Four current senators and three former senators who opposed gun reform legislation following the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School told The Washington Post they now believe they made a mistake. “My activity was passive, not active, in searching for a solution, and that I regret,” former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., told the outlet. Heitkamp had joined three other Democrats and 41 Republicans in blocking a 2013 background check bill Sandy Hook families had asked her to support.
Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; Angus King, I-Maine; and Mark R. Warner, D-Va. also expressed regret for their role in a 2013 assault weapon ban’s failure. Former Sens. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Mark Udall, D-Colo., echoed those sentiments, lamenting how they did not support gun control measures at the time. Many of the senators told the Post that they had felt pressured by NRA supporters and the NRA itself. “I don’t remember when I reached the point in which I, like, threw out the NRA card and didn’t renew my membership,” Heinrich told the outlet. “But my point being, I didn’t feel at the time like this was my issue [in 2013].
“And I think, after you experienced a decade of mass shootings, it’s everyone’s issue. And so that’s the kind of journey that I’ve been on,” Heinrich continued. Francine Wheeler, the mother of one of the victims, told the Post Heitkamp would not look at her when they met in 2013, describing the then-senator as “defensive, unkind, and not interested in helping or listening to the stories of our loved ones.” Though she said she did not recall meeting with Wheeler, Heitkamp told the outlet she was “extraordinarily sorry” for leaving families with the impression she didn’t care about their children or their grief.