WASHINGTON — A fourth grader who survived the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting where 19 students and two teachers were murdered told lawmakers Wednesday that she is afraid to go back to school.
“I don’t want it to happen again,” 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo said in a pre-recorded video shown to members of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, as Congress debates whether to enact new gun control legislation.
Miah told lawmakers that after her friend sitting next to her was shot and killed by the gunman, she covered herself in her friend’s blood and pretended to be dead. She moved toward her teacher, who had been killed by the gunman, grabbed her phone and called 911.
Miah was one of several survivors of horrific mass shootings in New York and Texas who testified about the toll gun violence has taken on their lives. They urged Congress to pass legislation to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
“It is my hope that all my colleagues will listen with an open heart as gun violence survivors and loved ones recount one of the darkest days of their lives,” Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., the chairwoman of the committee, said in her opening statement.
Kimberly Rubio’s daughter, Lexi, was murdered in the Uvalde school shooting. She told House members that the day of the shooting, Lexi was set to receive a good citizen award as well as be recognized for earning straight As.
To celebrate, Kimberly Rubio told her daughter they would get ice cream after the awards ceremony.
“We told her we loved her, and we would pick her up after school,” she said.
Kimberly Rubio detailed to lawmakers the chaos of trying to find her daughter when the news broke of a shooting at Robb Elementary.
While she and her husband were able to reunite with their 8-year-old son, they searched the local hospital for Lexi.
Still unable to find her daughter, and without a car, Kimberly Rubio took her sandals off — shoes that she planned to wear at the award ceremony — and ran barefoot for a mile to Robb Elementary. She was informed by school district officials that Lexi was among the 19 students killed.
“Somewhere out there, a mom is hearing our testimony and thinking to herself ‘I can’t even imagine their pain,’ not knowing that our reality will one day be hers, unless we act now,” she said.
Zeneta Everhart, the survivor of a mass shooting on May 14 by a white supremacist in Buffalo, New York, told lawmakers that she does not feel safe. Everhart was at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood with her son, Zaire Goodman, who was shot in the neck.
“To the lawmakers who feel that we do not need stricter gun laws, let me paint a picture for you: My son Zaire has a hole in the right side of his neck, two on his back and another on his leg caused by an exploding bullet from an AR-15,” she said.
Everhart said there is no reason for someone to have access to an assault weapon like the one used in the shooting and urged lawmakers to pass legislation to ban the firearms.
“If after hearing from me and the other people here today does not move you to act on gun laws, then I invite you to my home to clean Zaire’s wounds so that you may see up close the damage that has been caused to my son and my community,” she said.
School ‘hardening’ argument
Republicans on the committee criticized Democrats for politicizing a tragedy and argued the schools need to be “hardened,” meaning that they have too many doors and need tighter security.
The ranking member, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said Democrats were pushing “a radical left-wing agenda” by trying to pass gun control legislation.
Republican Reps. Andrew Clyde of Georgia and Clay Higgins of Louisiana said gun legislation proposed by Democrats would infringe on “law-abiding” Second Amendment users.
But Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said that firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents.
“Will we continue to accept the slaughter of innocents, including innocent children, as acceptable collateral damage for loyalty to a completely bogus and distorted misreading of the Second Amendment?” Raskin asked.
House debates gun control
Later Wednesday, the House was set to vote on a package of eight bills relating to gun control. The package was not expected to get much, if any, Republican support.
The “Protect Our Kids Act” raises the age of purchasing semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, creates new requirements for storing guns in a home with children, prevents gun trafficking, requires all firearms to be traceable and closes the loophole on bump stocks, devices that increase the rate of fire of semiautomatic weapons, among other things.
Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Pennsylvania Democrat, challenged Republican arguments that regulating guns would violate Second Amendment rights.
“Do these tragedies from guns in the hands of bad actors sound like the well regulated militia explicitly mentioned in the Second Amendment? Of course not. It’s outrageous,” Dean said.
It’s unlikely to advance to a vote in the Senate, where Democrats are still trying to strike a deal on passable gun control legislation. In an evenly divided Senate, they will need 10 Republicans on board.
The House is also scheduled on Thursday to vote on a bill by Georgia Democrat Lucy McBath known as a “red flag” bill.
Red flag laws allow the courts or law enforcement to temporarily remove a firearm from an individual who is adjudged to pose a threat to themselves or others.
Senate negotiations extend
Negotiations continued among senators over gun control legislation that could pass there. Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, the Democrats’ top negotiator, said Wednesday morning that he wasn’t going to settle for a bill “that isn’t substantial, that isn’t really truly meaningful.”
“The entire nation is expecting us to put our politics aside and get something done: Both to save lives, but also to give peace of mind to this country that we understand the trauma this nation is going through right now,” he said.
Murphy said he wanted his colleagues watching the House panel’s testimony to try to “understand the reality of what it’s like when you lose a loved one to gun violence” as well as “the trauma that these victims go through and how wide-ranging the trauma is.”
“These communities never recovered from a mass shooting,” Murphy said.
Several Republican senators have said that raising the age from 18 to 21 to buy an assault weapon should be considered. Those senators include Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Joni Ernst of Iowa, according to Capitol Hill pool reports.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said Wednesday morning on the floor that gun safety negotiators “deserve the space they need to produce meaningful results.”
“I hope my colleagues continue to make progress toward an effective agreement — hopefully by the end of the week,” Schumer said.
Urging GOP lawmakers to support a possible agreement between Democratic and Republican negotiators, Schumer said, “the sooner we act, the greater chance we have of preventing another senseless mass shooting in America.”
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, his party’s top negotiator on gun safety, said Wednesday afternoon that he’s optimistic Congress will be able to enact legislation that can save lives, noting lawmakers are making “steady progress.”
“I’m optimistic that we could pass a bill in the Senate, it can pass the House, and it will get a signature by President Biden,” Cornyn said. “It will become the law of the land.”
Lawmakers, he said, are discussing ways to encourage states to upload juvenile records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the database that gun dealers are supposed to check before selling a firearm.
“This is not about creating new restrictions on law-abiding citizens, it’s about ensuring the system we already have in place works as intended,” he said.
Cornyn said he believes the ongoing mass shootings throughout the country represent a “failure” of the mental health system and that the legislation could also address that, though he didn’t get into specifics.
“I think there’s a consensus that criminals and people experiencing severe mental health crises shouldn’t have access to guns,” Cornyn said, noting that’s the goal of the NICS system.
The Texas lawmaker said he is optimistic because of the progress lawmakers have made so far that Congress will be able to enact legislation that can save lives.
“I sense a feeling of urgency and a desire actually to get things done,” Cornyn said. “Around here if you know people have the will, there is a way. And I believe there is a collective bipartisan will.”
–Ariana Figueroa, Florida Phoenix
As heartbreaking as these videos and testimonials are. These are pleas to those of us that aren’t criminals or mass shooters to do something about something we had no involvement with, to make defending & protecting ourselves more difficult than it already is. Until someone can guarantee that there won’t be felons on the roads with drugs & guns, doing drive bys around this county. Home invasions where children who are in this age group that are armed & dangerous. I will not stand in support of any legislation that makes it impossible to defend & protect myself from these children. As much as they don’t feel safe, as a grown adult, I feel just as terrorized from the domestic terrorists that are among us. And they are your children. I bet Sheriff Staly has a long list of facts where children are arrested, get out of whatever it is they did because someone takes the soft line on a heinous criminal act committed by a child. If children can be used as human shields to force legislation on others. Then their crimes are testimonials that parents with children shouldn’t have guns that the children can get their hands on.
How timely that this Orlando story of facts demonstrates exactly my point. An AR-15 is no more of less lethal than guns that are unaffordable for many as it is. I’d really like to see the distribution of AR-15’s vs any other gun among the population. I can’t be the only American without $ 1K disposable income to purchase one.
The dude says
You cons and ammosexuals have created this problem, now your only solution is continuation of the very problem you created in the first place.
After reading your fearful comment about the need you have to protect yourself from the youthful criminal children around here, I’d be very interested to hear you follow up and give us all the circumstances, time, date, and specific incident(s) when you actually had to display a weapon in defense of your life as a crime victim. Please, we are waiting to hear actual facts. I’ve lived here in Palm Coast since retiring from law enforcement at the end of 2012, and although I have to admit I initially carried my firearm on my person for a short period of time I eventually just stopped carrying it routinely because I never needed it. It has been more than 10 years that I’ve lived in Palm Coast and the number of times since I have moved here where I was in any kind of situation and needed my weapon is, wait for it… ZERO, nada, as in never. Now, I know crime is unpredictable and one can never say you won’t be a victim of crime at any point in the future, but Palm Coast is NOT Miami, not Chicago, or Los Angeles or New York. I feel very safe here, going to the grocery store, driving around, going out to eat without packing my gun around. If you don’t, well more power to you, but to infer that where we live we are in mortal fear for our lives here is more than a bit of a stretch, don’t you think? I feel more than safe knowing the Flagler Co. Sheriff’s Office deputies are out there doing their jobs day and night. On the very, very slight chance that someone at some point tries to victimize me at my home, I am more than well prepared to defend myself and my family although I believe again that is also a very minimal chance of ever happening.
My main obervation is that your comment completely misses the point of this article, which is the necessity of both the Congress as well as individual states to take some concrete steps that will help reduce the incidences of school mass shootings so children can once again get up each morning and go to school without the fear in the back of their heads that they may be shot dead in their classroom. American conservatives need to get over this brainwashing by gun manufacturers, through the NRA which is nothing more than the advertizing arm of America’s gun companies, that the answer to school shootings is MORE guns for America, more, more, more guns bought so companies can manufacture more guns, so we can have more gun stores, more, more more everything guns! When are Americans going to take a step back and remember way back in the 1800s when every Tom, Dick and Harry carried a gun on them. Was that the time period in our history where it was safer because everyone was armed? NO! There were gunfights, killings every single day in towns all across the frontier. Someone spilled their whiskey on you, well then call them out to the dusty street and challenge them to a gunfight. Someone cheated playing poker? They usually got shot dead before getting up from the poker table. Steal someone’s horse? In many places you could just shoot them dead and never worry about the fact there wasn’t even a trial. No, back then guns everywhere and many, many killings and crime all over frontier America. So stop with the BS that the answer to crime in this country is more guns, more guns. That is pure, unadulterated brainwashing by the gun companies who want to sell more guns, who want Americans to believe they are under seige from criminals coming out of the woodwork, so go buy more guns, that our government is tyrannical and corrupt, so go out and buy guns to protect yourself and “democracy”, etc. etc. Its all total BS! The only ones profiting from this brainwashing idiocy are the multi-million $$$ gun manufacturing corporations, who really do know that Americans are suckers. When America finally figures this out and starts to do something productive to stop the mass school shootings, we will all be much better off and our school children will be safer, but it will take common sense legislation and cooperation between the federal elected officials and state legislatures for anything to be effective, and it will not happen overnight. But we must start somewhere, and soon!
The dude says
What does this girl want? I mean they sent thoughts and prayers.
I hear you dude.
Using some of the most recent GOP logic , it would be easier if we just ban children !
Timothy Patrick Welch says
Let’s treat the root cause.
Including, movie portrayals that glorify weapons use, hatred fostered in part by political activists, fanaticals, mental illness, family strife, bullying, and revenge.
If our politicians have security personnel and safe rooms why not our children? Seems like the public schools system could and should be held accountable for the safety of their students. Basic safety measures should be mandated.
@tpw. . . Surely I am not understanding you correctly. Are you saying that rather than implementing and enforcing gun safety regulations like “universal background checks” for EVERY gun sale, and STOPPING any civilian one from owning a weapon of war and mass destruction. . . you would prefer that we live our daily lives in fortresses with “safe rooms”??
You can’t really mean that, right? In addition to schools, grocery stores, churches, concert venues, stadiums. . . any place outside our homes should be fortified and have “safe rooms”???
Even though other countries have greatly reduced their gun violence and murders by enforcing common sense gun safety regulations. Even though the vast majority of Americans support increased gun safety regulations:
NEW POLLING ON GUNS — We have a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted entirely after the shooting in Uvalde, offering a snapshot of the mood of American voters at this moment in time, and where they stand on a variety of gun reform proposals. Here’s a rundown of what we found:
Requiring background checks on all gun sales: Eighty-eight percent strongly or somewhat support; 8% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +80
Creating a national database with info about each gun sale: Seventy-five percent strongly or somewhat support; 18% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +57
Banning assault-style weapons: Sixty-seven percent strongly or somewhat support; 25% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +42
Preventing sales of all firearms to people reported as dangerous to law enforcement by a mental health provider: Eighty-four percent strongly or somewhat support; 9% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +75
Making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks: Eighty-one percent strongly or somewhat support; 11% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +70
Requiring all gun owners to store their guns in a safe storage unit: Seventy-seven percent strongly or somewhat support; 15% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +62
tpw. . . You aren’t really saying that we should all live our lives in FEAR and completely controlled by gun zealots and “THEIR” perceived second amendment rights, are you? What about “our” rights to “life”, freedom, peace and safety?
This was another horrific tragedy that no young child nor adult should have to experience. Its as if we live in a war torn country allowing these incidents to continue and occur whether it be in schools, public places, churches and so on. What about a zero tolerance policy! Set up a Compstat for each community not just in the policing but in our technology so that we can weed out these sick individuals before they commit these horrific crimes against humanity. We all need to be accountable to keep each other safe.