The family of Layla Salazar, including her father, Vincent Salazar III, top right, visit the memorial in front of Robb Elementary School. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Sarah L. Voisin | The Washington Post | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Survivors and parents of victims of the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings will testify before the House Oversight Committee next week as Democrats seek to highlight the human toll of those and other mass killings across the country, the committee told NBC News.
Wednesday’s hearing, which the committee is announcing Friday, will include testimony from Zeneta Everhart, whose son, Zaire Goodman, was injured in the shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo, as well as from Uvalde’s sole pediatrician, Roy Guerrero, and Felix and Kimberly Rubio, whose daughter Lexi was killed at the city’s Robb Elementary School. Miah Cerrillo, the fourth-grader who covered herself in a murdered classmate’s blood and played dead to survive, will also share her story with lawmakers. Their testimonies will be in person or virtual.
Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said she hopes the hearing will to turn “anger into action” and that “all my colleagues will listen with an open heart as gun violence survivors and loved ones recount one of the darkest days of their lives. This hearing is ultimately about saving lives, and I hope it will galvanize my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass legislation to do just that.”
The hearing comes as lawmakers in both chambers of Congress work on legislation aimed at stopping more gun massacres. The House is expected to vote next week on a package of gun violence prevention measures, including provisions that would create new federal offenses for gun trafficking and “straw purchases” and raise the legal age to buy a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21. The legislation would also provide incentives for states to pass red flag laws, which would allow authorities to confiscate guns from people deemed to be risks to themselves or others.
A bipartisan group of senators, meanwhile, continues to negotiate on the issue. The group has a “framework” for legislation, a source previously told NBC News, and is discussing issues like school safety, mental health, background checks, and red flag laws, but public details are few.
President Joe Biden said in an address Thursday night that he supports the group’s efforts. “But my God — the fact that the majority of the Senate Republicans don’t want any of these proposals even to be debated or come up for a vote, I find it unconscionable,” he said.
Biden also called on Congress reinstate the ban on so-called assault weapons, like AR-15s, and ban high-capacity magazines, adding that if those measures can’t advance, lawmakers should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., one of the lead negotiators on the Senate package, said in Friday, “I just want to assure my friends that while I’m willing to compromise, I’m not willing to do something that isn’t going to be impactful.”
Democrats will face an uphill battle getting any legislation passed in the evenly split Senate, however, which would required 10 Republicans to join them in support of the legislation to overcome a GOP filibuster.