Like most of the media I used the word “heckle” to describe the treatment of Neil Heslin at the gun hearings.
Watch the video below and tell me what you think. It doesn’t really become significant until the end. Pick it up around 14:00 if you’re pressed for time.
Heslin does seem, rhetorically or substantively, to be challenging the audience. So, from that point of view, one could argue that he’s inviting an answer. On the other hand, you wonder about the ability of these people to respond to social or emotional cues. His speech up to that point sent a chill over my heart. He’s describing the sight of his little son in his coffin and he’s asking if, in the teeth of that, anybody can possibly justify assault weapons and big ammo clips. There’ a pause. He resumes. Then people start yelling things including “the Second Amendment shall not be infringed.” The chair asks for silence.
It’s probably not heckling. But it was the wrong thing to do. Even if you believe passionately in completely unfettered gun rights, you don’t answer the man that way. He’s saying he just buried his little boy He wants to see some changes — not big ones — in the gun laws. And he’s asking, with the memory fresh of the bullet hole in his son’s head, if there’s anything that trumps his desire to protect other children. You really have to be a clueless moron to start yelling NRA boilerplate at that moment.
Let me offer an analogy. I don’t agree with Dr. William Petit about the death penalty, and I was even made uncomfortable sometimes by the way he dominated the debate about it for one cycle. (Probably a lot of gun rights people agree with Petit, which is why I’m bringing this up.) But I would never have countenanced yelling back to the man at a hearing, even if he offered up a rhetorical question. You just don’t do that. Civilized people know that. And that’s the problem with some of these gun yahoos. They are saying, in one breath, “I am not a civilized person. I can not even restrain myself in situations where the social norms are pretty obvious. And, oh, by the way, I want to own a very deadly weapon.”
So heckling was probably the wrong word. Stupid was not.