Daughter of Newtown victim confronts senator
April 30th, 2013
07:39 PM ET
5 years ago

Daughter of Newtown victim confronts senator

(CNN) - When Sen. Kelly Ayotte was defending her vote on Tuesday on a recent gun control proposal, she was confronted by the daughter of a victim in the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school massacre.

Speaking at her first town hall event in New Hampshire since the gun vote earlier this month, the Republican senator sought to explain why she voted against a measure that would expand background checks on firearms sales.

But the crowd of gun control advocates and opponents created a tense environment.

At one point, Erica Lafferty, daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, asked Ayotte why she voted against the background check amendment, which was created from a bipartisan compromise but failed to gain the 60 votes needed to move forward in the Senate.

Lafferty told Ayotte that on the day the senator voted, she said the legislation would be a burden on gun store owners, according to CNN affiliate WMUR. "I'm just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't as important."

A lone gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook last December, killing 20 children and six educators.

Lafferty was among the Newtown families who traveled to Washington this month to lobby senators to pass tougher gun laws. Only four Republicans voted against their party and in favor of the bipartisan compromise background check measure. One of them, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, was among those who met with Newtown families before the vote.

On the day of the Senate vote, Lafferty told CNN she was disappointed but felt confident that the bill will rebound. Until then, she added, lawmakers will be held accountable.

“The next time there's a mass shooting and they're asked what they did to prevent it, they're going to have to say nothing,” she said.

Taking a soft tone on Tuesday, Ayotte expressed condolences for the loss of Lafferty's mother.

"I think that ultimately when we look at what happened in Sandy Hook we should have a fuller discussion to make sure that doesn't happen again," the senator said. Ayotte argued the current system needed better enforcement.

"Mental health is the one area that I hope we can agree on going forward to work on because that seems to be the overriding issue on the list and that is why I have been trying to work across the aisle on that issue."

- CNN’s Lisa Desjardins contributed to this report.

Filed under: Gun control • Gun rights • Kelly Ayotte • New Hampshire
soundoff (959 Responses)
  1. John

    the Senator made the right decision to vote against this bill and good for her for standing up to even the most heart wrenching protestors. I agree Sandy Hook was tragic and my heart goes out to all of those affected but that doesn't mean that I have to agree with their feel good politics. In my view the real tragedy here is that it took the death of 20 middle to upper income white children to die to get a response from our government. There are thousands of minority children and teenagers killed every year through gun violence. Why are these 20 children worth more than all of the others that have died? The most important question is, if our government or any citizen activists are really serious about slowing the rate of gun related deaths in this country why are they so adamant about going after a class of gun that has been used in less than .1% of all gun related deaths/crime. I know none of them are serious about saving lives or they would go after hand guns which are the most likely instrument to be used in a gun related crime/murder. Hand guns are used in more than 90% of all shootings including mass shootings. The real answer is going after "assault" style rifles is just a foot in the door measure that every gun grabber hopes will lead to all guns being taken away. If you really want to know why the NRA or law abiding gun owners are so against "back ground checks" is because if you read the fine print they aren't only going for a back ground check. They are tagging all kinds of pork and extra riders on to this legislation that does nothing to stop gun violence perpetrated by criminals that don't obey current laws and only erodes the law abiding citizens rights.

    May 1, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  2. Scott Indpendent

    it all comes down to the $$

    May 1, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |

    I think more people should confront their representatives. If the reps aren't representing the voters, then who are they representing? I think it's time to elect new reps. People who care more about saving lives than NRA contributions & gun shop owners.

    May 1, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  4. Larry

    Everyone wishes there was something that could have prevented this tragedy
    however this legislation would not have prevented the young man from buying
    any kind of gun, he had no record. Put an armed guard in the school at least some
    would have had a chance. "The Teachers showed uncommon courage"!

    May 1, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  5. VoteForPedro

    OMG, did this Senator really say this? "...a burden on gun store owners." ? ? Then goes on to say we should make sure this type of mass murder doesn't happen again. Sen Ayotte, how will this be accomplished, if all you do is vote against common sense? GOP is in for some major defeats again in November elections. They just don't get it and only want NRA "campaign donations". enjoy your upcoming unemployment status.

    May 1, 2013 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  6. Ted Wu, Los Angeles

    It seems such a waste of time and energy to compose a comment in the subject of gun policy. The right wing politicians with the support of the NRA will defeat any reasonable debate on the subject and any effort to pass sensible legislation against gun violence, all the time hiding behind the outdated 2nd Amendment.

    May 1, 2013 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  7. nah

    That argument does not correlate. Besides, a bomb or 2 would be more deadly in a confined space like a school. Quit playing whack-a-mole with inanimate objects, that's just putting a rug over the crap on the floor.

    May 1, 2013 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  8. Dave Long

    Backgound checks on gun purchases would be no more intrusive than the information provided on any type of insurance we buy or access. If you put the onus on mental health, put some money behind it, because it cannot be a quick fix. But, really, what does any politician know about long-term solutions when every 2, 4 or 6 years they have to scheme to save their, ahem, job.

    May 1, 2013 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  9. KR

    With all respect and sympathy to the lady who lost her mother, how would background checks have prevented this tragedy? We have no reason to think that the mother who bought the guns had anything in her past that would affect a background check. Perhaps not the son either.

    That being said, I support the background check bill, but I just don't see how it would've made any difference here.

    May 1, 2013 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  10. Anonymous

    Because increased background checks would have prevented Sandy Hook. His mom bought the guns legally so that legislation would have done nothing to prevent anything.

    May 1, 2013 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  11. wjm

    It takes balls to sit there and lie to the daughter of the murdered principal. If elected officials are voting out of fear of losing support from those in the gun lobby, then everyone of this individuals should face real scrutiny when the election comes up next year. I understand that there are a number or reasons why people might disagree with background checks, nut the senator gave a very good reason why background checks are important. Ensuring mentally ill patients are not allowed to own guns. There really no other way to determine if someone suffers from mental illness before they can posses these weapons, without a background check. Duh.

    May 1, 2013 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  12. Mike

    New laws should never be passed based on emotion. Furthermore, stricter background checks would not have helped in this instance.

    May 1, 2013 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  13. Lizard Lance

    Any senator who voted against the background checks has no backbone and has no conscience. Senators who voted against the background checks are weak-willed and weak-minded. But they do share something in common and that is their wish that our criminal element be the best armed in the world. Kelly Ayotte is a pathetic individual who has no business in public service. The only service she does is on behalf of the gun makers and giving service to Wayne LaPierre!

    May 1, 2013 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  14. EveT

    Pro-gun lobbyists are using mental health as a distraction from the real issue: we have too many guns and access to guns is too easy. Does Sen. Ayotte really think that "taking a soft tone" is going to excuse her voting against background checks?

    May 1, 2013 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  15. Richard Ray

    I would have asked the daughter of the Newtown victim just what about a background check would have prevented Adam Lanza from stealing his mother's weapons, killing his mother, and then driving to Sandy Hook Elementary to gun down students and faculty. The answer is NOTHING about background checks would have prevented this tragedy, the Aurora theater tragedy, or Columbine for that matter. Either mental health information was not entered into the federal database or the guns were stolen. So before the families of victims start a rush to judgment, let's do something that will actually WORK, like entering involuntary commitments to mental institutions to the federal database, increasing mental health care, and making sure the mentally ill do not get access to weapons, instead of just doing SOMETHING that gives everyone a warm fuzzy but does nothing to fix the problem.

    May 1, 2013 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  16. Rod

    Those Republican politicians are way more concerned about their gun industry donations than they are about some kid they never met. It's about money and staying in power. Never about our children and our future generations.

    May 1, 2013 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  17. Zoglet

    Why doesn't CNN do what the international press did?

    What they did was list all those who voted against the changes relationships with the arms industry and lobby groups like the NRA. They also noted how much money those lobby groups gave those noble (lol!) senators.

    A clearer example of political corruption could not be found in the cheapest most desperate third world country.

    American politics is a gutter of self interest.

    May 1, 2013 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  18. Enzo

    How does the legislation place any burden on gun store owners?

    May 1, 2013 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  19. Stefan Hennessey

    This is so ridiculous. A universal background check on guns is something that can be implemented into law with little to no repercussions at all! What this idiotic senator is trying to say is that mental health issues are the main reason the shooting happened, and yes mental health issues are a big problem too, but you can't just totally eliminate a law because of that, that's absurd! I just don't get how these people in Congress are changing their minds and flip flopping because of one little thing they disagree about or is missing from the bill. Not everybody in this country agrees on the same things, but you have to make it work and you have to come a common ground... this is why nothing in this country can ever be resolved.

    May 1, 2013 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  20. brian

    if the law that will make school safer, then we should pass it by all means. However, it's shameless for anyone to use new town to promote their own agenda. She might be the daughter of a victim, yet her opinion is no more valuable then anyone else's. The bottom line is that the tragedy occurred ONLY BECAUSE our failed laws LEFT SCHOOL AS THE MOST ATTRACTIVE HUNTING GROUNDS. ...... Marking it as firearm free is no different from welcoming anyone who aim to maximize body count to score there. PASS A LAW that will make SCHOOLS UNATTRACTIVE TO CRIMINALS. Replace all signs with protected by firearms. I am sure that the results will be IMMEDIATE.

    May 1, 2013 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  21. rc8888

    The Senator is probably correct. Better enforcement of current laws should be helpful. The maladjusted, sociopathic, and psychotic members of our society are the ones who commit these crimes. What possible good is derived from passing additional laws to restrict "normal" people?

    May 1, 2013 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  22. Dan

    Ayotte should just have said "My integrity and loyalty has been bought by the NRA, as most Republican lawmakers. I or my colleagues could care less how many citizens are killed as long as the NRA fills our election coffers."

    May 1, 2013 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  23. Howard

    Republicans are finally getting their messages straight so we can see where they stand. A little inconvenience for a business selling guns is much more important than somebody's mother, wife, daughter.

    Glad to see that straight. Wouldn't want a gun shop that is making a killing have any impediments in doing what it "needs" to do and glad the Republicans are there to support that.

    Please understand that I would like to express my sadness that your mom had to be a casualty. You understand don't you?

    May 1, 2013 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  24. Ricksta

    So she's going to vote for a bill to make everybody mentally healthy.

    May 1, 2013 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  25. GOPsenatorsAREwusses

    All you NRA idiots. Why can't you understand that you still get to have bunch of guns to help thwart your parnanoid delusions. That the failed bills in congress didn't seek to expose your minute weaners.. just simply to 'limit' absolute crazy people from gunning down 20 kids in few minutes. The NRA wants to profit from gun sales, so anything that makes it even 2% less profitable will be fought with propaganda – fear mongoring.. and all you NRA members follow like sheep.

    May 1, 2013 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
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