“‘[The gunman] shot my friend … and I thought he would come back. So I took my friend’s blood and I put it all over me … and I just stayed quiet.’”
That was Miah Cerrillo, 11, giving a gut-wrenching account on pre-recorded video of how she played dead to survive the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
The fourth grader was one of several people from the recent mass shootings at Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, N.Y. who testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on gun violence on Wednesday.
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, called together “The Urgent Need to Address the Gun Violence Epidemic” hearing after more than 200 mass shootings were reported in 2022. These include the racially-motivated shooting in a Buffalo, N.Y. supermarket on May 14, which killed 10 and seriously wounded three others, as well as the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed.
Miah’s father, Miguel Cerrillo, appeared in person to describe the impact the shooting has had on his daughter, who is the middle child of five kids. “She’s not the same little girl that I used to play with,” he said, choking back tears. “I wish something would change, not only for our kids, but for every single kid in the world, because schools are not safe anymore.”
Dr. Roy Guerrero, Uvalde’s only pediatrician, testified about treating children whose “bodies were pulverized by bullets” and “whose flesh had been ripped apart.”
His job as a doctor is to take care of children and to keep them safe, he said, and he called on lawmakers to do the same by passing gun laws to better regulate the sale of AR-15-style semiautomatic weapons.
“Keeping them safe from bacteria and brittle bones, I can do,” he said. “But making sure our children are safe from guns, that’s the job of our politicians and leaders. In this case, you are the doctors, and our country is the patient. We are lying on the operating table, riddled with bullets … we are bleeding out, and you are not there.”
The parents of Lexi Rubio, a 10-year-old killed in the Uvalde shooting, were also invited to speak. “I left my daughter at that school, and that decision will haunt me for the rest of my life,” sobbed her mother. “Today, we stand for Lexi. And as her voice, we demand action.”
And Zeneta Everhart, whose son Zaire Goodman survived the shooting at the Tops grocery story in Buffalo, noted that shrapnel will remain inside the left side of his body for the rest of his life. “As an elected official it is your duty to draft legislation that protects Zaire and all of the children and citizens in this country,” she told the committee. “Common-sense gun laws are not about your personal feelings or your beliefs. You are elected because you have been chosen and are trusted to protect us. But let me say to you here today, I do not feel safe.”
The hearing was held hours before the House was scheduled to vote on gun control measures. The package of bills includes banning the sale of semiautomatic rifles to buyers under 21, and prohibiting the sale of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. But analysts say gun-control bills continue to face a tough road in the 50-50 Senate.
And it came the day after actor and Uvalde native Matthew McConaughey met with President Joe Biden to discuss gun violence. The star and self-proclaimed responsible gun owner later made an impassioned plea for measures to prevent mass shootings during a White House press conference, to ensure that “the loss of these lives matter.”
“Responsible gun owners are fed up with the Second Amendment being abused and hijacked by some deranged individuals,” he said. “These regulations are not a step back — they’re a step forward for a civil society and the Second Amendment.”