The Senate Judiciary Committee held an emotional, at times gut-wrenching, hearing on gun violence today, focusing largely on a proposed assault weapons ban backed by President Obama and Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
But it was the remarks of the father of a Sandy Hook victim that were so heartbreaking, there were very few dry eyes in the committee room.
"Jesse was the love of my life," said Neil Heslin, who broke down and cried as he told lawmakers about his son, Jesse Lewis, who was 6 years old when he was killed at Sandy Hook along with 19 other children.
Standing on an easel were two photos of Jesse, one as a young boy and the other as a toddler, cradled in his dad's arms. His father struggled to read his testimony, his voice cracking and sometimes inaudible as he told the committee that Dec. 14, 2012, was the saddest day of his life.
This was not, incidentally, the only emotional moment in the hearing. There was a striking exchange between Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Milwaukee police chief Edward Flynn.
The substantive point here, of course, was limited prosecutions of background check violations, but there was something else Graham said towards the end of this clip that stood out for me.
According to the Republican senator, police departments' budgets are being cut (which is true thanks to Republican austerity measures). And why does that matter in a debate over consumer access to assault weapons? Because as Graham sees it, this means policymakers have a reason not to limit access to these firearms -- more people will be on their own, unable to get quick and reliable service from local law enforcement, so why would Congress ban the assault weapons regular folks might need against violent criminals?
This strikes me as a rather horrible argument -- but it's a terrific argument for additional funding for local police departments.