On Jan. 21, I attended the Minnesota Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee hearing in Hibbing along with dozens of people concerned about gun violence (“Heated hearing,” Jan. 22). The committee heard testimony on four current bills related to gun rights and public safety. My husband provided brief testimony in support of a measure which, if enacted, would enable family members and law enforcement to ask the courts to temporarily remove guns from unstable people who are a danger to themselves or others.

I was shocked and disturbed by the lack of civility and respect demonstrated by some members of the audience. The Senate hearing was interrupted time and again by loud, angry, menacing shouts from some of the “gun rights” advocates.

Unfortunately, this type of breakdown in civil discourse is widespread and increasing. People who have little understanding of or respect for democratic processes are feeling more and more empowered to interrupt those processes.

The reasons for this breakdown in civility are complex. However, it is undeniable that President Donald Trump encourages his followers to belittle, denigrate, and threaten those with whom he disagrees, including the press, his political opponents, and those who simply have other values. Trump has nurtured the environment of disrespect that we witnessed in Hibbing on Jan. 21.

Overall, I am pleased that Sen. Warren Limmer convened the committee and heard testimony on these vital issues pertaining to gun violence and gun safety. We need further hearings. We must get beyond the rancorous winners-and-losers atmosphere we witnessed and seek the broad middle ground: improving public safety while preserving the gun rights of responsible gun owners.

Barbara Stark