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Neil Heslin, Father of Boy Killed in Sandy Hook, Heckled During Legislative Hearing
A father who lost his six-year-old son in the Newtown, Connecticut massacre was heckled by pro-gun activists as he testified at a local hearing on gun control.
Neil Heslin's son Jesse was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. Heslin questioned why any civilian would need a semiautomatic, miltary-style weapon at the state legislative subcommittee hearing on Monday.
But pro-gun activists shouted him down, chanting "Second Amendment" as he spoke.
With tears in his eyes, he explained how it feels to lose a child to a violent shooting.
"It's not a good feeling. Not a good feeling to look at your child laying in a casket or looking at your child with a bullet wound to the forehead. It's a real sad thing," he said, holding a photograph of him and his son when he was a baby.
"We're all entitled to our own opinions and I respect their opinions and their thoughts," he said of the people shouting. "But I wish they'd respect mine and give it a little bit of thought.
This was the first public testimony by family members of those lost in the elementary school shooting, where 20 first graders were killed along with six women.
Family members asked for better gun control and tougher penalties for those who violate gun laws.
The Connecticut State Police firearms training unit brought weapons to the hearing, giving a brief tutorial of what is legal and what is illegal under Connecticut's current assault weapons ban.
Gun rights advocates wore yellow stickers, reading "Another Responsible Gun Owner." There was estimated to be about 2,000 people at the hearing.
Many citizens spoke about the need to protect their families.
"The Second Amendment does not protect our right to hunt deer," said Andrew Hesse of Middletown. "It protects our right to self-preservation and preservation of our family. The right to bear arms."
A single mother from Waterbury, Elizabeth Drysdale, said she fears for her family's safety and believes she should be able to choose what type of gun she wants.
"Don't my children and I deserve your support and consideration to be safe?" she asked.
Gun manufacturers told the subcommittee to not support legislation that could put the state's gun industry at risk.
Mark Mattioli, who lost his six-year-old son James at Sandy Hook, told lawmakers that there are many gun laws but those laws are not being enforced properly.
"It's a simple concept. We need civility across our nation," Mattiolo said. "What we're seeing are symptoms of a bigger problem. This is a symptom. The problem is not gun laws. The problem is lack of civility."
Two men who survived the shooting in Aurora, Colorado last year attended the hearing, and told lawmakers that they should address online and private gun sales that don't require a background check.
State Rep. Arthur O'Neill said lawmakers will likely reach an agreement on gun control.
"Dec. 13 was one way of looking at the world, and Dec. 15 is a different way of looking at the world," he said.
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