US & Canada

Father of slain Newtown child weeps at Senate gun hearing

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Media captionNeil Heslin: "I'm not here for the sympathy."

The father of a boy slain in a mass school shooting in December has broken down in tears at a US Senate hearing on a proposed assault weapons ban.

Neil Heslin said he came to "speak up" for his son Jesse, 6, who died along with 25 others in Newtown, Connecticut.

Opponents of the bill say it would violate Americans' right to bear arms.

The massacre fuelled debate on how to curb America's gun violence epidemic, but it is unclear if lawmakers will enact stricter gun control.

"I'm not here for the sympathy or the pat on the back," Mr Heslin told a panel of senators.

The 50-year-old construction worker described the last morning with his son.

"When he was getting out of the truck he hugged me and held me and I could still feel that hug and pat on the back," he said, breaking down.

"I have to go home at night to an empty house without my son. He was the only family I had left. It's hard for me to be here today to talk about my deceased son. I have to. I'm his voice."

The legislation under consideration would ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds.

But opponents of the bill have argued it would violate the US Constitution's guarantee of the right to bear arms.

Others, like Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, have said better enforcement of existing laws such as the requirement for background checks on most weapons purchases, would address the problem.

Private transactions and sales at gun shows are not currently subject to background checks.