Updated: Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013, 11:01 PM EST
Published : Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013, 11:00 PM EST
NEWTOWN, Conn. (WTNH) -- Hundreds of people were packed inside Newtown High School Wednesday night to voice their opinions on what should be done in response to the shootings.
David Wheeler lost his son Ben in the Sandy Hook shootings last month but to him the issue is not the second amendment but the first.
"The liberty of any person to own a military style assault weapon and a high capacity magazine and keep them in their home is second to the right of my son, to his life," said Wheeler.
He was one of about 150 to speak at the hearing of the state's gun violence prevention and children's safety task force Wednesday.
"The leaders of the Connecticut State legislature want to respond in thoughtful way that transcends politics," said Senator Don Williams.
After two days of hearings in Hartford, legislators held this public meeting at Newtown High School. The majority of speakers live in town, including first responders and victims' families.
"I remember looking at him in his casket and holding his hands. No parent should hold this memory of their child," said Nicole Hockley, the mother of Dylan Hockley.
Most of the people favored strict gun background checks and a ban on assault rifles.
"As a gun owner and someone who enjoys the sport, I can assure you there is absolutely no reason that civilians need to have or should have access to high powered assault weapons or mega magazines," said Newtown Selectman Jim Gaston.
Just as important as gun control, many say improved mental health care is essential. They say concerned providers should be able to go to police without violating patient confidentiality. They also suggest beginning mental health care in childhood.
"Our children need to learn that they can choose love over anger," said Scarlet Lewis, the mother of Jesse Lewis. "Jesse wrote a message on our kitchen chalkboard sometime shortly before he died. The message was written in 6-year-old writting and phonetically spelled, 'nurturing, healing, love.' I found it about 2 weeks after he died. This message of comfort and inspiration was for me, for my family and for the world."
Newtown residents say the world is watching and it is up to lawmakers to act.
"Let's honor the founding documents and get our priorities straight," said Wheeler.