Mass shooting survivor testifies before Congress

By Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes, Aditi Sangal, Clare Foran, Eric Levenson and Jason Hanna, CNN

Updated 4:16 p.m. ET, June 8, 2022
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4:13 p.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Congress heard emotional testimony at a gun violence hearing today. Here are some of the key lines.

From CNN staff

US Rep. Jackie Speier reacts as she listens to testimony on Wednesday.
US Rep. Jackie Speier reacts as she listens to testimony on Wednesday. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images)

A House committee held a hearing today on gun violence, featuring a survivor and others affected by the recent shootings at a Uvalde elementary school and a Buffalo supermarket.

If you're just reading in now, here's some of what was said at today's hearing:

An 11-year-old Uvalde shooting survivor described how she covered herself in her friend's blood to stay alive.

In a pre-recorded video, 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo described to lawmakers how she survived the Robb Elementary School massacre by smearing her friend's blood over herself and pretending to be dead.

Students tried to hide behind their teacher's desk when the gunman entered the classroom, she said.

The gunman shot her teacher in the head, as well as some of her classmates, including her friend next to her, Cerrillo said.

When he went into the adjacent room, she got "a little blood and I put it all over me" and stayed quiet.

A Texas pediatrician described witnessing the "carnage in my hometown of Uvalde."

Roy Guerrero, a pediatrician in Texas, described witnessing what he described as the "carnage in my hometown of Uvalde" during Wednesday's hearing.

Guerrero — who said he's lived in Uvalde his whole life and treated children in the community before the massacre — said that he "raced" to Uvalde Memorial Hospital on the day of the mass shooting. "I'll never forget what I saw that day," he said. As part of his testimony, he recounted a horrifying and disturbing scene:

"I had heard from some of the nurses that there were two dead children who had been moved to the surgical area of the hospital." He went on to say, "what I did find was something no prayer will ever relieve: Two children, whose bodies had been so pulverized by bullets fired at them, decapitated, whose flesh had been ripped apart, that the only clue as to their identities was blood-spattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them. Clinging for life and finding none."

A mother of Buffalo shooting survivor told anti-reform lawmakers: Come clean my son's wounds.

Zeneta Everhart, the mother of Zaire Goodman, a victim of the Buffalo supermarket shooting who was treated and released from the hospital, called on lawmakers to act on gun violence during Wednesday’s hearing in emotional testimony.

“Lawmakers who continuously allow these mass shootings to continue by not passing stricter gun laws should be voted out,” she said. “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."

“If after hearing from me and the other people testifying here today does not move you to act on gun laws, I invite you to my home to help me clean Zaire’s wounds so that you may see up close the damage that has been caused to my son and to my community,” she said.

An armed guards or giving weapons to teachers will not stop mass shootings, education union president said.

National Education Association President Rebecca Pringle says she is "frustrated, heartbroken and angry" that school shootings are still happening 23 years after the Columbine High School massacre.

Pringle called for politicians to pass common-sense gun control legislation and not put the onus on educators.

"We cannot place enough armed guards at every school building in America to protect our babies. We cannot ask educators to carry weapons and wear body armor while teaching and nurturing our students, because by the time someone has shown up with a military weapons, it is already too late," Pringle said.

The Buffalo police chief said the 18-year-old supermarket shooting suspect shouldn't have been able to legally buy military-style weapon.

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph A. Gramaglia noted that the 18-year-old alleged White supremacist gunman who killed 13 people and wounded 10 others at a grocery store in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo was able to legally purchase a military-style weapon and body armor.

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

The mother of a Uvalde student killed in massacre outlined her demands for gun control policies.

Felix and Kimberly Rubio, the parents of Lexi Rubio, a 10-year-old killed in the Uvalde school massacre, testified during the hearing and Kimberly outlined a list of demands for specific gun policies she wants to see enacted.

"Today, we stand for Lexi, and, as her voice, we demand action," Kimberly said.

Here's her list of demands:

  • "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."

The father of a Uvalde school shooting survivor says she's "not the same little girl" anymore.

Miguel Cerrillo, the father of Miah Cerrillo, spoke through tears Wednesday and said the shooting had changed his daughter.

“Today I come because I could have lost my baby girl," he said. "She is not the same little girl that I used to play with, and run around with and do everything, because she was daddy’s little girl," he said.
3:41 p.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Hearing details of mass shootings can be difficult. Here's some expert advice on how to cope.

Survivors and others affected by the recent shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, are on Capitol Hill testified this morning about their experiences.

The testimony can be intense — and it comes at a time where it seems like nearly every day Americans find themselves processing another mass shooting. Over time, the number of casualties, the cities, and the circumstances may seem to blur together.

Psychologist John Duffy, author of "Parenting the New Teen in the Age of Anxiety," spoke to some of his colleagues for some ideas on how best to care of ourselves, our loved ones and our children during these times. Here are some ideas from experts:

  • Normalize our fears: It's OK to be fearful during times of uncertainty, instability and violence, according to clinical psychologist Alexandra Solomon, a clinical assistant professor at Northwestern University and host of the "Reimagining Love" podcast. Fear is, she said, a perfectly normal and expected reaction to such events.
  • Pay attention to your information intake: It's important to be informed about what's going on day-to-day, but be mindful that the news about mass shootings can be overwhelming to your family. To limit the anxiety you and your kids might experience, turn off the news at least some of the time, psychotherapist Kelley Kitley suggested. Remember to create some normal family time, doing chores and playing games. During times of high stress, a degree of normalcy will provide a sense of balance that your family needs.
  • Get involved in positive change: Families fare best when they have a mission to do something instead of standing by while terrible events are taking place. In fact, a 2020 meta-analysis by the journal Psychological Bulletin revealed that helping others improves our own emotional well-being, a powerful benefit fringe to getting involved. So get your family to make a donation, organize a march, or do something else in an effort to curb violence in this country. As Kitley told me, sometimes taking action and getting involve might help you feel empowered to be a part of something.

You can read more about how to calm fear and anxiety amid mass shootings here.

2:04 p.m. ET, June 8, 2022

The hearing is paused so members can vote

Nearly four hours into the hearing, the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee has paused it because the House has called a vote. The committee is in recess so that members can take part.

After two panels of witnesses gave opening statements, the committee members for the last two hours have been taking roughly five minutes each to ask questions of the second panel, including Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia; National Education Association President Becky Pringle; Amy Swearer, legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation; and New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

1:58 p.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Senators in bipartisan gun legislation group say they're making progress, but timing of a deal is still unclear

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett

US Sen. Chris Coons said he's “hoping” to get a framework on gun safety legislation by the end of the week.
US Sen. Chris Coons said he's “hoping” to get a framework on gun safety legislation by the end of the week. (CNN)

An hourlong meeting among the larger group of bipartisan senators working on gun safety legislation just ended, with senators saying they’re making progress toward a framework but the timing on reaching a deal still remains unclear. 

After the meeting, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons said he's “hoping” to get a framework by the end of the week.

Several senators said the gathering was more of an informational meeting for the smaller group to share their latest with the big group and no decision were made.

“A series of concrete proposals were discussed that would make a difference, and I’m hopeful in the next day that will all be reduced to a framework that includes a broad range of commitments in terms of dollar amounts and purposes,” Coons said.

The Delaware Democrat also said they were trying to take steps that will make it harder for people ages 18 to 20 from getting long guns.

Asked if he thinks they could reach a deal by Friday, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said “no one’s talked about timetables.”

“I’ve said the arbitrary deadlines are not our friend,” added Republican Sen. John Cornyn. “I think it’s reasonable to expect in the next couple of weeks, maybe this work period, I’m just speaking for myself, that’s an aspirational goal. Obviously, we have 100 senators who are free agents. They can do anything they want on whatever timetable. That’s all it is, an aspirational goal for me personally.”

Cornyn said there are still lots of sticking points but the group is motivated to get something done. 

“There are sticking points everywhere, but there is a universal desire to get something done,” he said. “One of the biggest challenges around here is people don’t actually want to get it done. They want the issue. But here everyone is talking in good faith and they are sincere about wanting to achieve a result."

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal reiterated that they’re making progress but they’re not at the place of discussing specific next steps yet.

Asked by a reporter what the latest major hang-ups are, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis said “in my opinion, no significant ones.” He added: “I’m not going to get into specifics, there are always the details of implementation. That’s the next step.”

Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy emerged from the meeting and said he felt the mental health component of the gun safety legislation is “80% settled.”

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy added: “Obviously, there’s the most common ground around health spending because it’s not as complicated politically but I think we have the opportunity to do something historic on mental health investment in this package.”

On discussions of juvenile records being included in background checks, Murphy noted they’re still working through the complexities of how to do that. 

GOP Sen. Pat Toomey also said on Wednesday leaving the meeting he thinks there’s a “very real prospect that something will be done on the background check space” but what gets done is still unclear. 

“I don’t think it’s likely to be exactly the Manchin-Toomey legislation, but doing something on background checks is likely,” he said.

Coons described the meeting as a “constructive conversation” and said he’s “optimistic we’ll have a package.”

1:19 p.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Attorney general announces team for DOJ review of law enforcement response to Uvalde shooting

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz

Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, speaks to reporters in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, center, speaks to reporters in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

US Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a team Wednesday led by the Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) that will review the law enforcement response to the deadly mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 

Garland said the review is being undertaken at the request of Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin.

The Justice Department announced May 31 that it would be conducting a review.

“The review will be comprehensive, it will be transparent and it will be independent. We will be assessing what happened that day, we will be doing site visits at the school, we will be conducting interviews of an extremely wide variety of stakeholders, witnesses, families, law enforcement, government officials, school officials and we will be reviewing the resources that were made available in the aftermath," Garland said during an event to announce the review.

Garland said the review will culminate in a final report that will incorporate the findings.

The assessment “will examine issues including policies, training, communications, deployment and incident command, tactics, practices as they relate to preparing for and responding to active shooter events, as well as the post-incident response,” the department said in a statement outlining the review.

The Justice Department also said the COPS Office “will lead the critical incident review with the support of a team of federal staff and subject matter experts” that will include the FBI's Albert Guarnieri, retired Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel, retired Deputy Chief of Police at Virginia Tech Gene Deisinger, as well as retired law enforcement officers from Coral Gables, Florida; Aurora, Illinois; and Pennsylvania State Police.

“The goal of the review is to provide an independent account of law enforcement actions and responses that day, and to identify lessons learned and best practices to help first responders prepare for and respond to active shooter events,” DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley said in a statement last week, adding that the review was initiated at the request of McLaughlin.

The announcement comes after weeks of national scrutiny over how officers responded to the shooting, which killed 19 children and two adults. Law enforcement's description of the response has prompting criticism from parents, local school boards and national political figures.

Authorities said that police stood in the hallway as the gunman, who had an AR-15 style rifle, was inside the classroom for almost an hour and while children desperately called 911 for help. The delay appeared to violate commonly accepted protocol in active shooter situations, in which police are instructed to stop the gunman as soon as possible.

The DOJ has previously conducted after-action reviews of law enforcement responses to mass shootings, including after the 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub and the 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California.

12:30 p.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Armed guards or giving weapons to teachers will not stop mass shootings, education union president says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

National Education Association President Rebecca Pringle testifies on Wednesday.
National Education Association President Rebecca Pringle testifies on Wednesday. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/Reuters)

National Education Association President Rebecca Pringle says she is "frustrated, heartbroken and angry" that school shootings are still happening 23 years after the Columbine High School massacre.

"On April 20, 1999, I had been a middle-school science teacher in Pennsylvania for 23 years. No experience or training had prepared me for the questions my middle level learners asked me. As I joined my fellow teachers in shock and disbelief of the carnage that ended the lives of 12 students and one teacher, the only thing that comforted us was the belief that this society would never let it happen again," she said.

"But the list continued to grow, didn't it? Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas. And now: Robb Elementary," Pringle added.  

"Tallying up the number of killed or wounded children does not begin to tell the full horrific story," she said.

She said students and teachers who experienced shootings have suffered trauma that will last their whole lives.

"Students across the country are writing goodbye notes and wills, just in case. Unfortunately, their fear is perfectly rational. Here in America, we are 25 times more likely to die by gun than are people in other developed nations," according to Pringle.

Pringle called for politicians to pass common-sense gun control legislation and not put the onus on educators.

"We cannot place enough armed guards at every school building in America to protect our babies. We cannot ask educators to carry weapons and wear body armor while teaching and nurturing our students, because by the time someone has shown up with a military weapons, it is already too late," Pringle said.

1:20 p.m. ET, June 8, 2022

Buffalo police chief says 18-year-old shouldn't have been able to legally buy military-style weapon

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph A. Gramaglia, center, listens during Wednesday's hearing.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph A. Gramaglia, center, listens during Wednesday's hearing. (Jason Andrew/Pool/The New York Times/AP)

Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph A. Gramaglia spoke to the hearing on behalf of the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA), a professional organization of police executives representing the largest cities in the US and Canada, according to its website.

He noted that the 18-year-old alleged White supremacist gunman who killed 13 people and wounded 10 others at a grocery store in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo was able to legally purchase a military-style weapon and body armor.

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

He praised police and first responders for how they reacted to the shooting -- but pushed for change to the system to prevent such attacks.

“We came together after this horrific tragedy, and we will continue to heal together. However, no city should have to go through this, and it is time to make changes to a system that is leaving blood on the side of our communities every day,” he said.

Gramaglia highlighted a set of firearms proposals adopted by the MCCA in 2018 that he said would limit gun violence and would not violate rights or due process, including:

  • Requiring universal background checks
  • Strengthening the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and approving access to records
  • Supporting use of extreme risk protection orders, or "red flag" laws
  • Prosecuting straw purchasers and prohibited possessors
  • Banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines

"The MCCA will continue to call on elected reps to eschew politics and take the necessary steps to address the gun violence epidemic. Your leadership is needed now more than ever," he said.

On Monday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law a package of gun reform legislation, including bills that raise the minimum age to 21 to buy a semi-automatic rifle and that ban civilians from purchasing bullet-resistant vests unless required for their profession.

11:16 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

We're hearing from those affected by the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings. Here's how to help those communities.

People visit a memorial May 21 for the victims of the Buffalo supermarket shooting.
People visit a memorial May 21 for the victims of the Buffalo supermarket shooting. (Joshua Bessex/AP)

We've been listening to survivors and other impacted by the recent mass shooting in New York and Texas testify before Congress today.

The May shooting at a Buffalo supermarket left 10 people dead. The 18-year-old suspect was motivated by hate, authorities said, targeting a shop in the heart of a predominantly Black community.

In Uvalde, a shooter gunned down 19 children and two teachers in a massacre at Robb Elementary School two days before summer break.

Hearing details of these two shootings can be difficult. If you'd like to help, the first line of support in many cases of mass shootings is to financially help the victims' families, those injured and the communities where the tragedy took place.

To support families of the Uvalde tragedy, GoFundMe has verified fundraisers for those affected and the First State Bank of Uvalde has started a memorial fund:

In addition, The National Compassion Fund, the San Antonio Area Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country have partnered for Uvalde Strong Funds:

To support families of the Buffalo tragedy, GoFundMe has a verified Buffalo 5/14 Survivors Fund established by the National Compassion Fund: Buffalo 5-14 Survivors Fund

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County has also established The Buffalo Together Community Response Fund to help the neighborhood where the shooting took place: Buffalo Together Community Response Fund.

11:55 a.m. ET, June 8, 2022

New York City mayor on gun reform: "This isn't about blue vs. red, this is about right vs. wrong"

New York City Mayor Eric Adams testifies during Wednesday's hearing.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams testifies during Wednesday's hearing. (Andrew Harnik/Pool/Reuters)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams called on members of Congress to put aside their political differences and pass sensible gun legislation.

"This isn't about blue vs. red, this is about right vs. wrong," said Adams.

The mayor called on Congress to confirm Biden's nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steve Dettelbach, "as soon as possible."

Adams also suggested that Congress regulate or ban assault weapons. He said that "even if we raise the age" on the ability to purchase assault weapons, "lives will be saved."

Adams called for "swift passage" of the package of gun reforms that the Senate is now considering. "Common sense gun reform must become the law of the land," he said, in order to "make our cities and our people safer."

The time for these reforms is now, said Adams. "It's high noon in America," he said.