I’m sure that by now you’ve all seen this:
…which was transcribed here thusly:
Heslin: I don’t know how many people have young children or children. But just try putting yourself in the place that I’m in or these other parents that are here. Having a child that you lost. 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. I ask if there’s anybody in this room that can give me one reason or challenge this question: Why anybody in this room needs to have an, one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips…..Not one person can answer that question.”
Crowd/Alleged Hecklers: “Second Amendment shall not be infringed”
Public official: “Please no comments while Mr. Heslin is speaking. Or we’ll clear the room. Mr. Heslin, please continue.”
And, I’m nearly equally sure that you’re familiar with the longer version of the footage, as seen here:
When I first watched this, of course I disagreed with Mr. Heslin’s assessment, even if I felt horribly empathetic for him. My first thought was that this man was deeply distraught and it was unfair of the Senate to ask him to come and speak in that state. His words stuck with me, and some of them just really rubbed me wrong, and I had to come back and address this. In searching on the internet, I could not find a transcription of the full, sixteen-minute video. So, I have transcribed it myself below. I wanted to add my own commentary, but rather than interrupt, I’ve provided reference numbers in the text that will coordinate with my comments below. I have also added helpful links in the text where I felt they were appropriate. Mr. Heslin has a heavy accent, and was a little disjointed in his speech. I’ve attempted to make this an unabridged, verbatim transcription. I thought about dropping his ‘um’s and ‘uh’s, but decided to leave them in, not to make fun of Mr. Heslin, but to be as thorough and literal as possible. Although his grammar is quite poor, I have quoted it verbatim, and will not ridicule him for it. I did redact the shooter’s name, as I will not promote the faming, which is a major part of the problem.
Neil Heslin: “Good morning. My name is Neil Heslin. Jesse Louis was my son. He was six years old. He was a victim at Sandy Hook. I’m here today to just hopefully get the word out that changes have to be made.(1) Uh. I’ll tell you a little bit about Jesse. He was a boy who loved life. Um. Lived it to the fullest.(2) Uh. His mother and I are both separated; he spent equal amount of time with both of us. And um, he was my son, he was my buddy, he was my best friend.(3) And, I never thought I’d be here speaking like this; asking for changes, on my son’s behalf.(4) And, I never thought I’d be laying a crest… The happiest day of my life was the day he was born. He’s my only son and my only family. And, the worst day of my life was the day when I had… when this happened, and I buried him.(5) And, I was raised in a household with guns and weapons. In fact, I started skeet shooting when I was eight years old. I was educated on the safety of guns. I was… my father was an avid hunter. I was hunting ever since I was eight or ten or twelve years old with him. I’m not a gun owner now.(6) And uh… I… I think a lot of changes need to be made as for the safety and handling of guns, regulations of the guns(7): handguns, long arms, um… whatever you want to classify as an assault weapon(8), uh… Something like happened in Newtown…”
*fire alarm sounds*
Heslin: “Something like happened in Newtown can…”
Intercom: “May I have your attention please?”
Public official: “Just a moment. Just a moment please sir.”
intercom: “May I have your attention please. There has been a fire reported in the building. Please proceed to the nearest exit and leave the building.”
*crowd stands up and video breaks*
Heslin: “Back now that we all survived the fire(9).”
Public official: “Thank you. Now we are ready to ah, ready to continue now. Thank you, Mr. Heslin.”
Heslin: “Now that we all survived the fire here(9)… Um… Getting back to where I left off: I was raised with firearms and hunting and skeet shooting.(10) I’m not in favor of banning guns or weapons.(11) I’m in favor of… would like to see a lot stricter regulations, being on a Federal regulaton and a state level.(12) Um. There’s a lot of facts… a lot of things that should be changed to prevent what happened: mental health, um, being a big part, uh; going back to the basics, better parenting, uh… When I was raised, I was raised to respect my parents and my elders, not to kill my mother when she was sleeping.(13)
Uh. It’s… it’s just shocking what happened in Newtown.(14) And uh… I look at these weapons that were presented by the state police here: the uh assault, so-called assault weapons, meaning military-style and military looking(15) – you can categorize it or classify them however you want(16). I still, still can’t see why any civilian, anybody in this room in fact, needs weapons of that sort(17). You’re not going to use them for hunting(18); even for home protection(19). Semi-automatic and automatic weapon is one of the most inaccurate weapons out there. The sole purpose of semi-auto… those AR15s or the AK47s is put a lot of lead out in a battlefield quickly, and that’s what they do.(20) And, that’s what they did at Sandy Hook Elementary school on the fourteenth. That wasn’t just a killing, that was a massacre. Those children and those victims were shot apart. And, my son was one of them.(21) And uh. This picture I brought with me today was taken six years ago; it was my son when he was six months old, and myself. That was my mother’s Christmas gift that year. My mother passed away five years ago, ironically, on the same day that Jesse perished. Um. I just hope some good can come out of this in changes for mental health, the ban of assault weapons, or there’s a… I just can’t fathom why any of us need that in our society or in our home. Why do we need thirty-round magazines or cartridges?(22) There’s no one in this room here that has the capability, mentally or physically, to take on twenty people, or fifteen people, where you would need thirty rounds of ammunition.(23) There’s no reason for it. And, I hope everbody in this room can realize that and see that. There’s a lot of people here that are in favor of guns, and not changes. But, if they open their eyes and their minds, and supported changes and it would give them more rights, if it was on a Federal regulated program. It would give them more rights to take hunting weapons in and out of different states.(24) I think both sides really need to work together to pass regulations that work for everybody. And, I’m never going to have my son back.(25) I accepted what happened that day when it happened. I didn’t like it. I couldn’t change it. He wouldn’t want me to sit around crying or feeling bad. I’m not trying to do something to help him – and to help the other victims(26). That school was a beautiful place. It was like Maybury, going to that school in the morning. I never saw anybody that wasn’t happy there.(27) And, I dropped, we dropped him off that morning at 9:04 (I saw the clock), I walked him into that cla… into the, to the school. He gave me a hug and a kiss. He said, he said… And, I gave him a hug and a kiss back. And, he said, “goodbye.” He said, “I love you.” And, he said, “I love Mom too.” We were supposed to go back and make gingerbread houses that day; we never made it. Twenty minutes after that, my son was dead. And, there’s no reason for it.(28) There’s no reason that *redacted*‘s mother should have had those weapons in that home, locked up or not locked up(29) with a child(30) that apparently had mental issues. Um. I think a lot of it goes back to mental issues. Years ago, when we had Bellevue and Fairfield Hills, people were committed.(31) You never heard of crimes like this.(32) And, I think that’s a big thing that they have to focus on along with gun control. And, a place to start is banning these weapons. There’s no reason for these. There’s no place on the street for them.(33) Another argument that.. uh.. people have is, “Well, the criminals will have these weapons.” You’re never going to take weapons away from criminals, or drug dealers, or people on the streets that have them. You have to make very strict penalties for that, and not a slap on the wrist, not probation. You’ve got to make mandatory, harsh jail terms for those people.(34) If they’re convicted of committing a crime with a weapon, whether it be a robbery, a hold-up, an assault, there’s got to be strict penalties. You’re not going to take, banning the firearms, you’re not going to get them away from the criminals.(35) But, we don’t need these weapons on the street or in our homes. We don’t.(36) And, I ask everybody to think about it, and everybody in this room, whether you’re in favor of guns, or in favor of banning them, to try to work together to come up with reasonable changes that work. And, I think one place to start is with the regulations on background checks – thorough background checks for everyone who purchases a weapon. Resales have to have thorough background checks.(37) I think a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault-type weapons needs to be in place; more strict guidelines on people who own them, such as the state has and the Federal government has with machine guns.(38) Um.
I just can’t believe what happened at Newtown. I dropped, we dropped Jesse off at 9:04 and an hour and a half later I was back at that school and it was like a military installation – SWAT team members, families in hysteric – uh, hysterical, state police from all over the state, FBI, uh. It was unbelievable. Students there looking to be reunited with their parents; parents looking for their children; I was looking for my son, I was looking for his classroom. They were never to be found.(39) What some of the surviving students’ parents told me: my son, Jesse yelled, “Run! Run now!” He was in Miss Soto’s class; ten of the students survived; my son wasn’t one of them. I hope those words helped those children survive.(40) And, I just… I just hope that some change can come out of it and that’s positive and good. Newtown’s a broken community. I see the people up there; they’re heartbroken with their heavy hearts. I had the opportunity to go into Chalk Hill School where these children are, and it wasn’t a good feeling; it was a very sad feeling. And, it’s something that should have never happened.(41)
And, getting back to these high-capacity weapons: We’re not living in the wild west. We’re not, we’re not a third-world nation. We have the strongest military in the world. We don’t need to defend our homes with weapons like that.(42) I just hope that everybody in this room, as I said before, can support change. Ban hi… Ban assault weapons and high-capacity clips and magazines. And, that’s a step in the right direction. And, support Federal changes and regulations.
And, I don’t know how many people have young children, or children, but just try putting yourself in the place of I’m in or these other parents that are here and having a child that you’ve lost – it’s not a good feeling.(43) It’s 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.
You know, I wish… I ask if anybody in this room can give me one reason, or challenge this question: Why? Anybody in this room needs to have an assault… one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips? And, not one person can answer that question, or give me an an…(44)
From the crowd: “The Second Amendment shall not be infringed.”
From the bench: “Please, please no comments while Mr. Heslin is speaking.”
From the bench: “Or, I will clear the room. Mr. Heslin, please continue.”
Heslin: “Anybody, anyway, we’re all entitled to our own opinion,(45) and I respect their opinions and their thoughts. But, I wish they’d respect mine and give it a little bit of thought, and realize that it could have been their child that was in that school that day.(46) And, I don’t think of any of the massacres or shootings in this country – I believe they all happen with an assault weapon, or assault-style weapon, high-capacity clips(47): Aurora(48), Columbine(49), um, Sandy Hook… And, they were, I believe they were all purchased legally, too(50). Uh. Not to say that it.. you know, massa.. uh.. assaults like that couldn’t have happened in another way but you need to cut down on the guns – those type of guns. There’s no reason for it. And, they cause destruction and they cause massacre.(51) And, that’s what they were made to do.(52) And, uh. You know, I just ask that they could place a ban on them.(53) That’s all I have to say at this time.
Public official: “Thank you Mr. Heslin and thank you for having the fortitude to come and be here today in the wake of the terrible loss of your beautiful son Jesse. Thank you so much.”
Heslin: “Thank you very much.”
*Applause from the crowd*
(1) – I understand him introducing himself and telling how his word is applicable, but he didn’t take more than three sentences to jump from that straight to gun control. I find this troubling already.
(2) – Sounds like a neat kid. The whole situation is truly heart-breaking.
(3) – “Son,” obviously, “buddy” I can truly relate to, but “best friend”? I’ve heard people refer to their grown offspring as “best friend,” but never a six-year-old. I can’t find anything explicitly wrong with this, but it does strike me as odd.
(4) – We all know that his son will not benefit from any “changes”, and this is simply an emotional appeal for a knee-jerk reaction.
(5) – I pray to God that I never find out how horrible that has to feel. No one should ever have to bury their children.
(6) – Totally irrelevant. The Second Amendment has nothing to do with skeet shooting or hunting. I don’t think that you should be forced to own guns if you don’t want to.
(7) – I hope no legislation is passed based on your beliefs that would lead to the restriction of my rights. This is not callous, it has nothing to do with the loss of life as perpetrated by bad people.
(8) – What I “want to classify” as an “assault weapon” is already illegal, although I feel it should not be.
(9) – I find it weird that he felt that it was so important to tell this joke that he reiterated it. I understand that someone who is going through tragedy can act oddly, so I don’t think this necessarily implies anything. I just find it odd.
(10) – Again, irrelevant.
(11) – Except…
(12) – The fed makes it a PITA for us to buy and own guns already. And, you want that to be more strict? How about we punish the criminals instead of the good guys?
(13) – I don’t think anyone is raised to shoot his or her mother while she sleeps. Ultimately, we are creatures of free choice, and unfortunately, some people turn out bad despite a parent’s best efforts or genuinely good parenting.
(14) – It is shocking, and I don’t think anyone is disputing that. We should not be shocked when these events happen as we have created the formula in which these things happen. If we keep sensationalizing mass murderers and keep banning weapons in schools, killers will come forth and murder in places where they meet no resistance for the contrariety.
(15) – Are the aesthetics of the guns used of any relevance in the least? At the risk of sounding heartless, your son would not be any less dead had he been killed with anything else.
(16) – See point #8.
(17) – It’s got nothing to do with need. We have a natural right to defend ourselves that is guaranteed by the constitution.
(18) – Irrelevant but demonstrably false.
(19) – Wrong again.
(20) – This is one of the more ignorant statements I’ve heard on the subject of guns and reveales an impressive lack of experience on the subject.
(21) – Reiterating the tragedy is not valid to the point of the argument. It is an emotional appeal that doesn’t add intelligence to the discussion.
(22) – Confusing misuse of terminology aside… So, you don’t want to ban all guns, only the most popular and in the most common use? Gotcha. Do you realize that’s like saying, “I don’t wan to ban all Japanese cars, just the Hondas and Toyotas.”
(23) – Maybe not in that room. But, you get out here to free country, and you might be amazed at what a well-trained individual can do.
(24) – So, more strict gun controls would give us more gun rights? That’s some twisted logic right there.
(25) – Horrible but true. My heart goes out to you.
(26) – Isn’t that a contradiction of you asking for changes on your son’s behalf? (point #4)
(27) – Totally irrelevant emotional appeals again.
(28) – It was a senseless tragedy, to be sure, but…
(29) – Don’t conflate the act with the tools. It was not wrong of her to have these inanimate objects, and neither you nor any one else has yet given a reasonable argument to the contrary.
(30) – Not a “child”, but a “man”. We’re talking about a twenty year old. By the time I was twenty, I was a married, home owning father. The crime was his alone. The sin was his alone. At the age of twenty, one is no longer the responsibility of one’s parents.
(31) – I’m not sure I can get behind the involuntary denial of freedom of people based on the label of insanity, lacking any evidence more tangible than the word of a professional. As often as people get misdiagnosed by physicians and psychologists, it just seems like an awful big crack for people to slip through.
(32) – You also forget that in the days of the big asylums, students would lean their guns in the corner of the classroom because they were going hunting after class.
(33) – They are in millions of privately owned safes in this country. Millions of these guns have never killed and never will kill anyone. And yet, you want to punish millions of innocent people for the crime of one. I can’t really say I blame you for wanting someone, anyone even, to pay for your son’s death. But, you are taking out your frustration and anger on people who don’t deserve the blame.
(34) – This is the first point that I actually agree with. If we don’t lock up the criminals, they’ll be out committing crimes. They will get guns and they will commit crimes with them. Keep them in jail, or shoot them dead.
(35) – And yet, you want to take the most effective form of defense from the very people who would be victimized by these criminals.
(36) – You don’t. Don’t force your values on the rest of us.
(37) – The states that don’t use the NICS system have to call the FBI for a background check. The current background checks are an inconvenience to the law-abiding that we begrudgingly accept in the hopes that it will make it a little harder for criminals to get guns. Ratcheting up on that only punishes the law abiding.
(38) – The restrictions on machine guns are completely unreasonable and were a knee-jerk response to other high-profile violent crimes. We would be better served to rescind those restrictions than to add standard-capacity magazines and the most popular rifles and pistols.
(39) – Completely irrelevant.
(40) – Your son was a brave little boy, and he should be greatly mourned. You should be proud of the time that he had.
(41) – The Newtown shooting should have never happened, true. But, we live in a fallen world with bad people. Of course the community is torn up about it. There’s no other way they can be.
(42) – All it takes for evil to win is for good men to do nothing. If you disarm us, this is our eventual future. WARNING – extremely graphic pictures at the link
(43) – Teaching your children responsible gun handling goes far further toward their safety than attempting to insulate them from guns. I can’t imagine the pain you must be in, but it is still no excuse to deny good people of their rights.
(44) – And, that was no rhetorical question.
(45) – But, you seem to think you are entitled to your own facts as well.
(46) – I have considered this, and it is an excellent reason to not send our children to a gun-free zone for so many hours every day. There are plenty of alternatives for most of us already.
(47) – Demonstrably false; the Oklahoma city bombing and 911 come right to mind.
(48) – The Aurora shooter demonstrated a proficiency in building effective bombs. His body count could have been so much higher if he didn’t have guns.
(49) – The Columbine shooters used no such guns, and that shooting took place during the 1994 AWB, demonstrating the point that those intent on evil will use whatever tools they can get their hands on.
(50) – Aurora is the anomalous exception that provides your argument any modicum of credence. The Columbine shooters bought their guns illegally, through straw purchases and illegal private sales. The Sandy Hook shooter murdered his mother and stole her car and guns, which I’m fairly certain was not legal. All of the provided examples are people intent on evil, carrying out evil where they know guns aren’t allowed.
(51) – They do not cause destruction and massacre. Those intent on evil cause destruction and massacre. The gun itself causes nothing at all, and there are millions in circulation that have never spilled innocent blood.
(52) – I’m getting so tired of the “intended purpose” fallacy. Forget the fact that more children die from drowning than from gunfire because guns were “designed” to kill. Do you know what was originally designed to kill? Hammers and clubs. And according to the FBI, they’re still taking more lives than rifles.
(53) – No.
I still think it was wrong of them to ask him to come and testify in the first place. Then again, the whole pony show is a disgusting farce and I really hope the whole thing blows up in their faces. If you’ve read this all the way to this point, please do leave me a comment to let me know. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t though. This did turn out pretty long.