WASHINGTON D.C., DC — Joined by Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, parents and survivors of the Robb Elementary mass shooting continued their push for gun reform in a hearing with congressional leaders in Washington.
The hearing came nearly seven months after the May shooting, when a gunman entered the Uvalde school and killed 19 students and two teachers over the course of 77 minutes.
One of those victims was 10-year-old Tess Maria Mata. Her sister, Faith Mata, was the first to speak at Thursday's hearing.
"This debate on assault rifles should not be brought up again because someone else's child or sibling was murdered; it's just an excuse at this point," Mata said. "You can make a change to help families."
“My parents should not have to plan their own child’s funeral, I felt the need to step in,” Faith Mata remembers calling her dad after learning something happened at Robb Elementary.
It took over 8 hours for Faith to learn her sister was one of the 19 students and two teachers killed at Robb Elementary.
Mata shared a graphic reminder of what the gun used in the shooting did to her sister and 18 other children.
“A little girl, who looked like that, she didn’t look like that anymore,” Mata said as she pointed to a picture of her sister.
Mata explains how she felt about the ongoing debate over guns and mental health. She’s hoping her answer will change some lawmakers’ minds.
“When we make it accessible for people with mental health problems to get these weapons, we’re failing America. And you failed my sister,” Mata said.
Roy Guerrero, a Uvalde-based pediatrician who acknowledged he's a gun-owner, made the case that high-capacity semi-automatic rifles shouldn't be carried by everyday civilians. He likened the current state of gun laws to hypothetically exposing children to the kind of radiation used for fighting cancer.
"For my patients I'm always looking for the most effective remedy or tool that I can find to relieve their pain, stem their bleeding. When a body comes into the hospital riddled with bullets, there is no tool that's going to help," he added.
>See Guerrero's full testimony below.
The hearing, called Examining Uvalde: The Search for Bipartisan Support for Gun Violence, saw Uvalde residents also joined by parents and survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, which unfolded a decade ago this month.
After the shootings in Uvalde and the racist massacre at a supermarket in Buffalo, Congress passed the most comprehensive gun and school safety laws in decades. Those laws enhance background checks, boost school security, and will help to develop red flag laws.
On Wednesday, protesters outside of the NRA headquarters in Virginia pushed for more.
Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, has been critical of the law enforcements response to the shooting and of Texas gun laws, which he says make these shootings possible. At Thursday's hearing, while stifling tears, he recounted the failed police response on May 24 and how "supervisors did nothing, ordered no action."
>See Gutierrez's full testimony below.
Ahead of the upcoming legislative session, Gutierrez has filed a bill which would require a person to be 21 before they could buy "any firearm, club or location-restricted knife." The Uvalde shooter was only 18.
"I have to believe we as lawmakers can solve this problem," he said on Thursday. "The alternative is just too evil to contemplate."
Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat who represents the Houston area is calling for an assault weapons ban and an investigation into the actions of law enforcement that day. The DOJ has previously stated it is investigating the response.
Republican Andy Biggs from Arizona believes the focus on the mass shooting problem in this country should focus on mental health.
“The actual premise, if you’re going to solve this question: why does someone shoot? Why pull the trigger? Why do they do that? If we’re not willing to have that discussion, which apparently we’re not, you’ll never resolve this issue,” Biggs said in closing.
Since the Sandy Hook tragedy, there have been nearly 4,300 mass shootings in the United States, 38 of them happening at schools.
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