The grief of Newtown has not faded.
Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son was murdered in the December mass shooting in Connecticut, praised President Obama for urging Congress on Thursday to pass gun-control legislation, but added that his own pain is “never going to go away.”
An emotional Heslin asked lawmakers to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. All of the victims killed in Newtown were killed with a Bushmaster .223 caliber model XM-15 rifle, which was loaded with a 30-round capacity magazine.
Those weapons “don’t have a place on the streets, they don’t have a place in our schools,” he told Hardball’s Chris Matthews. ”And I just want to see that this doesn’t happen to another family or another parent, what I’m going through and what Newtown is going through.”
Heslin was in the audience when Obama pushed the Senate to pass a gun control measure next month. “Less than 100 days ago [the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting] happened and the entire country was shocked,” said Obama. “Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.”
According to a recent CBS News poll, support for gun control legislation has dropped 10 points from the days immediately following the shooting in Newtown. Then, 57% backed stronger new gun controls, compared to 47% now.
Next month, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid plans to hold a vote on a bill that includes expanded background checks and stricter penalties for gun trafficking. It won’t, however, include a ban on military assault weapons and high capacity magazines, which the White House has been pushing for. Reid said it was dropped because it was unlikely to pass. A number of GOP senators, including Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Texas’ Ted Cruz, say they’ll filibuster the vote.
And the National Rifle Association has not given up its fight, continuing to argue that more guns, not fewer, are the answer.
But Lori Haas, mother of a Virginia Tech shooting survivor, insisted on Hardball that the NRA is speaking to a “very small percentage of the population,” while the majority of Americans want universal background checks. Haas, who’s active in gun violence prevention, said the powerful gun lobby group “doesn’t have the numbers, we do.”
Haas added, “I think our politicians are listening, whether they’re going to do the right thing or not remains to be seen,” she said. “We’re going to have a vote. It’s going to count. America is watching, listening, waiting and learning to see who is doing the right thing and who’s doing the wrong thing…Enough is enough in this area and we’re going to talk to our politicians. And we’re not going away.”