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. Gary

    It's extremely disappointing that after their tragic losses the Newtown victim's families are being used by the pharmaceutical industry to redirect attention to more gun legislation as opposed to psychotropic drug restriction. Each one of the items proposed from high-capacity magazines bans to "assault weapon" bans would not have saved lives in the Newton incident. The shooter didn't even use the full capacity of the magazines, instead choosing to discard magazines after only using 50% or so of the ammo – a very strange behavior more like video game play than actual tactical experience. As for assault weapons, the AR15 is not any more or less deadly than the Ruger Mini-30 ranch rifle in the wrong/right hands – and the premise that a rifle with large magazines would have saved the lives of those poor unarmed children (and teachers) is simply mis-direction by the skilled manipulators from the pharma industry. As evidenced by Columbine, where a 10 round (standard) capacity browning rifle was used to kill so many – we have a problem with psychotropic drug use in this country NOT firearm equipment specifications. It's a tragedy that the rights of responsible citzens are being attacked rather than the true cause of this epidemic...

    May 1, 2013 02:33 am at 2:33 am |
  2. Andrew

    This article is intended to play with your heart strings at an attempt to get you to go along with this. In the end everyone wants to protect their kids from harm. Some people feel like that police is all you need. Others think they would rather take their chances doing it themselves.

    May 1, 2013 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  3. Elise McDowell

    Until we understand that what we're fighting here in this country, is an all-out "spiritual warfare," (and I am NOT referring to religion of ANY sort) we are not likely to get a handle on what is going on. Having said this, addressing the mental health issues would be a good place to start- and LONG OVERDUE! However, we must go beyond dispensing only pills to those in need of mental support but to address the spiritual values-or lack thereof- which lie at the core of our individual, as well as our collective humanity. Those who are "running this ship" have all of us repeatedly running into an iceberg. And this ship (our country), cannot stay afloat indefinitely. We have grown estranged from one another, and all the money in the world cannot and will not heal us. Perhaps to the contrary, – money- and THE LOVE of money- has helped in large part to put us where we find ourselves today. Where are our face-to-face relationships anymore? (the average person spends far more time looking at the faces on TV, than looking at one another. Being that we human beings naturally crave one another's attention, no amount of sitting in front of a TV, a computer, whether on facebook, live video, emailing, or texting will, or ever can, compensate for the warmth of a simple smile, a kind gesture, or a supportive and encouraging word from someone near to us. (whether a loved one, or a person we've encountered briefly). The fact is, unless we start taking the time with one anothe, in the smallest and simplest of ways, the gulf between us will only continue to widen. Until we believe that it is more powerful and more fulfilling to truly invest in one another, and to be invested in – more than "the bottom line"- our relationships with one another will naturally follow the course that we are taking-whether consciously-or unconsciously. Sincere Regards, Elise McDowell April 30, & May 1, 2013

    May 1, 2013 02:36 am at 2:36 am |
  4. P.R.

    Way to dodge the question, Senator. Spoken like a true politician...wonder how much gun money is in her pocket?

    May 1, 2013 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  5. robert fuller

    I sincerely hope that Sen. Kelly Ayotte along with every Republican senator that voted against the background check bill go through what happened at Newtown to them. Once that event happens to them, I hope they get zero relief and help. I want them to feel the effects of what happens when idiots believe in party ideology more than human ideology.

    May 1, 2013 02:45 am at 2:45 am |
  6. YeahISaidItSoWhat?

    I hope so very, very much that voters remember hypocrites like Sen. Ayottek when election time rolls around...

    May 1, 2013 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  7. Anonymous

    Why do those with legitimate reasons for voting down the "gun control / assault weapons" bills get painted as heartless enablers of wanton killers, while those people being ferried to D.C. on Air Force One as emotional props for Obama's "feel good" policies divert attention from the fact that the proposed legislation would have done nothing to prevent the Sandy Hook tragedy? Why don't they take a look at Murder Town, USA - that would be Chicago - and it's rampant failure to enforce existing laws which actually COULD prevent more mass shootings?

    Real gun control begins with knowing your target and making sure it's the only thing hit. Congress should heed this concept, rather than partisan bickering over bills that demonize one side while accomplishing nothing.

    May 1, 2013 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  8. Garry Lynn

    shame on senator ayotte maybe one day itll be somebody she actually cares about obviously its nobody in this country im voting all democrat in2014 maybe we'll get something done

    May 1, 2013 02:52 am at 2:52 am |
  9. blue max

    absolutely amazing how anyone would vote against background checks. i wonder how many people must get slaughtered before something is done.

    May 1, 2013 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  10. playrighter

    Why do people get demonized for having legitimate reasons to vote against legislation, while those being ferried to Washington, D.C. to provide emotional ammunition for Obama are praised for promoting legislation which would do nothing to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook?

    Why not focus on Murder Town, USA - that would be Chicago - where merely enforcing existing laws (which are greatly ignored) could prevent future carnage? Anyone familiar with guns knows that a basic rule of shooting is to make sure of your target and make sure it's the recipient of your fire. If Congress learns this basic rule, they could focus on real solutions to the bloodshed instead of all the useless demonization and shooting of blanks.

    May 1, 2013 02:56 am at 2:56 am |
  11. Millerbarber

    Mental Health and hanguns are the real every day issue. Assault weapons and background checks are emotional marketing issues, neither will stop deaths. More people die every day from handguns than any other weapon of choice.

    May 1, 2013 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  12. Sam

    She stinks.

    May 1, 2013 02:59 am at 2:59 am |
  13. Doug

    Well, the only answer I have for that Senator is this.... I don't want to see you as a senator anylonger, my vote will be going to xyz... It's time to get rid of these monsters in the Senate...

    May 1, 2013 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  14. Richard James

    I can't even begin to express my dismay concerning the senators that couldn't even vote for the move to strengthen background checks... Most Americans are for it along with other sensible measures. For God sake – what does it take? Let's see – what could it be? 1) The $ is coming in to their campaign coffers, and 2) they don't have the awareness to face down the belligerent gun nutss that have been spouting their nonsense e.g. about some sinister gov't takeover, and the loss of our "civil liberties."

    May 1, 2013 03:04 am at 3:04 am |
  15. Jehan S

    The republicans are in favor of voter ID and background checks to vote, which is a constitutional right. Yet no background check for guns?

    Alright GOP, you can't have it both ways. Either you support ID checks or you don't.

    May 1, 2013 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  16. Daniel S.

    While we all grieve for the senseless and tragic loss that took place, the simple truth is that even if this bill would have passed, it would not have stopped this horrific event. The mother was legally able to purchase the firearm and magazine capacity was not an issue. Unfortunately, this gun control legislation feels like a “knee-jerk” reaction to recent tragedies; that they must appear to do something…anything for their constituents and the viewing public even if it would have no teeth or real impact on actual gun violence. Out of the millions of firearms applications in 2010, over 60,000 were rejected because the person making the application wasn’t lawfully allowed to possess a firearm – heck, they are not even allowed to try and get one, so they were breaking the law….less than 100 of them were prosecuted.

    We all grieve the loss of these innocent children at the hands of a very disturbed person, but this demonization and belittling of those who disagree with the current administration’s attempt to pass new gun control legislation is neither helpful nor productive. I’m not even going to get into the argument that only law abiding citizens will comply with the law; criminals will disobey whatever law is passed. Why? Because we all know it’s the truth. If you want real “gun control”, then don’t pass legislation that cannot be reasonably enforced or won’t have an impact on actual gun violence. Enforce the laws already on the books and properly punish those criminals convicted of crimes involving a firearm.

    Again, my heart goes out to those affected by these recent tragedies, but the sad fact is this legislation – as written – would not have made a difference.

    May 1, 2013 03:07 am at 3:07 am |
  17. craig

    How much of a burden is too much? How many people have to die before we care? No, correct that. How many people have to die before the GOP cares? A couple thousand...like 9-11? Well, sorry but we kill more than that with guns every few months. How many, Senator Ayotte? Give us a number so we can let you know when it's been reached and exceeded. How many have to die, GOP? Does it help if their registered Republicans? When are you going to finally do something for the American People and stop worrying about where your next check is coming from?

    May 1, 2013 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  18. Mike

    Wow. Politics at their very worst.

    May 1, 2013 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  19. Peg

    You were not elected to vote on an issue because of your personal feelings about it. You were elected to represent the people who trusted you and therefore elected you, to represent them. The people overwhelmingly support stricter back ground checks. Just because you are afraid of the NRA doesn't mean it's ok for you to ignore the people who put you in office. I hope you are voted out when you are up for election again, since you can not support the people who put you there.

    May 1, 2013 03:17 am at 3:17 am |
  20. jacurtis88

    Well Erica Lafferty, we need to remember a few important things in the wake of this disaster.

    First of all, the senators vote on behalf of the population that they represent, so you should be mad at the people in general, not at one specific senator.

    Secondly, this bill would do nothing to stop these disasters. Even the people that voted for the bill admitted this, its a fact. If you look at all of the shootings, this law would have not effected any of these horrible people from getting guns. Every one of these mass shootings were done by first time offenders that did not have a record. In fact, most of these guns were bought in some of the states with strict gun laws that already had this law in place at the state level. Now i know that Adam Lanza was mentally disturbed so he would have been flagged on the background check, but remember that that was already in place at the state level for Connecticut, but he didn't own any guns, he stole them from his mother, so this horrible crime would have still occurred in the exact same fashion with or without these gun laws.

    Now Erica, you will be happy to know that your state of Connecticut has already adopted every single proposed gun control law as of April 4, 2013. There is now an "Assault Gun" ban, and a ban on "High Capacity Magazines" over 10 rounds. Now I have to use quotes because these are derogatory terms, since an assault rifle is really just like any other gun, it is a tool, but based on its design someone has considered it by their own opinion to be an "assault weapon". Also I don't know how you can consider 10 rounds to be "high capacity". My little eco car has a 15 gallon gas tank, does that mean that it is a high capacity gas tank? I could understand 50 rounds, but 10? Now we are just being ridiculous.

    Nonetheless I figured you would be happy to hear that in your state of Connecticut, you're lawmakers, with your help i am assuming, have already successfully began taking away the second amendment rights that were so explicitly and carefully crafted into our bill of rights.

    I am sorry for your loss, this tragedy will forever be in the hearts of Americans everywhere. But please don't let her death be an excuse to take away the freedoms that millions of Americans enjoy everyday.

    May 1, 2013 03:17 am at 3:17 am |
  21. mikes

    Lafferty is a disingenuous twit. She should know full well that additional background checks would have made exactly zero difference at Sandy Hook. The weapons were legally obtained and owned by the mother, who was murdered by her son when they were stolen.

    May 1, 2013 03:18 am at 3:18 am |
  22. John

    Typical politician. Redirecting an honest question to suit their own agenda. What a coward. Then again "coward" and "politician" are practically synonyms these days.

    May 1, 2013 03:25 am at 3:25 am |
  23. David

    The interesting point about all of this, is that Newton would have still occurred regardless of the background checks. I have nothing against background checks but this amendment was a wolf in sheep clothing, very bad amendment.

    May 1, 2013 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  24. TJ

    The same question can equally be asked, why did you mom not protect the school with firearms? Criminals will never follow the law. I take it your mom did not understand the REAL world and chose not to protect her students and herself. Throwing yourself at a gunmen is not protecting your students, disarming yourself is being negligent.

    May 1, 2013 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  25. getalife

    Connecticut already has laws against guns and assult riffles. If they didn't work on the state level why would it work on the federal level? A criminal is still going to be a criminal and making it harder for people to protect themselves is just going to make the criminals job a little easier.

    May 1, 2013 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
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