Parents of Sandy Hook shooting massacre, gun advocates among hundreds lining up to testify before Connecticut legislative committee.
With a framed photo of his six-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, next to him, Neil Heslin called on the Connecticut Legislature for an assault weapons ban and changes in mental health policy to prevent future tragedies like the one on Dec. 14, when Lewis and 27 others were killed by a gunman in Newtown, Conn.
Heslin - among hundreds to line up to tesitify - told the Legislature in Hartford that he was "not in favor of banning guns and weapons," but he wants stricter federal and state gun laws, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips.
Heslin said he "was raised with firearms, hunting and skeet shooting," and to respect his parents – "not to kill my mother while she was sleeping."
Police say gunman Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their Sandy Hook home before using a Bushmaster assault rifle to kill 26 children and adults at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Heslin said the shooting rampage at the school "wasn't just a killing – it was a massacre." The children and other victims were "shot apart, and my son was one of them."
Brett Cody, a spokesman for State Sen. John McKinney, the Republican Leader in the Connecticut Senate, said "long lines of people snaking out into the snow" are waiting this afternoon to get into the state legislature's hearing room.
Torrington Mayor Ryan Bingham estimated that 1,200-1,300 people were waiting to attend or share their views about gun violence prevention.
Monday's hearing is strictly about gun violence prevention. Tuesday, the Legislature will focus on mental health issues. A final scheduled hearing is Wednesday in Newtown, where the Legislature wants to hear the views of the community most affected by the shootings
Heslin asked why anyone in the hearing room would need an assault weapon, and some spectators called out that it was their right. Heslin said he respects others' opinions, and "I wish they would respect mine."
Heslin said he hopes that everyone in the hearing room "can support change," and he asked everyone to try putting themselves in the place of him and other parents who lost a child in the shootings. "It's not a good feeling to look at your child laying in a casket and to look at your child wound to the forehead," he said. "It's a real sad thing."
Veronique Pozner, whose son, Noah, was killed at Sandy Hook school, said assault weapons should be banned, because there is "no place" for them "in the hands of civilians." Such weapons should only be in the hands of police and military, she said.
Pozner said there should be "no grandfathering of such weapons," and they should be made illegal "regardless of when they were purchased."
Pozner said banning assault weapons is "not about the right to bear arms," and the state of Connecticut must be an "agent for change" for gun safety.
Mark Mattioli, the father of James Mattioli, another Sandy Hook victim, said Connecticut gun laws need to be more strictly enforced and the nation needs a return to civility.
Mattioli says he believes in "simple, few gun laws" and that there are "more than enough on the books."
But he said they're not being properly enforced.
Mattioli received a standing ovation.
Gun manufacturers and sellers said they opposed banning weapons and levying higher taxes on ammunition sales.
Mark Malkowski, owner of Stag Arms, a Connecticut company that calls itself "a worldwide leader" in arms manufacturing, said firearms bans do not work, and they lead to a weapons "black market."
Chris Sprangers of Cabela's in Sidney, Neb, says the outdoor retailer opposes a proposal by at least one Connecticut legislator that calls for a 50% tax on ammunition sales.
Such a tax wouldn't help solve the problems raised by the Sandy Hook shootings and could hurt jobs related to gun sales, including those at the retailer's East Hartford store.
"Don't punish sportsmen and jeopardize jobs," Sprangers said.