Daily Mail: Gun Rights Activists Shout At, "Heckle" Grieving Father During Gun Control Debate

Two sides clashed in Hartford Monday as parents of those lost in the Dec. 14 shooting, as parents made pleas for both social change and gun laws.


Both sides knew it would be a heated debate. And it was.

Advocates for and against gun control clashed in Hartford Monday at a public hearing for the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children's Safety, set up in response to the tragic shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.

Both sides knew the atmosphere would be tense, and that the Legislative Office Building in Hartford would be packed. Anticipating a huge crowd, police put additional security measures in place, including metal detectors.

More than 1,300 people signed up to speak, according to ABC News, with wait times as long as two hours.

One of those speakers was Neil Heslin, father of 6-year-old Jessie Heslin, a shooting victim. Heslin was one of three parents of children lost on Dec. 14 to speak at the hearing, along with Veronique Pozner and Mark Mattioli.

Heslin went head-to-head with gun control advocates, according to Fox News, saying he couldn't see a reason for any civilian to own a high-powered assault rifle like an AR-15 or an AK-47.

"The sole purpose of those ... is put a lot of lead out on the battlefield quickly. And that's what they do. And that's what they did at Sandy Hook Elementary on the 14th," said Heslin.

A handful of crowd members shouted back about Second Amendment rights. The Daily Mail newspaper online reported Heslin, holding a portrait of himself with his dead son, was "heckled" and that

An emotional father who lost his six-year-old son in the Newtown school shooting has been heckled by pro-gun activists as he testified at a local hearing on firearm control. Neil Heslin, whose son Jesse was killed in last month's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, questioned the need for any civilian to own semiautomatic, military-style weapon at the state legislative subcommittee hearing in Hartford Connecticut on Monday. But he was shouted down by members of the audience who shouted 'The Second Amendment' as he spoke.

Heslin talked about what it was like to view his dead child:

He said: '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,' said Heslin, who held up a large framed photograph of himself and his son. A handful of people at the packed legislative hearing then shouted about their Second Amendment rights when Heslin asked if anyone could provide a reason for a civilian to own an assault-style weapon. 'We're all entitled to our own opinions and I respect their opinions and their thoughts,' Heslin said. 'But I wish they'd respect mine and give it a little bit of thought.'

Pozner and Mattioli asked questions about civility in today's society and the problem of evil. Pozner, who described her son as a "young philosopher," said she didn't always have the answers to his thoughtful questions, according to ABC.

She said Noah used to ask, "If there are bad guys out there, why can't they just all wake up one day and decide to be good?"

"The problem is a lack of civility," said Mattioli, who also called for stricter enforcement of existing laws, according to the Hartford Courant. "I believe in a few simple gun laws. I think we have more than enough on the books ... We should hold people individually accountable for their actions."

Response from pro-gun advocates was spurred by groups like Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, one of the largest gun advocacy groups in the U.S. The group was thrown into the spotlight shortly after the December shooting when news organizations like the Huffington Post noticed its coincidental presence in Newtown.

Representatives from the NSSF joined Connecticut-based gun manufacturers, including Colt and Mossberg & Sons, in a press conference in Hartford Monday prior to the start of the hearing.

"We’re here to listen to what the legislature has to say and to work with the legislature, to be at the table to craft a solution," said NSSF Vice President Lawrence Keene at the conference, according to a release from the group's web site.

An widely distributed online action alert encouraging supporters to attend the hearing and sign up to speak bore stronger language, calling potential gun control measures "draconian" and "knee-jerk reaction legislation" that would make Connecticut gun owners "instant criminals."

"Legislators in Hartford are in the process of destroying your Second Amendment rights by exploiting recent tragedies," said the release.

Today's hearing will be the second of four the Task Force is holding. On Wednesday, the legislature will travel to Newtown for the final hearing at Newtown High School.

Dave Adametz January 29, 2013 at 09:28 PM
Mike: It can't be debated that gun control groups are routinely providing disingenuous information to get people to accept their gun control agenda. They: ...report the "30,000 people being killed by guns" rhetoric when 75%-85% (depending on which study you read) is beign caused by career criminals, and there isn't a single law being proposed that will stop them from committing crimes. ...reference the "we are X times more likely to be injured with a gun in the home" statistic but this figure came from suicides, which is a mental health issue, not a gun issue (I know this because a friend of mine committed suicide by locking himself in his car in the garage with the engine running). ...say they only want to ban "assault weapons" when "assault weapons" is just a buzz word the media made up that has no meaning, like "saturday night special". The more they try to define it, the more guns they wind up banning. Bill No, 122 proposed by State Senator Ed Meyer proposes banning all guns that can contain more than ONE round. Yes, that includes five shot deer rifles. ...and now they're claiming that someone challenging people to explain why anyone should have these types of weapons is being "heckled" when he received an answer from people who came to testify on that very topic. They can call it whatever they want, but this is still LYING, regardless of whatever side of the issue any of us happen to be on.
Pem McNerney (Editor) January 29, 2013 at 10:52 PM
It's my understanding that Mr. Heslin was giving testimony, not having a personal chat with folks in the audience. It sounds like he may have posed what is called a rhetorical question, a statement in the form of a question that does not expect a reply. So interesting to me that some members of the audience did not have enough self control to hold their fire, so to speak. Unfortunate. Here are two more takes on it: "Father of Newtown victim heckled at hearing" http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Newtown-dad-to-lawmakers-Change-gun-laws-4228992.php#photo-4098381 and ... "TSTOG (Too Stupid To Own Guns)" http://courantblogs.com/colin-mcenroe/tstog-too-stupid-to-own-guns/ Honestly, most of the people I know who own guns are pretty smart. Smart enough to know that it does their cause a disservice to engage in behavior like this at a public hearing.
Rockland Farm January 30, 2013 at 01:14 AM
I watched the testimonies on CTN . It looks pretty clear to me that Mr. Heslin asked the crowd a question and at first no one responded .He then stated that no one had a answer and someone answered him . If he didn't want an answer he should not have asked a question . You can't ask a question and when no one at first answers you because of some degree of decorum turn around say see no one has a good answer . You throw out a challenge like that you should expect an answer . But it does not surprise me in the least that the liberal media will try to spin this to their advantage . I also does not surprise me that anyone who watched the testimonies would have seen that the pro-gun side out numbered the antis by a huge amount .But the media has been reporting it as evenly divided .WTNH had a poll on their web site about whether or not assault weapons should be banned . The polling results evidently did not go the way they planned because the results were very short lived on the website and as far as I can tell never reported on air . the final results were 69% against a ban and 31% for . So much for integrity in the media.For now this is still the United States of America . Even if you only want to pick and choose which amendments you like , I think you still have to go by what the majority wants .
Amanda Kaplan January 30, 2013 at 12:05 PM
I am so sick of gun nuts trying to elevate their sick, violent hobby into something protected by the NRA's completely false, self-serving interpretation of the Constitution. Your stupid hobby is killing innocent people. Nancy Lanza's hobby killed those precious people in Newtown. What did she need a Bushmaster for? Zombies? Get a new hobby and STFU.
Rockland Farm January 30, 2013 at 12:33 PM
I am sick of the uniformed telling me about firearms and firearms law . I am sick of people who fly off the handle telling me that I am the same as Adam Lanza . To imply that I somehow support what a mass murderer does tells me you are a little twisted yourself. A sick twisted kid killed those people not me or anyone in my family . I find it appalling that you are so pompous that you think you have the right to tell how and what I can have to protect my family . If people like you would take the time to research the facts I would listen to what you have to say . Until you educate yourself and can speak with a little knowledge then perhaps you should STFU .
Rockland Farm January 30, 2013 at 01:00 PM
Another thing that is interesting . Amanda has no problem exercising her 1st amendment rights when she voices her opinion . But she obviously feels anyone who has a opinion different than hers doesn't have that right and should shut up . Typical self serving interpretation of the Constitution .
Robert Bracer January 30, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Rockland, how does anyone know you aren't? Nobody thought that about lanza or Loughlin or Holmes. And why do you need so much protection for your family? What have you done that warrants that? You sound angry, is that it? Are you angry with others and have made someone even angrier? Just wondering why you're so paranoid?
Robert Bracer January 30, 2013 at 01:09 PM
"Typical self serving interpretation of the Constitution" Sort of how you interpret the 2nd ammendment? Just wondering your thoughts on the 3rd ammendment, can I come live in your house? It is a time of war, you know. Make room for me, get more toilet paper and cereal.
Rockland Farm January 30, 2013 at 01:37 PM
Ok Robert so instead of addressing any mental health issues that Lanza and others like him might have or had . You wish to restrict the rights of the many for the misdeeds of the few . I don't think I am paranoid just a realist . I seen enough in my life to realize it isn't all rainbows and lollipops . I also think I interpret the 2nd amendment the way it was intended . The difference I see between people like you and I is simple . If you don't want a firearm I say fine . But you think if you don't want a firearm you should be able to tell me that I can't have one as well . And quite frankly we all have a right to disagree but neither you nor Amanda has the right to tell me to shut up because I disagree with you . I was simply trying to point out the hypocrisy of her statement . And Constitution or not as a Father and Husband I feel it is my responsibility to protect my family and to teach them to protect themselves . If you have lived a exceptionally sheltered life and don't see any of the threats out there good for you . My experiences have taught me differently . Something tells me if you came over I would have to get a whole bunch toilet paper .
Rockland Farm January 30, 2013 at 01:41 PM
And Robert have you read the third amendment ? Are you a foreign soldier ?
Rockland Farm January 30, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Robert I also simply threw Amandas own statements back at her. Yet somehow it is only I you are able to see as angry ?
Lynne Charles January 30, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Supreme Court Justice Scalia noted, in the 2008 decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, that the 2nd ammendment right is . . . "not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever, in any manner whatsoever, and for whatever purpose." As part of a civil society we accept limits for the safety and well-being of all. For instance, after 9/11, when I fly I am not allowed to board with sharp objects, clippers, tweezers, or aerosols. They're confiscated. It's not about MY personal property rights, but OUR collective right to live securely. Again, the right to keep an bear arms is not absolute.
Amanda Kaplan January 30, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Rockland Farm sorry to disappoint you but I'm a lawyer and I'm going to guess that I understand the law a lot better than you. So STFU about your stupid deadly toys. Try speedboat racing or skydiving, instead.
Rockland Farm January 30, 2013 at 03:09 PM
Are you allowed to say STFU in court ?
Rockland Farm January 30, 2013 at 03:31 PM
There are Lawyers and Judges that have opposite views than yours . I am going to have to believe they are every bit as smart as you . And given your statements probably smarter . I shouldn't have to point out to you what most people think of Politicians and Lawyers . Giving your response I highly doubt you are in fact a lawyer .And if in fact you are you probably don't get much repeat business .Again a typical response " I am a lawyer " implying you know better than me . I hope you don't ave that same attitude with your doctor or mechanic. And to Lynne Charles I don't see where Judge Scalia pointed out AR-15s or any particular weapon for that matter. So as far as I am concerned what he stated is still open to interpretation . You want to look at it one way to reinforce your point of view ,I want to look at it a different way to make my point of view . As far as flying they have Air Marshals and they arm the Pilots . When they are able to have everyone who enters a School ,Mall or Movie theater empty their pockets ,submit to a search and go through a metal detector your comparison will have merit . And I only have to look at the poor Petit family in Cheshire to want to be able to protect my family and home . Like I have stated before if you don't wish to defend yourself and loved ones fine that is your right . But you have no right to take away my right to do so .
Fred January 30, 2013 at 03:42 PM
Ms. Kaplan, if you're an attorney, you're evidently not a very good one. Read the the US Supreme Court opinions in the District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago cases, holding that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to keep and bear arms. Unlike speedboat racing or skydiving, Rockland Farm and I have a Consitutionally-protected right to our "sick, violent hobby" and "stupid deadly toys," whether you like it or not.
Fred January 30, 2013 at 03:48 PM
Excellent point, Rockland Farms, and you needn't look to the Petit family in Cheshire to illustrate the point. There are examples right here in Madison. If Babara Hamburg had a firearm at the time of her death, she would probably be alive today.
ted Aub January 30, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Fred January 30, 2013 at 03:52 PM
True wisdom, Ted Aub.
Lynne Charles January 30, 2013 at 04:03 PM
You're right, Rockland. It's about the interpretation of the Constitution. And Scalia had more to say that would support a more stringent interpretation of gun ownership, suggesting that it would include limiting, "dangerous and unusual weapons," and also hinting that the 2nd amendment only protects those weapons "in common use at the time." from Heller v. District of Columbia We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. [United States v.] Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those "in common use at the time." We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of "dangerous and unusual weapons." [District of Columbia v. Heller, 6/26/08, via Google Scholar]
Fred January 30, 2013 at 04:20 PM
@pem True, Mr. Heslin was giving testimony, not having a personal chat with folks in the audience. I's also possible that Mr. Heslin may have been asking a rhetorical question, although a review of the video indicates that he paused afterward, suggesting that he was soliciting an answer. However, it cannot be disputed that the gun-rights advocates who spoke were doing so in response to what they perceived as a question. Even if such actions represent an interruption, they fall far short of heckling, an act that implies an air of harassment associated with it. The video demonstrates that the whole episode was civil, the gun-rights advocates in the audience quickly quieted down after their short responses, and Mr. Heslin appears largely unfazed by it. My heart bleeds for Mr. Heslin. No parent should ever experience what he has. Nevertheless, if he chooses to enter the public debate, people are entitled to answer him. The fact remains that Patch's report of the episode was highly misleading.
Matt January 30, 2013 at 04:31 PM
He paused for a response. Everyone kept quiet. He then prompted actively for a response by pointing out that nobody answered his question. Of course, the reporting leaves all of that out. This reporter's story is not just spun out of context, it is a bold faced lie. He completely left the fact that the question was asked, prompting an answer, and that it was indeed civil. Not surprising though.
Rockland Farm January 30, 2013 at 04:38 PM
Lynne I am not really sure how we can come to a agreement on this particular thing . We obviously read the same thing but interpret it differently .In common use at the time ,have you researched how many AR-15s are in currently owned by civilians ? I think you will find they are pretty common.As someone pretty well versed in firearms I think I know what would be considered dangerous and unusual . First all firearms are dangerous but there is nothing unusual about a AR-15 it is one of the most popular and plentiful firearms in the US . And you really don't have to go far to find one they are in the trunks of most Madison Police cars .I have nothing but respect for our Law Enforcement Officers but I believe I have every right to the same tools to protect myself as they do . You folks have got to get past the assumption that every gun owner is a criminal or crazy . I am no threat to you . I simply want to protect my family in the manner I see fit . I do not want to live in a country where only the Government ,Police and criminals are armed . That is the whole point of the second amendment . And neither you or Joe Biden can pacify me by saying all I need is a double barrel shotgun or a slingshot .We need to concentrate our efforts on why people do the terrible things they do and not push feel good do nothing laws that just disarm the law abiding to make it easier for them to become victims .
Fred January 30, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Correct, Lynne Charles, the Heller opinion states that that the Second Amendment protects those arms "in common use at the time." It does not protect bazookas, sawed-off shotguns, or fully automatic weapons -- these are not typically owned by average citizens. The Second Amendment protects, among other firearms, handguns -- the precise issue in Heller. As Rockland Farms pointed out, (and as confirmed by a recent article in the New York Times), the Bushmaster used in the Newtown tragedy is the biggest selling new rifle in the USA, and therefore is "in common use" at the moment.
Martha January 30, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Lynne, that's an excellent point about everyone having to give up flying with items they would like to have, even if they had no intention of using them to harm someone else.
Mike Atkins February 01, 2013 at 06:18 PM
@ Rockland Farm, just wondering what you've done to other people that you think that you need an AR-15 to protect yourself and your family. Name one person, ever, who has shot an intruder to theri home with an AR-15. Bet you can't. You are just talking treasonous trash. I find your comments creepy.
Mike Atkins February 01, 2013 at 06:19 PM
psst Matt, ever hear of a rhetorical question?
Rockland Farm February 02, 2013 at 01:22 AM
Well Mike right off the top of my head the Korean shopkeepers during the L.A. riots come to mind . And what you fail to understand is we gun owners don't want to shoot someone , we just want the what we feel as knowledgeable firearm owners what is best for our needs . I suggest you do a search and you will find examples .But you can't just pick and choose to suit your needs .Also look for times they were used to scare off the bad guy without a shot fired . I find it interesting that you try and twist it around that I must be some type of bad person because I wish to protect my family as I see fit . I would not tell you what you should do to protect your family why are you so pompous that you can tell me what to do . Your way of thinking must mean the Petit family must have done something to their attackers and it was the Petits fault or perhaps those poor kids in Sandy Hook did something to Adam Lanza. I see it like this if a couple intruders enter my home with evil intent , first Rockland shows scary looking black rifle and hopefully they leave without a shot fired .If that doesn't work and god forbid I have to shoot after it is all said and done I want to be there with left over bullets in my 30 round magazine not needing 11 or 12 shots but having been restricted to 10 .It is simply preparing for the worst and hoping for the best .The fact that you wish to vilify me without knowing me or what I have seen and done in my life time makes me think you are pretty creepy .
Lin February 03, 2013 at 03:16 PM
Hey, guess what...this story as reported on MSNBC is B.S.! They edited the video to make it appear as if these people were heckling the father and it never happened...GULLIBLE PEOPLE!!!
Lin February 03, 2013 at 03:17 PM


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