Mass shooting survivors, parents of victims demand U.S. Congress act on gun control
Uvalde student Miah Cerrillo testifies about seeing classmates killed, her fears of violence
WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of violence and death.
A fourth-grade survivor of last month's mass shooting at a Texas elementary school told U.S. lawmakers that after the gunman killed her teacher and friends, she dabbed blood on herself in a desperate bid for survival.
Miah Cerrillo and the parents of multiple young Americans killed and wounded in recent mass shootings testified on Wednesday before a congressional panel as lawmakers work to find a compromise on a gun safety bill..
"He told my teacher 'goodnight' and shot her in the head," Cerrillo said in a prerecorded interview played for the committee.
"He shot my friend that was next to me and I thought he was going to come back to the room, so I grabbed a little blood and put it all over me," she added.
The young girl said she fears such violence could happen again at school.
The hearing by the U.S. House's oversight and reform committee comes about two weeks after a shooting by an 18-year-old at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 students and two teachers dead.
It was one of a spate of mass shootings across the United States in recent weeks that killed dozens and sparked a new round of bipartisan talks in the U.S. Senate. With Democrats and Republicans deeply divided on guns, the talks have focused on modest goals including encouraging states to pass "red flag" laws to deny firearms to people judged a risk to themselves or the public.
Republicans, who strongly support the right to keep and bear arms as protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, have objected to proposals such as limited sales of the assault-style rifles used in the Uvalde massacre and another mass shooting at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery story that killed 10 Black victims.
'As her voice, we demand action'
The sobbing parents of one of the dead students in Texas, Lexi Rubio, also testified.
After reading the names of the dead students, Kimberly Rubio spoke about dropping her 10-year-old daughter at the school, and promising her ice cream later that evening.
"In the reel that keeps scrolling across my memories, she turns her head and smiles back at us to acknowledge my promise, and then we left," said Rubio. "I left my daughter at that school and that decision will haunt me for the rest of my life."
Rubio wants legislators to enact bans on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, and expansion of background checks on gun purchases and red flag laws that keep guns out of the wrong hands.
"As her voice, we demand action."
Other witnesses were affected by the Buffalo massacre — allegedly by an avowed white supremacist — including the mother of a victim and the city's police commissioner.
'He had no chance'
Joseph Gramaglia, the commissioner, spoke about the killing of armed security guard Aaron Salter Jr., at the Tops grocery location in Buffalo.
"It is often said that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun," said Gramaglia. "Aaron was a good guy and was no match for what he went up against — a legal AR-15 with multiple high-capacity magazines. He had no chance."
Later in the session, Gramaglia said he favoured "sensible regulations that would limit the carnage on our streets."
Zeneta Everhart, whose 20-year-old son Zaire was wounded in the Buffalo shooting, told lawmakers it was their duty to draft legislation for Americans. She said that if they did not find the testimony moving enough to act on gun laws, they had an invitation to go to her home to help her clean her son's wounds.
"My son Zaire has a hole in the right side of his neck, two on his back, and another on his left leg," she said, then paused to compose herself. "As I clean his wounds, I can feel pieces of that bullet in his back. Shrapnel will be left inside of his body for the rest of his life. Now I want you to picture that exact scenario for one of your children."
Debate on age limits, other measures
After the hearing was over, the Democratic-led House passed legislation that would raise the age limit for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle and prohibit the sale of ammunition magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.
But the legislation has almost no chance of becoming law as the Senate pursues negotiations focused on improving mental health programs, bolstering school security and enhancing background checks. The House bill does allow Democratic lawmakers a chance to frame for voters where they stand on policies ahead of the mid-term elections in November.
WATCH | Why AR-15-style rifles are controversial:
Rather than pushing for a quick vote on the sweeping House bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has opted to give more time for the bipartisan negotiations.
Democrats in the past have tried to pass wide-ranging gun control legislation to stem the tide of mass murders, which already have topped 200 this year alone in the United States, and other gun-related violence.
This time, Democrats have signaled to Republicans that they would be willing to accept a much more narrow first step with legislation, even as U.S. President Joe Biden calls for tougher action, such as banning assault weapons.
Others who testified included New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association.
Republicans called as a witness for Wednesday's hearing included Lucretia Hughes of the DC Project Women for Gun Rights. The group says it "encourages the preservation of America's gun culture" while raising awareness of firearms safety.
With files from CBC News and The Associated Press