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February 28, 2013

Newtown Families at Weapons Ban Hearing: Uncomplicated Emotions


As photos from Senate hearings go, the intensity of the emotion at yesterday’s Senate Judiciary hearing on the Assault Weapons Ban seemed equal to the scale of the event, being the second worst mass shooting in U.S. history. In different variations,the most widely published image showed Neil Heslin who’s six-year-old, Jesse, died at Sandy Hook.


Tearful pictures of Jillian Soto, the sister of slain Sandy Hook first-grade teacher, Victoria Soto, also appeared widely.


In searching out most or all of the hearing photos, however, as I will usually do, this spoke to me also. It features Newtown 7th grade teacher Valerie LeBlanc with Senator Blumenthal. Not having seen any video, I can’t tell you if she’s angry or not but what I’m seeing is a steely conviction, if not acrid ferocity.

A search of Newtown family members who have appeared publicly, or have been photographed at a myriad of hearings already, readily turns up a river of tears. (I feel worse for Mr. Heslin each time I see him with that studio portrait in the ornate frame.) What I’m curious about, however, is why we don’t see more photos of anger. Is it that the families aren’t expressing those feelings publicly? Or, is it that tears are easy for us to absorb, but vitriol, not really?

(photos: Alex Wong/Getty Images. caption 1: Neil Heslin, father of six-year-old Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Jesse Lewis, holds a picture of him with Jesse as he testifies during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee February 27, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on “The Assault Weapons Ban of 2013.” caption 2: Family of Sandy Hook Elementary shooting victim first-grade teacher Victoria Soto, sister Jillian Soto (C) becomes emotional as she listens with sister Carlee Soto (2nd L) and brother Carlos M. Soto (L) during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee February 27, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. caption 3: Newtown, Connecticut, 7th grade teacher Valerie LeBlanc speaks to the press as U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) (R) listens after a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee February 27, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.)

  • bystander

    Would not the anger (as opposed to the tears) hold “someone who matters” accountable? Politically (given the NRA and the defense industry’s hold on politicians), is it not “safer” for the viewer to empathize with the heart break as opposed to the outrage. And, given the media’s corporate masters, is it not “safer” for photo-editors to select the tears over vitriol?

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  • Scarabus

    Yeah. There’s plenty of vitriol on the other side. I don’t know *why* it seems to be working out this way, but I’m glad. Rhetorically, this gives the moral high ground to advocates for control. It also gives them a tactical advantage. Remember those pictures from Little Rock back in, what, 1957? The one black girl walking forward with dignity and stoic determination, while behind and to either side of her surged crowds of scowling, screaming white women? She seemed as strong as Gibraltar, while her tormenters thrashed about impotently.

  • m577a2

    There are over 80 million legal, responsible gun owners in America and
    over 100 million people who have access to a gun in their household.
    How many of those people went out yesterday and shot someone, 5, maybe 8
    nationwide? So because 8 people out of 100,000,000 people were
    mentally unstable America needs more gun restrictions? Wrong answer
    folks! You don’t punish 100 million people for the actions of 8

  • Minor Heretic

    The thing that struck me about the first photo is how aged Mr. Heslin looks. I know it’s an old photo, but his smooth, younger face in the framed photo contrasts so intensely with his almost crumpled face in the contemporary photo. The loss has left its mark.

  • m577a2

    How many of those deaths were a result of criminal acts, you know, criminals, as in people who don’t follow the law?

    I’m betting that Mr. Lanza’s mom, had she not been killed by a mentally ill criminal, would have been prosecuted for negligence because those laws are already on the books.

  • Stan B.

    How many of all the guns out there are purchased at gun shows with no background checks? How many “responsible” gun owners never take a safety class? How many “responsible” gun owners don’t safeguard their weapons?

    I’m betting you’re definitely not a betting man- because Ms. Lanza, like the vast, vast majority of (ir)responsible gun owners are never, ever prosecuted for negligence. Stick to facts, not bets- as evidenced by your first comment, you don’t even get those right….

  • m577a2

    Sorry Stan, none of your garbage claims can refute the fact that “assault” rifles are used in less than 2% of gun crimes. You are simply blowing smoke.

  • Stan B.

    Interesting straw man you pose there anonymous # person, since I never even mentioned assault weapons. But tell me, how many gun owners have been prosecuted for negligence (since you brought it up)?

  • m577a2

    Blah blah blah. Ever heard the saying “It’s a poor musician, who blames their instrument”? Blame the person, not the tool.
    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759.

  • Stan B.

    Ever hear of someone so utterly and completely pathetic that they have to vote down the person they reply to each and every time? Time to buy yourself a new gun, it won’t make you feel any less insecure, but you’ll need it as you talk and play with yourself…

  • Michael Shaw


  • m577a2

    Nope! What are you, some kind of fascist? Why do you want to take people’s rights away? I don’t even own a gun, fool. I simply detest the bigoted, fascist thinking displayed by you gun grabbers. Have fun at your next NAMBLA meeting, herr Kommandant!

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