In Powerful Testimony, Witnesses Share Their Personal Experiences With Gun Violence and Call for Congressional Action
Washington, D.C. (June 8, 2022)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing on the urgent need to address the gun violence epidemic.
“Assault weapons were used in the recent massacres in Buffalo, Uvalde, and Tulsa—just as they were in Parkland, Newtown, San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas, and so many other mass shootings,” said Chairwoman Maloney in her opening remarks. “These weapons have no place in our communities.”
At today’s hearing, the Committee heard emotional testimony from Zeneta Everhart, mother of Zaire Goodman from Buffalo, New York; Roy Guerrero, M.D., Pediatrician in Uvalde, Texas; Felix Rubio and Kimberly Rubio, parents of Lexi Rubio, who was murdered at Robb Elementary School; Miah Cerrillo, fourth-grade student at Robb Elementary School, and Miah’s father, Miguel Cerrillo.
“Our witnesses today have endured pain and loss. Yet they are displaying incredible courage by coming here to ask us to do our jobs,” said Chairwoman Maloney in her opening statement. “Let us hear their voices. Let us honor their courage. And let us find the same courage to pass commonsense laws to protect our children.”
- Ms. Everhart testified about the emotional and physical toll of being a mass shooting survivor after her son Zaire was wounded in Buffalo, Texas: “While his physical wounds will heal, his mental wound will remain for the rest of his life. He will have to process what happened to him as well as the pain he feels for the ten lives that were lost that day and his fellow co-workers who were also injured.”
- Dr. Guerrero testified: “Innocent children all over the country today are dead because laws and policy allows people to buy weapons before they’re legally even old enough to buy a pack of beer. They are dead because restrictions have been allowed to lapse. They’re dead because there are no rules about where guns are kept. Because no one is paying attention to who is buying them.”
- Miah Cerillo recounted surviving the mass shooting in Robb Elementary School via pre-recorded video testimony. She indicated that she no longer felt safe at school and feared that a school shooting would happen again.
- Miah’s father, Miguel Cerrillo, in reflecting on the shooting his daughter narrowly escaped, said: “I wish something would change, not only for our kids but every kid in the world because schools are not safe anymore. Something needs to change.”
- Ms. Rubio recounted the day which she and her husband lost their daughter Lexi in the mass shooting in Uvalde. She testified: “Today we stand for Lexi, and, as her voice, we demand action. We seek a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. We understand that for some reason, to some people, to people with money, to people who fund political campaigns, that guns are more important than children, so at this moment we ask for progress.” She added: “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.”
During the second panel, the Committee heard testimony from Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City, New York; Greg Jackson, Jr., Executive Director at Community Justice Action Fund; Joseph Gramaglia, Police Commissioner of Buffalo, New York; Becky Pringle, President of the National Education Association; and Nick Suplina, Senior Vice President for Law & Policy at Everytown for Gun Safety.
Witnesses emphasized that the gun violence epidemic is a uniquely American phenomenon, amplified by the killing power and broad availability of assault weapons, that is wreaking havoc on communities across the country.
- Mayor Adams testified: “We are facing a crisis that is killing more Americans than war. A crisis that is now the number one cause of death for our young people. According to new CDC data, guns are the number one killer of children in our country. In the last two decades, more school-aged children have died because of gun violence than on-duty police officers. It is not just a crisis of mass shootings, but of everyday gun violence.”
- Mr. Suplina noted: “Every single day some 110 Americans are killed with a gun and 200 more are physically wounded. We estimate that one half of Americans have been touched by gun violence either directly or someone they care for. In other words, we are a nation of gun violence survivors.”
- Ms. Pringle testified: “The impact to the school community is forever. It doesn’t end. The idea of turning our schools into prisons, into places where they are not conducive to teaching and learning, is not the solution to the problem. We know what the solution to this problem is, it’s comprehensive gun reform.”
Witnesses highlighted how the gun industry has continued to manufacture and aggressively market deadly AR-15-style weapons to the public, even though these are the weapon of choice for mass murderers.
- In response to Rep. Lynch’s question about the differences between rifles, pistols, and other weapons, Mr. Suplina noted that: “a handgun won’t do the same damage to human tissue that a semiautomatic rifle with multiple rounds will do. There’s a reason these guns are used in mass shootings – it’s because the shooters want to inflict maximum damage.”
- In response to Rep. Bush’s question about the impact of gun violence in Black and brown communities, Mr. Jackson said, “Guns don’t grow on trees. We are not creating these guns, yet they are being flooded into our communities, and the gun industry is profiting off our death every single day.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Speier about the physical effects that AR-style assault rifles can have on the human body, Commissioner Gramaglia explained: “I’ve been to numerous shootings throughout my career that were the result of high-powered assault rifles, and the cavernous holes they leave in bodies. Decapitation is a pretty good explanation for it. Some people couldn’t be buried with an open casket. The damage was absolutely devastating.”
Witnesses and Democratic Members called on Congress to pass commonsense gun reforms, including the Protect Our Kids Act, to ban high-capacity magazines, implement red flag laws, and bolster background checks—reforms that a strong majority of Americans support.
- In response to questioning from Rep. Jackson Lee, Commissioner Gramaglia noted: “An assault weapons ban to me is a no brainer. Those weapons are made for one thing and that is to kill people and to kill a lot of people at one time.”
- In response to a question from Rep. Jackson Lee about the Republican call for “hardening schools,” Ms. Pringle said: “Putting responsibility on teachers to carry guns to protect our students is not only irrational, it is unfair.” She implored Congress to pass “comprehensive, commonsense gun laws, all of them working in collaboration, not arming teachers.”
- Responding to Chairwoman Maloney’s question about the importance of passing federal gun safety laws, Mayor Adams stated that, “we’ve already removed 3,000 guns off our street” in 2022 alone. He added: “We need assistance from the federal government to stop the flow of guns in our cities.”
- Commissioner Gramaglia, in his prepared testimony on behalf of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, called for Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban, adopt universal background checks, ban high-capacity magazines, enact red flag laws, and pass other “common-sense reforms that would help law enforcement and other stakeholders mitigate the threat gun violence poses to our communities.”
In Chairwoman Maloney’s closing statement, she announced that the Committee will hold a future hearing with the nation’s largest gun manufacturers to explain why they continue marketing and selling the weapons of choice to mass shooters.
Click here to watch the hearing.
Click here to watch Ms. Everhart’s testimony.
Click here to watch Dr. Guerrero’s testimony.
Click here to watch testimony from Mr. and Ms. Rubio.
Click here to watch Miss Cerrillo’s video testimony.