Amid gun control pressure, lawmakers hear from families, student who survived Texas school shooting

Will it make a difference as negotiations continue on reforms?

June 08, 2022, 7:49 PM

Amid new pressure for gun control on Capitol Hill, lawmakers on Wednesday heard dramatic testimony from a fourth grader trapped in a Texas classroom for more than an hour as a gunman killed 19 of her classmates and two of her teachers.

Miah Cerrillo emotionally described smearing herself with her classmate's blood and playing dead as the Uvalde rampage unfolded, recounting the horror to the House Oversight Committee in a recorded video. Cerrillo was not in the room, as planned, when the video was played.

Cerrillo said she and the other students hid behind the teacher's desk and their backpacks as the gunman shot out the window of their classroom and eventually entered.

PHOTO: Miah Cerrillo, a fourth grade student at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and survivor of the mass shooting appears on a screen during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence in Washington, D.C., June 8, 2022.
Miah Cerrillo, a fourth grade student at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and survivor of the mass shooting appears on a screen during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence in Washington, D.C., June 8, 2022.
Andrew Harnik/Pool via AFP/Getty Images

She said the gunman "told my teacher 'goodnight' and shot her in the head, and then he shot some of my classmates and the whiteboard." Cerrillo then talked about putting the blood of a classmate on herself out of fear the gunman would return and also using her teacher's phone to call 911.

Cerrillo said she didn't feel safe at school. When asked on the video if she thinks it will happen again, she nodded yes.

Her father tearfully told lawmakers Wednesday something has to change.

"She is not the same little girl I used to play with and run with," he said.

PHOTO: Miguel Cerrillo, the father of Miah Cerrillo, a student who survived the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, wipes a tear during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 8, 2022.
Miguel Cerrillo, the father of Miah Cerrillo, a fourth-grade Robb Elementary School student who survived the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, wipes a tear during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 8, 2022.
Pool via ABC News

The committee also heard from other families traumatized by the massacres in Uvalde and in Buffalo, New York, that killed a total of 31 people just 10 days apart.

Witnesses included Felix Rubio and Kimberly Rubio, the parents of Lexi Rubio, a 10-year-old girl killed in Uvalde; Zeneta Everhart, the mother of Buffalo shooting survivor Zaire Goodman, who was shot in the neck while working at the Tops grocery store; and Roy Guerrero, Uvalde's only pediatrician who treated the victims.

Guerrero described in graphic detail treating the victims who arrived at Uvalde Memorial Hospital that day.

"Two children, whose bodies had been so pulverized by the bullets fired at them, decapitated, whose flesh had been so ripped apart, that the only clue as to their identities were the blood spattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them," he said. "Clinging for life and finding none."

PHOTO: Pediatrician Dr. Roy Guerrero of Uvalde, Texas attends a House Oversight Committee hearing on "The Urgent Need to Address the Gun Violence Epidemic," on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 8, 2022.
Pediatrician Dr. Roy Guerrero of Uvalde, Texas attends a House Oversight Committee hearing on "The Urgent Need to Address the Gun Violence Epidemic," on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., June 8, 2022.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Through tears, Kimberly Rubio talked about the last time she saw her daughter that morning. The family was at Robb Elementary School before the shooting to see Lexi receive a good citizen award and be recognized for being an A student.

"To celebrate, we promised to get her ice cream that evening," Kimberly Rubio said. "We told her we loved her, and we would pick her up after school. I can still see her, walking with us toward the exit. In the reel that keeps scrolling across my memories, she turns her head and smiles back at us to acknowledge my promise. And then we left. I left my daughter at that school, and that decision will haunt me for the rest of my life."

The Rubio family said they didn't want lawmakers to just think of Lexi as a number, and called on them to enact stronger gun measures.

"When she knew she was right, she so often was, she stood her ground," her mother said. "She was firm, direct, voice of bravery. So today, we stand for Lexi. And as her voice, we demand action. We seek a ban on assault rifles and high capacity magazines."

Committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., asked her colleagues 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."

"Let us honor their courage," she said. "And let us find the same courage to pass commonsense laws to protect our children."

Lucretia Hughes, a witness called by Republicans to testify Wednesday, had a different view on gun reform from the families who spoke about their experiences in Buffalo and Uvalde. Hughes, whose 19-year-old son was killed in 2016 while playing dominoes at a party, said more gun control isn't the solution.

"Ten more laws, 20 more laws, 1,000 more won't make what is already illegal more wrong or stop criminals from committing these crimes," she said. "And y'all are delusional if you think it's going to keep us safe. I am a walking testimony of how the criminal justice system and the gun control laws, which is steeped in racism, by the way, have failed the Black community. By the age of 25 I had already went to 18 young Black men's funerals."

"Something has to change. Thoughts and prayers and calls for more gun control isn't enough. How about letting me defend myself from evil?" Hughes continued.

PHOTO: Lucretia Hughes testifies before the House Oversight Committee hearing on gun violence, June 8, 2022, in Washington DC.
Lucretia Hughes testifies before the House Oversight Committee hearing on gun violence, June 8, 2022, in Washington DC.
Pool via ABC News

The hearing came as negotiations continue on gun control. A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, is trying to reach a compromise this week on incremental measures like expanded background checks, incentives for states to implement red flag laws and funding for mental health programs.

Senate Democrats are looking for at least 10 Republican votes to get to the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. If they don't reach that mark, they risk continuing a 30-year trend of inaction on gun reform even in the wake of such tragedies as Sandy Hook, Las Vegas and Parkland.

Murphy provided an update on the talks during an appearance on "The View" on Tuesday, stating he's never seen this much public pressure for elected officials to act and he's hopeful Republicans are "picking up this sense of urgency."

"While we are very different in our views, we do both agree that we are not willing to do anything that compromises people's Second Amendment rights," Murphy said. "We are focusing on keeping weapons out of the hands of dangerous people."

President Joe Biden made an impassioned plea last week for more, including a ban on assault weapons like the AR-15 used in the Uvalde shooting, but most Republicans in Congress remain opposed to any gun restrictions.

Maloney said she feels there is a new air of urgency to get gun control legislation on Biden's desk in light of the Uvalde mass shooting, and she's hopeful Republicans will change their minds when they hear the witnesses speak firsthand.

"Absolutely, there's a sense of urgency, and tomorrow we will be debating gun safety laws on the floor and voting. So, hopefully, their testimony will have an impact on the votes of these members of Congress," Maloney told ABC News on Tuesday.

The House on Wednesday night voted 223-204 to pass the Protecting Our Kids Act, the gun control package assembled after the mass shootings in New York and Texas. Five Republicans, all not returning to Congress, voted yes, while two Democrats voted no.

PHOTO: Buffalo Police secure the scene of a mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, N.Y., May 14, 2022.
Buffalo Police secure the scene of a mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, N.Y., May 14, 2022.
John Normile/Getty Images

In all, 19 young children and two teachers were killed by a gunman wielding an AR-15-style assault weapon at Robb Elementary School on May 24. Funerals for the victims are continuing until June 25. The Department of Justice announced Wednesday plans to review the police response in Uvalde after it took 77 minutes for law enforcement to breach the door and kill the gunman.

In Buffalo, 10 Black people were fatally shot in a Tops grocery store on May 14. The Department of Justice is investigating the shooting as a "hate crime and an act of racially-motivated violent extremism."

PHOTO: Zeneta Everhart of Buffalo, N.Y., testifies before a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 8, 2022.
Zeneta Everhart of Buffalo, N.Y., testifies before a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 8, 2022.
Pool via ABC News

The mother of Buffalo shooting survivor Zaire Goodman described Wednesday cleaning her son's wounds as she called on Congress to do more.

"Shrapnel will be left inside of his body for the rest of his life," she testified. "Now I want you to picture this exact scenario for one of your children. This should not be my life or yours."

In addition to the families impacted by the shootings in Texas and New York, lawmakers heard from a second panel of advocates and officials, including New York Mayor Eric Adams and Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph A. Gramaglia.

Gramaglia testified on behalf of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, highlighted a firearms proposal adopted by the group of police executives in 2018 that he said would reduce gun violence without violating Second Amendment rights. The proposals include universal background checks, supporting red flag laws and banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

"This radicalized 18-year-old adult should have never been able to have access to the weapons he used to perpetrate this attack," he said, referencing the teen accused of the Tops grocery store attack, "and the laws need to be enacted to ensure it never happens again."

ABC News' Rachel Scott and Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events