Newtown Dad's Tearful Senate Plea for Assault Weapons Ban

Neil Heslin openly weeps talking about son Jesse's death at Sandy Hook

ByABC News
February 27, 2013, 1:47 PM

Feb. 27, 2013 -- A father who lost his son in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School sobbed as he testified at a Senate hearing today in favor of an assault weapons ban.

Across town Vice President Biden alluded to untold horror of the Newtown tragedy in an appeal for help from the nation's attorneys general.

Despite their emotional appeals, the push for gun reforms championed by the White House and many Democrats faces an uncertain future.

"Jesse was the love of my life," said Neil Heslin, sobbing as he described his 6-year-old son before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "He was the only family I had left. It's hard for me to be here today to talk about my deceased son. I have to. I'm his voice."

Heslin's son, Jesse Lewis, was among the 20 children and six teachers and school administrators murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. last December. Heslin recounted his last moments with his son when he took him to pick up his favorite, sausage egg and cheese sandwich and hot chocolate before dropping him off at school on the morning of Dec. 14.

"It was 9:04 when I dropped Jesse off. Jesse gave me a hug and a kiss and at that time said goodbye and love you. He stopped and said, I loved mom too." Heslin and his wife are separated.

"That was the last I saw of Jesse as he ducked around the corner. Prior to that when he was getting out of the truck he hugged me and held me and I could still feel that hug and pat on the back and he said everything's going to be ok dad. It's all going to be ok," Heslin said breaking down in tears a second time. "It wasn't ok. I have to go home at night to an empty house without my son."

Heslin was one of eight witnesses testifying at a hearing to back a proposed assault weapons ban. Another witness was Dr. William Begg, a physician who made it to the emergency room the day of the Newtown shooting.

"People say that the overall number of assault weapon deaths is small but you know what? Please don't tell that to the people of Tucson or Aurora or Columbine or Virginia Tech, and don't tell that to the people in Newtown," Begg said as he choked up and people in the crowd clapped. "Don't tell that to the people in Newtown. This is a tipping point. This is a tipping point and this is a public health issue. Please make the right decision."

Related: Read More About Heslin's Testimony

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to consider four gun safety measures, including the assault weapons ban, on Thursday. The three other bills aim to stop illegal gun trafficking, enhance safety in schools, and enact universal background checks.

As the hearing unfolded on Capitol Hill, Biden tapped into the stories that Newtown's first responders have shared with him as he urged attorneys general to help the administration push their gun proposals.

Related: The Tragedy at Sandy Hook

"With the press not here, I can tell you what is not public yet about how gruesome it was," Biden said of the massacre's gruesome aftermath at a Washington luncheon. "I met with the state troopers who were on the scene this last week. And the impact on them has been profound. Some of them, understandably, needing some help."

A spokeswoman for Biden could not clarify the non-public information to which he referred. The vice president suggested that what he heard in private conversations should spur lawmakers to enact some measures aimed at curbing gun violence.

Related: President Obama's Campaign Organization Turns to Gun Control