"It's all going to be OK," Heslin says his son told him. "And it wasn't OK."
Dr. William Begg, an emergency room doctor who treated some Newtown casualties, described assault weapons wounds. Begg noted that the coroner's report said each child had three to 11 bullet wounds.
"They had such horrific injuries to their little bodies," said Begg. He said an assault weapons bullet "opens up" and does not travel in a straight line, adding, "That's not a survivable injury."
The hearing featured heated exchanges, such as when Graham pressed Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn about the government's prosecution of only a handful of the roughly 80,000 people annually who fail background checks after falsely stating they qualify for guns.
"I want to stop 76,000 people from buying guns illegally," Walsh said, defending the background check system and heatedly interrupting Graham, a Senate rarity.
Former Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Fla., once a law enforcement officer, told the senators they have an opportunity to take effective action against gun violence. She has favored expanding the availability of mental health information to the authorities and opposes taking guns from people.
"It is not time for feel-good legislation so you can say you did something," she said.
That drew an angry objection from Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who said, "This is not feel-good legislation."
Feinstein's bill — and most of Obama's guns agenda — will have to overcome opposition from the National Rifle Association, which has long kept lawmakers from enacting gun restrictions.
Another hurdle is uncertain support from moderate Democrats.
Feinstein's measure has 21 co-sponsors, all Democrats. Including herself, it is sponsored by eight of the 10 Judiciary panel Democrats — precarious for a committee where Democrats outnumber Republicans 10-8. Among those who haven't co-sponsored the measure is Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who did not attend Wednesday's session.
Her bill would ban future sales of assault weapons and magazines carrying more than 10 rounds of ammunition, exempting those that already exist. It specifically bans 157 firearms but excludes 2,258 others in an effort to avoid barring hunting and sporting weapons.
Meanwhile, the House Education and Workforce Committee debated ways to keep students safe, such as the NRA proposal for more armed guards at schools.
"Two thousand kids die each year in automobiles each year," said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., comparing that number with the comparatively few children who die in schools. "Schools are safe places and for the most part they really are."
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said school safety is linked to firearms, saying, "Turning schools into armed fortresses is not the answer."