According to USA Today, more than 1,000 people attended the hearing at Hartford's Legislative Office Building, including the families of Sandy Hook school victims, pro-gun advocates, and local officials.
“I still can't see why any civilian, anybody in this room in fact, needs weapons of that sort. You're not going to use them for hunting, even for home protection," Heslin said to cries of "Second Amendment!" by gun supporters in the audience.
The Connecticut Post described the scene:
The sometimes boisterous public hearing -- after nearly four hours of testimony from State Police, parents of slain Newtown first-graders and city mayors -- seemed dominated by gun owners, who railed at more than 90 proposed bills.
"The Second Amendment!" was shouted a couple of times by as many as a dozen gun enthusiasts in the meeting room as Neil Heslin, holding a photo of his slain 6-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, asked why Bushmaster assault-style weapons are allowed to be sold in the state.
"There are a lot of things that should be changed to prevent what happened," said Heslin, who said he grew up using guns and was undisturbed by the interruption of his testimony.
Another grieving parent, Mark Mattioli, whose son James was killed in the Newtown shooting, argued that the government needed to focus on enforcing laws already on the books, rather than make new ones.
"We need much stricter enforcement. I believe in a few simple gun laws. I think we have more than enough on the books. We should hold people individually accountable for their actions, Mattioli said.
In the full exchange, seen at the 14:40 mark below, Heslin asked the room whether anyone needed an assault-style weapon. When some members of the crowd responded, "Second Amendment shall not be infringed," an unidentified official asked audience members to refrain from making comments.
"Anyway, we're all entitled to our own opinion and I respect their opinions and their thoughts," Heslin continued.