House to hear testimony from fourth grade survivor

Windows at Robb Elementary School are boarded are seen behind a memorial
Associated Press-Eric Gay
Windows at Robb Elementary School are boarded behind a memorial that has been created to honor the victims killed in the recent school shooting, June 3 in Uvalde, Texas.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee will hear testimony on Wednesday from a fourth grader who survived a mass shooting just two weeks ago at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers died. 

Democrats hope that the stark stories from 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo, who covered herself in her friend’s blood and pretended to be dead, and the families of the victims in Uvalde as well as of the May 14 mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., will aid them in making new gun restrictions a reality.   

“Our witnesses today have endured pain and loss. Yet they are displaying incredible courage by coming here to ask us to do our jobs. 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,” House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 

Miah will be the most notable witness at the hearings. She told CNN in the days after the shooting that she had called 911 from inside the classroom as officers waited outside, breaking best practices protocol in treating the situation as a barricade subject rather than an active shooter. 

It’s not the first time a student survivor from a school shooting has testified to Congress on gun violence.  

In 2019, Aalayah Eastmond, then a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., testified before the House Judiciary Committee a year after the mass shooting at her school. 

But Miah’s young age, and her testimony coming so soon after experiencing such a traumatic event, make her testimony particularly notable. 

 Among those set to testify Wednesday include Felix and Kimberly Rubio, parents of 10-year-old Lexi Rubio, who was killed in Uvalde.  

Zeneta Everhart will also testify. She’s the mother of 20-year-old Zaire Goodman, who survived the racist shooting at a Buffalo grocery store. The Buffalo and Uvalde shootings together have revived gun control efforts in Congress.  

Roy Guerrero, the only pediatrician in Uvalde, will also speak at the hearing. He has spoken out about treating the children who were victims. 

All of these witnesses will present statements but will not field questions from lawmakers, the committee said. That is similar to how a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last year that featured statements from those impacted by gun violence operated. 

After that first panel, the committee will hear from another set of witnesses that includes New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) and Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia. 

The prospect of major gun reforms appears unlikely, though senators from both parties have said they are making progress on a smaller package.  

In the House, there have been fewer bipartisan moments. Republicans have accused Democrats of politicizing the tragedies and using them as an excuse to focus on gun control rather than on other measures like boosting school security and cracking down on crime. 

“We all want to live in a country where we can achieve our American dream without the threat of violence in our communities,” Rep. James Comer (R-Tenn.), ranking member on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, is set to say in his opening statement. 

“We should all agree that we must work together to deliver sensible solutions to secure our schools, protect the most vulnerable among us, and bring to justice those responsible for these heinous crimes. Our local officials cannot defund our police and our prosecutors cannot be soft on crime,” he will say.  

“Our Second Amendment is an important tool in securing our individual rights to self-defense. Kneejerk reactions to impose gun control policies that seek to curtail our constitutional right to bear arms are not the answer.”  

The hearing follows emotional testimony Tuesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on domestic terrorism. Garnell Whitfield Jr., whose 86-year-old mother Ruth Whitfield was killed in the Buffalo shooting, testified that the gunman “did not act alone” in the shooting, arguing that he was radicalized by white supremacists. 

The alleged shooter, 18-year-old Payton Gendron of Conklin, N.Y., reportedly espoused white supremacist views and conspiracy theories. 

“His anger and hatred were metastasized like a cancer by people with big microphones in high places screaming that Black people were going to take away their jobs and opportunities,” Whitfield said. 

Whitfield pleaded with senators to take action and asked them to picture the faces of their own mothers. 

“Our lives are forever changed, forever damaged by an act of profound hate and evil, and nothing will ever take away the hurt, the pain or the hole in our hearts,” Whitfield said. 

The House is set to vote on two pieces of firearm legislation this week as a response to the two shootings.  

One bill seeks to nationalize red flag laws, which would authorize courts to order the removal of firearms from individuals believed to be a threat to themselves and others. The other package includes measures that raise the minimum age for buying a semi-automatic weapon from 18 to 21, bans civilians from having ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds and codifies a ban on bump stocks. 

The House previously passed bills to close the so-called Charleston loophole, which allows some gun sales to proceed even without a background check if that screening is not completed within three days, and to expand background checks for all gun sales and transfers. 

The House bills, however, are almost certain to be dead on arrival in the Senate, where at least 10 Republican votes are needed to overcome a legislative filibuster.

Tags Carolyn Maloney Gun control Gun reform gun violence Hearing Mass shootings School Testimony Uvalde shooting
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