Over 2,000 people lined up to testify at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Monday as state lawmakers conducted a hearing on gun control proposals.
Despite snow and below-freezing temperatures, the hearing was expected to continue throughout the evening. Several parents of the children killed in the Sandy Hook shooting in December were among those who testified at the hearing.
With a picture of his son in front of him, Neil Heslin, the father of Jesse Lewis, told the legislature’s Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety, that “changes have to be made.”
“A place to start is banning these weapons. There is no reason for these,” Heslin said. “It’s just shocking what happened in Newtown. I look at these weapons… so called assault weapons. I still can’t see why any civilian, why anybody in this room needs weapons of that sort. You are not going to use them for hunting or even for home protection.”
However, Mark Mattioli (pictured, left), whose son James also died in the shooting massacre, disagreed. “The problem is a lack of civility,” Mattioli said. “We do not need complex laws. I am a big proponent of accountability and enforcement.”
Mattioli asked whether additional gun laws will make a difference when the issue is actually personal responsibility.
“We need much stricter enforcement,” he said. “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.”
Mattioli received a standing ovation when he said, “It’s a simple concept. We need civility across our nation. What we’re seeing are symptoms of a bigger problem. This is a symptom. The problem is not gun laws. The problem is a lack of civility.”
The vast majority of those who testified at the hearing were against further gun control. Connecticut already has some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation.
Gun owner John Barry told lawmakers, “only in Connecticut would a massacre of innocents result in a tax proposal,” referring to a bill introduced by state Sen. Beth Bye (D-West Hartford), which proposes to place a 50% tax on ammunition.
Barry responded to those who questioned why civilians would need to own assault rifles.
“Why do we need so-called assault rifles in a civilized society?” he asked. “I watched people on TV after Hurricane Katrina talk about pickup trucks full of thugs stopping at the end of their driveways.”
Monday’s hearing is the second of four to be held by Connecticut’s lawmakers. A hearing on Friday focused on school security; one on Tuesday will address mental health issues; and a hearing on Wednesday will be held at Newtown High School and will focus on direct concerns of the Newtown community.