Father of Newtown Victim, 6, Calls for Assault Weapons Ban; He Weeps While Testifying to Senate Judiciary Committee

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON After weeks of arguing constitutional fine points and citing rival statistics, senators wrangling over gun control saw and heard the anguish of a bereft father.

Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse, was among those cut down at a Connecticut elementary school in December, asked the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to ban assault weapons like the one that killed his child.

Im not here for the sympathy or the pat on the back, Heslin, 50, a construction worker, told the senators, weeping openly during much of his hushed 11-minute testimony. Im here to speak up for my son.

At his side were photos: of his son as a baby, of them both taken on Fathers Day, six months before Jesse was among 20 first-graders and six administrators killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. That massacre has hoisted gun control to a primary political issue this year, though the outcome remains uncertain.

The hearings focus was legislation by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D- Calif., to ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines carrying more than 10 rounds. A Bushmaster assault weapon was used at Newtown by the attacker, Adam Lanza, whose body was found with 30-round magazines.

Feinstein said such a firearm tears peoples bodies apart. I dont know why as a matter of public policy we cant say they dont belong.

Republicans had several answers. They argued that her proposal would violate the Second Amendments right to bear arms and would take firearms from law-abiding citizens, and said current laws aimed at keeping guns from criminals were not fully enforced.

The best way to prevent crazy people from getting firearms is to better enforce the existing federal background check system, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

That system is designed to prevent criminals, people with mental problems and others from obtaining guns. It applies only to weapons sold by federally licensed dealers, and expanding that system to nearly all gun transactions along with bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines is the central proposal in President Barack Obamas package of gun restrictions he announced last month. …