Have the courage to pass sensible gun control laws

In late February, I testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDOJ, Trump reach deal on expanded Russia review Congress — when considering women’s health, don’t forget about lung cancer Overnight Energy: Pruitt taps man behind 'lock her up' chant for EPA office | Watchdog to review EPA email policies | Three Republicans join climate caucus MORE’s (D-Calif.) proposed assault weapons ban. It was hard for me to do, but I was proud to represent the memory of my son, Jesse Lewis, who was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14, 2012. 

Jesse was a sweet and thoughtful kid. He was my best friend and every day I looked forward to going home to see him.

But for the past three months, I have gone home to an empty house, robbed of my only family by a coward who had access to a weapon of war. Nobody should have to go through what I and so many other families in Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek, Virginia Tech and Columbine have endured. 

That’s why it’s imperative for Congress to ban the future manufacture of assault weapons, and the manufacture and sale of high-capacity magazines. These dangerous and unusual firearms and accessories were not intended for civilians, but rather for the soldiers who bravely serve our country on the battlefield. 

Not surprisingly, our nation’s military leaders agree. A group of decorated generals and admirals has expressed support for a ban on assault weapons. They know better than anyone that such weapons were designed to kill as many people as possible with ease and efficiency. 

The gunman at Sandy Hook fired more than 150 bullets using multiple 30-round magazines, extinguishing the lives of 20 schoolchildren and six of their educators in the blink of an eye. The Aurora shooter fired his AR-15 rapidly enough to kill 12 and wound 58 in a matter of minutes. And the man who nearly assassinated former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., was armed with a Glock pistol and a 33-round magazine, which he used to kill six people and wound another 13. 

In which sporting or self-defense scenario does a gun owner need to fire so many bullets? And how can any firearm enthusiast believe the benefits of owning an assault weapon or high-capacity magazine outweigh the costs — especially after a year in which we have seen such carnage? 

Anyone who denies the lethality of such weapons and accessories is refusing to face the facts. A recent analysis of mass shootings since 2009 by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that shootings in which an assault weapon or high-capacity magazine was used resulted in 135 percent more people shot and 57 percent more people killed than in incidents where neither was used.

When the Aurora shooter’s 100-round drum magazine jammed, theatergoers were able to escape out of emergency exits to safety. When the gunman in Tucson tried to reload, he was tackled to the ground and disarmed. If the shooter in Sandy Hook only had 10-round magazines and had to stop to reload more often, maybe my son would be alive today. 

These are not “cosmetic” differences, and to suggest otherwise is an insult not only to my son, but also to every other victim and survivor of assault weapons.

Responsible gun owners know that the right to bear arms goes hand in hand with keeping weapons away from dangerous people. This is not about the Second Amendment. It’s about preventing another community from being devastated by gun violence. 

During my testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I described how Jesse acted in the final moments of his life — facing the gunman while trying to save his classmates by telling them to run. 

In that brief moment, my 6-year-old son showed more courage than those members of Congress who continue to oppose any common-sense gun legislation. Even though majorities of Americans support a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, some lawmakers continue to side with the gun lobby and gun manufacturers. 

Enough. The time has come to honor the memory of my son — and the 12,000 other Americans murdered with guns every year — with sensible reforms that will save lives. Let’s start with passing the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. 

Heslin’s 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, was murdered in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.