Lawmakers on Wednesday heard heart-wrenching and gripping testimony from parents, a child and a pediatrician who were all personally touched by recent mass shootings — an effort by Democrats to highlight in dramatic terms the physical and emotional toll of gun violence.
The testimony before the House Oversight Committee came two weeks after 19 children and two teachers were shot and killed in a classroom in Uvalde, Texas. That massacre followed several other mass shootings, including one on May 14 in Buffalo, N.Y., that left 10 Black grocery shoppers dead and another at a Laguna Woods church that resulted in one person being killed and five others wounded.
The massacres have put pressure on lawmakers to strike a bipartisan agreement on gun restrictions and related safety measures.
“I am asking every member of this committee to listen with an open heart to the brave witnesses who have come forward to tell their stories about how gun violence has impacted their lives,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). “Our witnesses today have endured pain and loss. Yet they are displaying incredible courage by coming here to ask us to do our jobs.”
Here are four major moments from the hearing:
1. An 11-year-old shooting survivor shared her story
Miah Cerrillo, a fourth-grader at Robb Elementary School who survived the massacre by smearing herself in a classmate’s blood and pretending to be dead, described the horror she faced when an 18-year-old gunman entered her classroom on May 24 and started shooting. The gunman killed himself when police stormed the classroom.
The students were watching a movie, until the gunman arrived, Miah said in a pre-recorded statement played at the hearing. “We went to go hide behind my teacher’s desk,” she said. “He shot my teacher and told my teacher ‘goodnight’ and shot her in the head. And then he shot some of my classmates.”
“He shot my friend that was next to me,” she said. “So I grabbed the blood and put it all over me.” She shrugged and trailed off. “I stayed quiet. And then I grabbed my teacher’s phone, and called 911.”
The 11-year-old said she doesn’t feel safe at school and is concerned she could again be the victim of a mass shooting.
After Miah spoke, her father, Miguel, said that Miah “is not the same little girl that I use to play with.”
“Schools are not safe anymore,” he added. “Something needs to really change.”
2. A mother talked about the loss of her daughter
Kimberly Rubio told lawmakers about the uncertainty and angst she felt as she awaited word of her daughter’s fate. She testified that after learning about the shooting she ran barefoot for a mile to Robb Elementary School in search of news about her daughter, Lexi Rubio.
She and her husband, Felix, waited outside of the school before heading to the city’s civic center, where they received the news that Lexi had died.
Earlier that very morning, the Rubios had attended an award ceremony at the school for their daughter. Lexi received a “good citizen” award and was recognized for having straight A’s. They had promised to treat her to ice cream as a reward.
“I left my daughter at that school and that decision will haunt me for the rest of my life,” Kimberly said, sitting next to Felix as they testified via video.
“We don’t want you to think of Lexi as just a number. She was intelligent, compassionate and athletic,” Kimberly said through tears. “Today, we stand for Lexi, and as her voice, we demand action. We seek a ban on assault rifles and high capacity magazines.”
“Somewhere out there, there is a mom listening to our testimony, thinking ‘I can’t even imagine their pain,’ not knowing that our reality will someday be hers, unless we act now,” she said.
3. A pediatrician described a gruesome scene
Dr. Roy Guerrero, a pediatrician and lifelong resident of Uvalde who helped treat the wounded, described to lawmakers the carnage he witnessed. “I raced to the hospital to find parents outside yelling children’s names in desperation, and sobbing as they begged for any news related to their child,” he said. “Those mothers cries will never get out of my head.”
He first saw Miah Cerrillo. She was shaking, and “the white Lilo and Stitch shirt she wore was covered in blood. Her shoulder was bleeding from the shrapnel injury,” he said.
The rest of the day was a nightmare, he said, “something no prayer will ever relieve. Two children whose bodies had been pulverized by bullets fired at them. …Their flesh had been ripped apart. The only clue of their identities was the blood-splattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them.”
He blasted lawmakers for the lack of progress in enacting gun restrictions. “In this case, you are the doctors and our country is the patient. We are lying on the operating table, riddled with bullets like the children of Rob Elementary and so many other schools,” he said. “We are bleeding out and you are not there.”
4. Lawmakers remain in gridlock on solutions
Lawmakers erupted in arguments throughout the hearing, signaling the lack of consensus on how to move forward. Democrats called for universal background checks, red flag laws, increasing the legal age to buy rifle and a total ban on assault-style weapons. Republicans, on the other hand, said it would be more effective to boost school security and focus on improving mental healthcare.
In Congress, a bipartisan group of senators has been trying to reach a modest compromise on gun legislation after a decade of mostly failed efforts.
President Biden last week called on Congress to deliver “common-sense” reforms to curb gun violence. In a17-minute speech, he demanded specific measures, including expanded background check and enactment of red flag laws that would confiscate firearms from people deemed a danger to themselves or to others. He also called for a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.