Question: What is the best way to get me to completely ignore your pro-gun argument?
Answer: Angrily shout it at a grieving father who just lost his 6-yr old son to gun violence.
Neil Heslin, the father of a 6-year-old boy who was slain in the Sandy Hook massacre, was shouted down (see: heckled) by pro-gun advocates during a hearing before the Gun Violence Prevention Working Group at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn.
Dozens of audience members – many sporting NRA hats, which one can only assume was some cynical attempt at “product placement” by the divisive organization – interrupted Heslin as he urged officials to consider strengthening Connecticut’s gun laws, improve available mental health options and ban assault weapons like the ones used in the mass shooting that took the life of his son and 25 others.
Heslin held a framed photograph of himself and his son Jesse.
- Updated: Since the writing of this article, I have had an opportunity to review the full transcript, video and context of Mr. Heslin’s appeal and reported audience reaction. I have come to the conclusion that the use of the word, “heckling” in the media is a mischaracterization. However, whether Mr. Heslin was heckled or not is irrelevant to the primary point of the article… which is the need for a change in attitudes towards access to guns in light of – and in reaction to – events like what occurred at Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech and the many other mass shootings that have torn families and communities apart.
For The Record
I am a supporter of the 2nd Amendment. I taught a gun safety course and frequent firing ranges. I do not advocate for a complete ban on guns. I agree that if an intruder breaks into my home, I would rather have a gun than a frying pan.
However, just as people’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment’s original intent has evolved, my opinion of it has also evolved over the years in reaction to what has obviously become a problem in this country.
I have reached a point in which our policy and attitudes towards guns must also evolve in reaction to (and hopefully prevent) mass shootings like the ones that occurred in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook and others:
Incidents like the one involving Neil Heslin are just another example of how – to some people, apparently – owning a gun is more important than possessing and exhibiting basic human decency. Instead of acknowledging that gun violence is a real problem in this country, gun advocates and the NRA batten down the hatches, point fingers & blame video games and double down on being immovable assholes when it comes to their gun fetish.
But allow me to let you in on a little secret: No one is trying to take your guns away. I know this may not gel with your favorite conspiracy theory on the matter – and it sure as hell boosts gun sales – but it is true.
What thoughtful, intelligent and empathetic people are discussing, is ways that we can reduce the kind of gun violence that shattered Mr. Heslin’s life… and the lives of countless other families.
What Mr. Heslin and others (including myself) are advocating is stricter gun laws that are intended to keep guns out of the hands of people like Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Seung-Hui Cho and Jared Lee Loughner… or does your belief in unrestricted access to guns compel you to disagree with that, too?
As I repeatedly say, people are the unpredictable anomaly when it comes to gun violence, easy access to guns is the predictable common denominator.
So what kind of “suffocating” gun regulations are we talking about that would compel dozens of gun supporters to heckle a father who just lost his 6-year old son during one of the worst (and most heartbreaking) mass shootings in U.S. history?
Assault Weapons Ban
Congress passed the original assault weapons ban in 1994, thus imposing a 10-year ban on 19 types of military-style assault weapons, including semi-automatic rifles and pistols like AK-47s and Uzis. It was permitted to expire under the Bush Administration. Obama would like to reinstate it.
Ban on High-Capacity Magazines
High-capacity ammunition magazines, which can enable a shooter to fire off dozens of rounds of ammunition without having to reload and were used in Aurora and Sandy Hook (among others) would be capped at 10 bullets per magazine. If you need more than that to protect your home or to kill a deer, you’re doing it wrong.
Universal Background Checks
Universal criminal and mental health background checks for all firearms sales, including gun shows. The latter of which you can easily walk in, purchase and walk out with a gun that day.
Federal Funds for National Background Checks
Obama plans to call for increased federal funds to improve the national background check system for gun purchases. This means money for more people to answer the phones when background checks are made, more agents to inspect licensed firearms dealers, and to fully fund promises made in legislation passed after the Virginia Tech massacre, which gives states money to collect and document mental health data in the national background check database.
If one of these “extreme” gun restriction measures concerns you to the point that you think you might be denied a gun, it is likely that I (and many others) don’t want you owning a gun in the first place.
Or we can just go with your solution: more armed assholes firing in a crowd or cops stationed at public schools… since someone who is intent on shooting people probably wouldn’t start with the one person who could fire back, right?
The purpose of this article is not to completely litigate the very complex and polarizing topic of guns and/or gun control in this country… that is a topic for another day. Therefore, if you are going to waste my time by telling me that the (purely hypothetical) solution to gun violence is more guns, I will use the same logic by suggesting that the best solution to prevent people from dying of A.I.D.S, is to infect more people with A.I.D.S.
However, all I would need to do is compare the rate of gun violence in the United States to that of other developed countries in the world with tighter firearm restrictions and regulations.
Spoiler Alert: It works.