Editorial: Voices heard at gun control hearing? |

Editorial: Voices heard at gun control hearing?

Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Speakers comment on proposed gun-control legislation during a public hearing inside of the City-County Building in Pittsburgh on Jan. 24, 2019.

It was a hearing. Not a listening.

On Thursday night, 101 people stepped up to the microphone in front of the Pittsburgh City Council and Mayor Bill Peduto. They wanted to have their say.

They each were allotted three minutes to tell their story or plead their case. They spoke on a single topic: the proposals to address gun ownership and possession within the Pittsburgh city limits.

It is a topic that has been hotly contested since its announcement in December. It’s been applauded by some who cite violent acts like the Oct. 27 Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill as a need for some kind of increased regulation. It’s decried by others who see it as a troubling encroachment on the second amendment.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was little different at the hearing. The supporters voiced their support, down to a 6-year-old girl who pleaded “I hope you will help protect me and the other kids.” The opponents pointed to law and precedent and their rights under both the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions.

The hearing was moved to an impromptu location in the first floor of the City-County Building because of the size of the crowd. The point was to make room for all who wanted to speak. The result may have been a poignant summary of the debate.

“You can’t hear anything at all back here,” one man said from the back of the group.

The deep divisions on the issue have made gun control something where discussion is all but impossible. It is a recitation of talking points on each side, painted in the dark emotions of fear, sorrow and anger, and no matter how many people step up to the microphone, the words get lost in the noise.

And so you get a hearing where everyone talks and no one hears anything.

Hopefully council and the mayor heard something. Hopefully they are listening to their residents, big and small, old and young, red and blue, those who own guns and those who don’t. Hopefully the hearing was not an exercise to check a box before doing what was already planned.

Hearings are supposed to matter. They are supposed to be a chance to listen and learn and reflect. Hopefully, no matter what the vote is, someone did that.