Uvalde survivor: ‘I don’t want it to happen again’
Linda Jacobson | June 8, 2022
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Miah Cerrillo was one of the first children Dr. Roy Guerrero saw when he entered the emergency room at Uvalde Memorial Hospital on May 24. A pediatrician, he’s known the fourth grader since she was a baby and underwent the liver surgeries that saved her life.
Both testified Wednesday before a House Oversight Committee addressing gun violence after the recent mass shootings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
“Her whole body was shaking from the adrenaline coursing through it,” Guerrero said. “The white ‘Lilo and Stitch’ shirt that she wore was covered in blood.”
In a recorded message, Miah described watching the gunman shoot her teacher in the head and then turn his weapon on a friend next to her.
“He shot some of my classmates and the whiteboard,” said Miah, who used her dead teacher’s phone to call 911 for help. “I thought he was going to come back to the room, so I grabbed the blood and put it all over me.”
The dramatic testimony offered members of Congress — and the nation — a chance to hear firsthand from a child who lived through the mass shooting by an 18-year-old gunman that left 19 fourth graders and two teachers dead. It came the same day the House was expected to vote on a package of bills that would increase the age to buy certain semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21, create new penalties for gun trafficking and require safe storage of firearms.
While the legislation is expected to pass the House, it likely won’t go far in the Senate. A bipartisan group of senators is trying to build support for a set of less expansive reforms in order to hit the 60 votes needed to pass.
Among the measures under review are Red flag laws, designed to prevent gun sales to individuals who pose a threat, and efforts to strengthen mental health services. But passage won’t come easy, with some Republicans already pushing back on increasing age limits to purchase firearms.
“I wish something would change — not only for our kids, but every single kid in the world,” said Miah’s father, Miguel Cerrillo, who attended the hearing in person. “Schools are not safe anymore.”
On video, Miah said, “I don’t want it to happen again.” When her father asked her if she thought it could, she nodded.
The parents of Lexi Rubio, among the children murdered in Uvalde, also testified by video. Kimberly Rubio, her husband Felix beside her, described attending her two younger children’s award ceremonies at Robb Elementary the morning of the shooting and taking the last photo of their daughter, who posed with her teacher.
“We don’t want you to think of Lexi as just a number. She was intelligent, compassionate and athletic. She was quiet, shy, unless she had a point to make,” said Kimberly Rubio. ”Today we stand for Lexi, and as her voice, we demand action.”
Other witnesses underscored Republicans’ objections to tighter gun restrictions.
Lucretia Hughes, whose 19-year-old son Emmanuel was shot and killed at a party in 2016, spoke on behalf of DC Project, Women for Gun Rights. Democratic proposals will only “embolden the criminals,” she said. “Gun owners are not the enemies in these gun control policies.”
Amy Swearer, a legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, argued that states should use COVID relief funds to increase mental health services and enhance the physical safety of schools.
“Many of you are the same ones mocking anybody for ‘talking about doors’ when a single locked door in Uvalde would likely have saved 21 lives,” she said, also voicing objection to raising the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles. “Eighteen to 20-year-olds are legal adults, otherwise endowed with all of the rights and duties of citizenship, including the right to keep and bear arms.”
‘It’s more complicated’
On Monday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill passing the age limit Swearer testified against, while in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, said he would sign legislation allowing teachers and other school staff members to be armed after completing 24 hours of training.
In Oklahoma, Secretary of Education Ryan Walters, appointed by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, advocated for similar measures last week in a video on Twitter.
“We should ensure that some of them are armed so that gunmen do not enter into our schools with the ability to inflict this kind of damage without being confronted with someone with a gun,” he said.
That sparked a sharp response from Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist, who posted a thread suggesting he was oversimplifying the issue.
“The purpose of my initial thread was to say it’s more complicated than that,” she said in an interview. “When you’re a state leader, you have a responsibility to take safety very seriously, but also to take policy very seriously.”
Her post came just three days before a gunman killed four and injured several others at
Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa.
“When you know a place and you know people, it’s very close to home,” she said. “No question that it feels more personal.”