The mother of a young man killed in the Aurora, Colo. movie theater massacre told TPM on Thursday she was appalled at the way Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) handled her question about an assault weapons ban at a town hall event in Phoenix.
“I was very surprised that a senator, who has been in office for over 30 years, would address a grieving mother, who just lost her son exactly seven months prior — yesterday was the 20th, I lost my son on 7-20-2012 — to tell me that I needed ‘some straight talk,’” Caren Teves said by phone.
At Wednesday’s town hall, Teves told McCain that her son, Alex, was killed in the massacre, and she urged the senator to support a ban on assault weapons. McCain responded: “I can tell you right now you need some straight talk. That assault weapons ban will not pass the Congress of the United States.”
The crowd, many of whom appeared to be pro-gun, burst into cheers and applause at McCain’s comments. But Teves said she wasn’t fazed by that, and those cheers, as captured by a local TV news crew, were only part of the story.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Teves said. “It’s a large, divided issue. I did start my sentence with — and I believe this — ‘I am a supporter of the Second Amendment.’ What they did not show you in that clip was after I did say that the military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines don’t belong on our streets, there was also some huge support and applause that unfortunately was cut out of that clip.”
Teves was accompanied at the town hall event by Patricia Maisch, the woman who helped stop shooter Jared Lee Loughner in the Tucson, Ariz., massacre in January 2011. Maisch also recorded McCain’s comments on video, and later told TPM she was disappointed by the senator’s response. “I always wish there was a more positive outcome after those events,” Maisch said.
Teves said her husband recently wrote McCain a letter addressing the Aurora shooting, which took the lives of their son and 11 other people. But she said McCain’s office responded with a impersonal form letter that focused on an an entirely different massacre: the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Neither McCain nor his staff approached her after the town hall event, she added.
“I was surprised at that,” Teves said. “It takes a lot for me to just get out of bed every morning. I mean, this is still so new and so fresh, that my son was murdered. And I just expected a little more respect from someone who’s been in office over 30 years, and his staff. Between that and the form letter that we received, it’s just, it’s appalling.”
Caren and Tom Teves, who live in Phoenix, said they have supported McCain in the past, including his last campaign. “I have voted Republican my whole life,” Tom Teves told TPM. “I’ll never vote Republican again — ever.”
A video, posted Thursday by Phoenix’s KTVK, showed McCain’s response to Teves, including the applause and cheers about McCain’s “straight talk” comment. Watch the exchange:
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com