Tag Archives: Newtown

Want to Appear A Responsible Gun Owner? Don’t Interrupt Testimony in A Legislative Hearing

The ones who shouted at him are the ones who demand we honor their rights as “responsible gun owners” to nearly unregulated ownership, sale, transport and use of semi-automatic weapons. Be very afraid.

On December 14, 2012, Neil Heslin’s life, as he knew it before that date, ended forever when his only son was murdered along with 19 other six and seven year-old children. In an effort to perhaps prevent another parent from bearing the scarcely imaginable burden he carries, Mr. Heslin appeared at a public hearing at the Connecticut General Assembly to ask that body to ban the the kind of weapons that blew apart his child with simple, finger-squeezing efficiency at the hands of a willing murderer. While not every grieving Newtown parent feels as he does, he is certainly not alone in seeking to control access to certain firearms as part of a much larger response to the abomination that was Sandy Hook and every other nonsensical mass-killing that has bloodied the US in recent years. As a part of his testimony, Heslin displayed a photograph of him and his now dead child, and made an emotional but dignified speech to a legislative committee. Apparently after expressing his opinion that “no one” (figuratively) could answer the question of why a person would need a military style weapon to defend his home or person, he was shouted at by observers in the gallery who “answered” his question with loud calls of “Second Amendment!” and “shall not be infringed!” 

But don’t call it heckling.

“Heckling” it’s been said today (by a contributor to the reliably liberal Daily Kos), was an unfair characterization of what gun rights advocates did to this appropriately recognized, testifying individual before a legislative committee. Rather, as at least Kos commenter Sarge from Seattle believes, the audience members were “goaded” into answering the supposedly non-rhetorical question that Heslin, “put” to the audience. The audience had a right to answer Heslin’s question, goes his argument. Heslin “pushed things too far” by asking the question and then suggesting that he had received no viable answer.


The shouters were in the hearing room gallery. The Connecticut General Assembly publishes a guide to speaking at public hearings before legislators. No guidance is offered to testifying individuals about their duty to either not provoke or otherwise be ready to answer the shouts of observing gallery members. That’s because observing gallery members aren’t supposed to speak, ever, unless asked to do so, which I’m guessing would be unusual. For most of us, that’s as obvious as breathing. One doesn’t shout out one’s opinions at a public hearing where one hasn’t been recognized to speak. Unless, I suppose, one is a “2nd Amendment Enthusiast” who believes that his highly arguable interpretation of Constitutional law and apparent passion on the subject nevertheless trumps his (or her) basic duty as a citizen to observe decorum- let alone simple courtesy- during a public hearing before a centuries old state legislature with clearly established guidelines for citizen conduct.

I suppose as well, that, given the willingness of these “defenders of the Constitution” to mock the very process that the Federal and Connecticut Constitutions mandate for civilized debate and policy formation, it’s futile to point out how despicable it is to shout grossly over-simplified absolutes regarding guns at a grieving father who lost his only son to gunfire. Again, this goes without saying for most of us. But not for the proud purveyors of blindingly efficient tools of death and destruction. 

Yet these are the people who urge us to allow them to carry, wherever and whenever, the firearm of their choosing with minimal oversight.

Were I still an ADA, I would rest my case.