding Fathers aren’t taking into account just how many rights they cede on a daily basis, just to be a citizen of the U.S. Isn’t that the very nature of our democracy? Citizens vote for representatives who legislate and decide how best to spend our tax dollars. We even pay them to do it. What’s more, we allow them to appoint experienced lawyers to sit in judgment of us when we break the laws — laws that are there to protect us and the most vulnerable among us.

There’s no question that the right to bear arms is a fundamental American tenet, but at what cost? And would we be willing to have that right more closely monitored, in order save the lives of innocent victims — so children can spend their day learning math skills rather than how to hide from a gunman, so families can sit in a movie theater and enjoy the next Hollywood blockbuster, so politicians can confidently get to know their constituents?

It’s time we found a solution to what’s become a defining issue of our time. And clinging to our illusions of unfettered rights won’t get us there.

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