Families of mass shooting victims testify before Congress as lawmakers debate legislation

As negotiations on gun legislation continued on Capitol Hill, lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee heard wrenching testimony from those affected by recent mass shootings. Democrats on the committee cited these witnesses as motivation to push for stricter gun laws. But Republicans cautioned against any laws that would impact law-abiding gun owners. William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Democrats in the House of Representatives are passing a series of measures tonight to toughen gun laws. That would include raising the minimum age to 21 to buy most semiautomatic rifles and banning high-capacity magazines.

    But the House bill is not expected to pass in the Senate, where lawmakers are working on a narrower bill. Before those votes this evening, much of this day's focus was on personal testimonies given on Capitol Hill.

    William Brangham reports.

    Miguel Cerrillo, Father of Uvalde Shooting Survivor: I don't know what to do.

  • William Brangham:

    As negotiations on gun legislation continued on Capitol Hill, lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee heard wrenching testimony from those affected by recent mass shootings.

    Miah Cerrillo, a fourth grader who survived the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, recalled the horror she witnessed via recorded video.

    Miah Cerrillo, 11-Year-Old Survivor of Uvalde Mass Shooting: He shot my friend that was next to me. And I thought he was going to come back to the room, so I grabbed her blood and I put it all over me. And…

  • Person:

    Do you feel safe at school. Why not?

  • Miah Cerrillo:

    Because I don't want it to happen again.

  • Person:

    And you think it's going to happen again?

  • William Brangham:

    Emotional testimony also came from families in other communities who have lost loved ones, all with one common theme, ending the violence.

    Zeneta Everhart's son survived being shot during last months racially motivated massacre at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

    Zeneta Everhart, Mother of Shooting Victim: To the lawmakers who feel that we do not need stricter gun laws, let me paint a picture for you.

    My son Zaire has a hole in the right side of his neck, two on his back, and another on his left leg, caused by an exploding bullet from an AR-15. As I clean his wounds, I can feel pieces of that bullet in his back. Shrapnel will be left inside of his body for the rest of his life.

    Now I want you to picture that exact scenario for one of your children. This should not be your story or mine. As an elected official, it is your duty to draft legislation that protects Zaire and all of the children and citizens in this country.

  • William Brangham:

    Uvalde parents Kimberly and Felix Rubio remembered their final morning with their daughter, Lexi. They, too, pleaded for a change in gun laws.

    Kimberly Rubio, Mother of Shooting Victim: 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. We seek to raise the age to purchase these weapons from 18 to 21 years of age. We seek red flag laws, stronger background checks. We also want to repeal gun manufacturers' liability immunity.

  • William Brangham:

    Though all family members today echoed similar pain and anger, not all wanted Congress to restrict access to guns.

    Lucretia Hughes, whose son was killed in a shooting, was a witness brought by Republicans.

    Lucretia Hughes, Mother of Shooting Victim: A convicted felon killed my son with an illegally obtained gun. Our gun control lobbyists and politicians claim that their policies will save lives and reduce violence.

    Well, those policies did not save my son; 10 more laws, 20 more laws, 1,000 more won't make whatever is already illegal more wrong or stop criminals from committing these crimes. And you all are delusional if you think it's going to keep us safe.

    Thoughts and prayers and calls for more gun control isn't enough. How about letting me defend myself from evil?

  • William Brangham:

    Republicans cautioned against laws that would impact law-abiding gun owners.

  • Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA):

    While every loss of life is a tragedy, no one should weaponize or politicize the abhorrent acts to punish law-abiding citizens.

    If we allow emotion to drive our actions, actions that have constitutional — Constitution-altering consequences, we will destroy the very foundation of our country and break faith with those that gave everything that we would be free.

  • Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC):

    Why are the House Democrats doing this?

  • William Brangham:

    And Congressman Richard Hudson of North Carolina lashed out at Democrats for even holding today's hearing.

  • Rep. Richard Hudson:

    They want to do something to change the political narrative in this election this fall. They're exploiting the pain of these people, these children, these parents, to advance their radical interests.

    And I say shame on them. I say to Nancy Pelosi, stop this cynical, disgusting charade.

  • William Brangham:

    Back inside the hearing room came an ominous warning from the mother of one of the Uvalde shooting victims.

  • Kimberly Rubio:

    Somewhere out there, there's a mom listening to our testimony, thinking, I can't even imagine their pain, not knowing that our reality will one day be hers, unless we act now.

  • William Brangham:

    For now, the nation awaits an answer to when or if, America's gun laws will change in any meaningful way.

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