UPDATE: The folks over at Twitchy point out that MSNBC selectively edited their clip to advance the idea that the father was “heckled.” Read our complete breakdown of the evidence in our follow-up story here.
Some of the parents who testified about gun control before a subcommittee of the Connecticut Legislature on Monday called for stricter laws and improvements in mental health care. While Mark Mattioli, whose 6-year-old son James was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School attack, instead, focused upon personal responsibility and a call to civility, other parents mentioned cracking down on so-called assault rifles. Among them was Neil Heslin, a father whose child, Jesse, also perished during the rampage. As he was making his case against assault weapons, he was interrupted by alleged gun rights advocates who were a part of the audience.
Right after Heslin made the point that citizens do not need access to “these assault-style weapons or military weapons,” a man in the audience spoke out fervently against the father’s appeals.
“The Second Amendment shall not be infringed,” he uttered in response to Heslin’s seemingly-rhetorical question:
The Daily Mail has a recap of how the incident unfolded, with a hand-full of individuals purportedly joining the man in voicing their angst over the issue:
He said: ‘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,’ said Heslin, who held up a large framed photograph of himself and his son.
A handful of people at the packed legislative hearing then shouted about their Second Amendment rights when Heslin asked if anyone could provide a reason for a civilian to own an assault-style weapon.
‘We’re all entitled to our own opinions and I respect their opinions and their thoughts,’ Heslin said. ‘But I wish they’d respect mine and give it a little bit of thought.’
Watch a portion of the incident at the start of the MSNBC clip, below (UPDATE: however, as Twitchy notes, the network edited out the portion where Heslin asks his rhetorical question):
Following the incident, MSNBC host Martin Bashir covered the event on his show, deriding those who interrupted (or responded, depending on who you ask) and claiming that the behavior was inexcusable; his guests agreed.
“This, I think, has to be a new low in this debate — the idea that you would desecrate the memory of the victims of Newtown and insult their families,” Democratic strategist Julian Epstein said during the segment (watch it in its entirety, above). “This shows just…how extreme and outrageous the NRA — and I assume the hecklers were NRA moles — how they’ve become.”
But Twitchy took issue with this assessment, writing:
MSNBC is propping up its story with a blatantly edited video. In fact, Heslin was not heckled. Gun rights advocates in the audience indeed voiced their support for the Second Amendment — after he asked why anyone would need “assault-style weapons or high-capacity clips.” You’d never know based on the MSNBC version, which completely cut out the footage of Heslin’s question.
Watch the unedited footage, below:
The audience at the Gun Violence Prevention Working Group hearing in Hartford, Conn., numbered well over 1,000 individuals and featured a wide array of perspectives. From people advocating greater firearms controls to NRA-enthusiasts and gun rights activists, ideological diversity was in no shortage.
What do you think about the incident? It seems Heslin was certainly interrupted (unless he wanted the audience to weigh in), but were the responses hecklers or merely passionate Second Amendment adherents? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that audience members may have been responding to a rhetorical question posed by Heslin.