Newtown dad ashamed Congress ‘doesn’t have the guts’ on gun reform

Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Neil Heslin, center, whose son Jesse Lewis died at the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., after Biden spoke in...
Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Neil Heslin, center, whose son Jesse Lewis died at the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., after Biden spoke in...
AP/Richard Drew

The father of one of the young victims killed in December’s Newtown, Conn., school shooting said Thursday that he’s ashamed with Congress for failing to address an assault weapons ban.

“I’m really ashamed to see that Congress doesn’t have the guts to stand up and make a change and put a ban on these types of weapons,” Neil Heslin said at a press conference alongside Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and a handful of other family members of Newtown victims, who had come together to discuss “common sense” gun reforms.

“I ask that Congress makes a change to help prevent this from every happen again,” he added.

Heslin’s emotional remarks came in response to the decision made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to drop the assault weapons ban from the overall gun legislation package making its way through Congress. Reid said he did so in order to help the overall gun bill’s chances to succeed in Congress.

Biden reiterated his support for such a ban, referring to assault weapons as “weapons of war” and pointing out to critics of the ban that Adam Lanza’s Newtown shooting rampage was powered by that very type of gun. “For all those who say we shouldn’t and can’t ban assault weapons,” Biden said. “How can they say that? Take a look at those 20 beautiful babies.”

Biden also argued that the suggested bans on high capacity magazines and the “weapons of war” could have saved lives in Connecticut and that even just one life saved would make it worthwhile.

He also said he remained hopeful that the assault weapons ban would not die, despite many political predictions in the wake of Reid’s decision to detach the measure.

“I was told in 1992, when I introduced many of these reforms, that there was no way we’d never beat the gun lobby,” he explained. “Well in 1994, we did. In 1994, reason prevailed.”

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who has become a major voice and source of support for the gun reform movement, challenged congressional leaders to have the “courage to stand up” on every reform measure being pushed, especially the assault weapons ban.

“It will get a vote,” Bloomberg said. “Everyone’s going to have to stand up and say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ and the rest of us have to decide just how we feel about those people and their stands.”

The mayor said he remains “optimistic” that Congress will “take action this spring.”

Those comments could very well indicate that Bloomberg plans to use his spending power against those in either party who vote against gun control legislation. Bloomberg, who has a new super PAC, threw his monetary heft into the Democratic primary race to replace Congressman Jesse Jackson of Illinois and successfully defeated a popular pro-gun candidate by running ads hammering her for earning positive ratings from the NRA.

He also urged Americans to reach out to their lawmakers. “It’s up to us as Americans and as fellow human beings to give them that courage,” he said.

The vice president, mayor and families two of first-graders and one of the educators killed by the gunman “weapon of war” at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December are meeting at City Hall to “press the case for a common sense federal gun law,” the mayor’s office said.

Biden and Bloomberg have met several times since the Newtown tragedy as the vice president sought to develop a cohesive set of gun control proposals to deliver to President Barack Obama. The president had created a task force to curb gun deaths in the aftermath of the shooting. The legislative package Biden developed includes the assault weapons ban, universal federal background checks, and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Lynn McDonnell, the mother of slain Newtown first grader Grace McDonnell, said she hoped Congress members would put themselves in her shoes as they consider their votes.

“For those of you who for whatever reason are inclined to do something very little in support of gun control, we ask you to try gain perspective,” she said during the press conference, and to “think about the unthinkable.”

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Newtown dad ashamed Congress 'doesn't have the guts' on gun reform