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Parents of recent mass shooting victims urge Congress to act on gun control

Zeneta Everhart, whose son, Zaire Goodman, 20, was shot during the Buffalo Tops supermarket mass shooting and survived, testifies during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Andrew Harnik
Zeneta Everhart, whose son, Zaire Goodman, 20, was shot during the Buffalo Tops supermarket mass shooting and survived, testifies during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Parents of children injured and killed during last month's mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas, implored members of the House Oversight Committee to act quickly on gun control measures.

"If after hearing from me and the other people testifying here today does not move you to act on gun laws, I invite you to my home to help me to clean Zaire's wounds so that you may see up close the damage that has been caused to my son and my community," said Zeneta Everhart, mother of Zaire Goodman, a survivor of the Buffalo shooting.

The shooting in a Buffalo grocery store left 10 dead and three injured. The shooting in a Uvalde elementary school left 17 injured and 21 dead, including 19 children.

Kimberly and Felix Rubio, parents of Lexi Rubio, one of the students who died at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, testified virtually, calling for members to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, to raise the age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21 years of age, to implement red flag laws and to strengthen background checks and to repeal gun manufacturers liability immunity. The policy suggestions mirror President Biden's list of proposals.

And Miah Cerrillo, a fourth grade student at Robb Elementary School, testified in a prerecorded video to members that she used her friend's blood to pretend to be dead while calling 911 for help. She said she fears another incident will happen again.

"He shot my friend Elizabeth and I thought he was going to come back into the room so I grabbed the blood and I put it all over me," she said. Miah's father testified in person, asking for some sort of action to help protect kids in schools, noting how difficult it has been for his family since the shooting.

And Dr. Roy Guerrero, the president of Uvalde Memorial Hospital, recounted his experience of being at the hospital as children were being transported and parents were needing answers.

"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 I will never get out of my head."

Meanwhile, Lucretia Hughes of the DC Project and Women for Gun Rights, the witness put forward by Republicans, came forward to argue that more laws will not make a difference in reducing rates of gun violence.

"Y'all are delusional if you think it's going to keep us safe," said Hughes, who lost her own teenage son in gun-related incident. "At Women for Gun Rights, we believe that education is the key to safety, not ineffective legislation."

Members of Congress have spent the last few days listening to testimony of those affected by recent mass shootings. Wednesday's hearing came as House members are expected to vote on a package of bills Wednesday afternoon that would expand federal gun regulations. Despite calls for action from parents who lost children, the House measures are expected to stall in the Senate as lawmakers there move forward with separate negotiations on a narrow set of proposals.

But lawmakers in both chambers are moving ahead with their talks, despite proposals unlikely to pass both chambers and make it to the president's desk.

"We are not going to surrender our policy power and responsibility to the Senate," Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who sits on the Judiciary panel that advanced the bills the House is looking to pass, told NPR. "We're going to legislate in a way that meets the immensity and gravity of the problem. ... If the Senate comes back with something diluted or inferior to that, we'll have to reckon with that as a part of the process."

Following the House testimony Wednesday, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told reporters that he has hope a deal can be reached despite the ideological splits.

"There is always the possibility of hope," he told NPR. "And maybe hearing this testimony some of my colleagues will actually do the right thing."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: June 7, 2022 at 11:00 PM CDT
An earlier version of this story misstated the number of dead and wounded in the Buffalo, N.Y., mass shooting at the Tops Friendly Market in May.
Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.