During a state legislative subcommittee hearing about gun control in Hartford, Connecticut on Monday, onlookers began to shout over Neil Heslin as he was testifying about the death of his son, 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who was one of the 20 first graders gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary last month.
Holding up a large photo of himself with his son, Heslin testified, “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.” When he asked rhetorically why anyone would need an assault rifle, members of the crowd shouted about Second Amendment rights. An even-handed Heslin responded, “‘We’re all entitled to our own opinions and I respect their opinions and their thoughts, but I wish they’d respect mine and give it a little bit of thought.”
Yes, it’s unconscionable behavior, that goes without saying, but it appears nothing can penetrate these gun rights advocates (insert your own version of “except a bullet!” bit of dark humor here). Yes, civil people asking for civil and smart discourse about the need to protect American citizens from intense weaponry are weeping with rage. Yes, the entire state of things is very, very lamentable. What is so very surprising to me, though, is that even in juxtaposing the enormity and ferocity of an AR-15 (such as was used by Adam Lanza in Newtown) with the angelic faces of small children – which was done during the hearing – gun rights advocates will still yell about the Second Amendment in front of grieving parents because the bottom line is, no matter what they say to the contrary, they simply do not care about anything or anyone besides themselves and their guns. They are afraid of this sometimes unpredictable world we live in, and they have convinced themselves that guns are their safety, when in fact guns are what are killing so many of us.
I’ve written extensively about the way guns have touched my family’s life, and I’m tired of rehashing the same points. I know the only thing that will quiet the gun lobby is new laws, and I’m proud of the way my home state has pioneered the future of gun control in this country. What I will do, for those of you who feel like me but are interested in hearing a fresh story about how guns hurt people, is direct you to this very touching and funny interview with my friend Yannis Pappas. (There are some swears so put on your headphones.) Pappas is a stand-up comedian who was shot during a botched robbery and who has – after 8 years of therapy – been able to turn that experience into some really hilarious and poignant jokes. I was there the night the stand-up footage was taken, the day after “Gun Appreciation Day,” the same day several Americans were accidentally shot. That happens every day in this country, by the way. Many of the people accidentally shot each day are children. Gun control now.
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