Neil Heslin, father of a slain 6-year old boy, tried to testify in Hartford, Conn yesterday in front of a thousand or more people during a hearing on gun violence. There’s a video at Huffpost but I just couldn’t bear to watch it, to see the pictures of the slain kindergartners or hear the pain in their parents’ voices. During his very emotional testimony Heslin was interrupted by pro-gun attendees shouting “Second Amendment”.
Okay, let me explain something to you Second Amendment gun extremists who believe that there shouldn’t be any regulations on guns of any kind. I understand you love your guns. I understand you THINK you, and only you and those who agree with you, know THE truth about the 2nd Amendment and that everyone else is wrong. I know this is an emotional topic for you. However, it wasn’t your turn to speak. It was the grieving father’s turn. It was a public hearing. Gun supporters officially spoke and had their say. Lobbying organizations that support your position dominate the news media, dominate the politicians who are supposed to represent all of our interests and dominate hearings such as this. The NRA had their say, they always do. Those who believe in reasonable gun regulation, which is the majority of Americans, by the way, do not even come close to the power, money and loudness of the NRA–not even close. The majority of Americans needed to be represented at that hearing. What does it hurt to let Heslin have his say? Do you have any idea of what it took for him to get up there and expose that very raw pain in front of the world? That’s courage, just in case you didn’t know it. It’s a different kind of courage than facing down a man with a gun, but there are all kinds of courage. That’s something you must not understand.
Heslin was stoic in the face of the heckling. He didn’t interrupt you or the people that represented your views, so why you did you interrupt him? He had a right to speak without interruption as do you. Your behavior was juvenile, disgusting and cowardly. The courageous thing to do would have been to let him have his say. Why would it be courageous on your part? Let me give you an example. I can’t stand the KKK–no normal, ethical person would. But they have every right to hold rallies and public events so long as they go through the permit process like everyone else. I have faith in our form of government and a belief that I will also get my say (not to mention ample historical evidence that this is the way it works). I have faith and historical evidence that a national discussion of ideas on race, or any difficult topic, should include all the voices and that gets fed into our governmental system. And that system and it’s processes, for the most part, will produce a correct and moral outcome. And if it doesn’t, I have faith and historical evidence, that I have recourse through that system to change that outcome without resorting to violence and without hurting others. But it takes courage to keep your mouth shut when someone with whom you very strongly disagree publicly speaks out in an attempt to persuade others. You have to trust the long drawn out process of democracy. That’s another kind of courage–Democracy demands courage and faith.
So show some respect for and faith in the First Amendment. Let him speak like he let you. If you can’t do that, can you maintain some civility in a public hearing? If you can’t maintain civility, how about just a little bit of compassion? Your compassion doesn’t weaken your argument nor mean you’re soft on your position. It just means you’re a mature person and your mama raised you right. Apparently, too many parents aren’t raising their kids to be civil much less compassionate. And too many parents aren’t teaching their children to have faith in the system and the courage to live and participate in a democracy. Without it, we’re doomed as a free people. But just this once, for the love of all that’s holy, keep your damn mouth shut until it’s your turn?