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House votes to raise age to buy semi-automatic rifles after Uvalde, Buffalo families testify: Recap

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/9/2022 Candy Woodall, Kenneth Tran and Merdie Nzanga, USA TODAY
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WASHINGTON – House lawmakers voted to raise from 18 to 21 the minimum age to buy semi-automatic rifles, following a day of poignant testimony from survivors of mass shootings, including a fourth-grader, a mother taking care of her wounded son and parents who lost a 10-year-old daughter.

The House approved raising the age from 18 to 21 as part of a package of gun reform measures that also would clamp down on gun trafficking, ban bump stocks and require safe storage of firearms. The bill, known as the Protecting Our Kids Act, heads to the Senate where it's not expected to pass because Republicans have enough votes to block gun legislation.

The measure passed the House 223-204, largely on a party-line vote.

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The vote came after a full and emotional push from advocates – even actor Matthew McConaughey – who urged Congress to tighten the nation's gun laws after recent massacres in Buffalo, N.Y. and Uvalde, Texas. 

Miah Cerrillo, an 11-year-old who smeared herself with her slain friend's blood to play dead during the May 24 mass shooting in Uvalde, was one of a dozen witnesses who testified Wednesday morning during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing to address gun violence.

In a pre-recorded video, she told lawmakers how she stayed alive for 78 minutes before help arrived and that she's afraid to go to school after surviving a mass shooting. 

“I don’t want it to happen again.”

When asked if she thinks it will happen again, she shook her head up and down and said “yes.”

Her testimony, no matter how stirring, is unlikely to move lawmakers from their entrenched positions. Democrats supporting gun restrictions as a way to prevent mass shooting while most Republicans argued that such steps would undermine constitutional protections guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

Democrats, who have majority leadership in the House, also want to ban assault weapons, boost background checks and pass "red flag" laws, which allow courts to remove firearms from those deemed a threat to themselves or others. 

Their bills are expected to hit a roadblock in the Senate, where Democrats do not have the 10 Republican votes needed for their bills to overcome a filibuster.

A bipartisan group of senators is negotiating a narrower gun-control package, focusing on red-flag laws, mental health and school safety. 

Lawmakers are facing mounting pressure to respond to gun violence, particularly after mass shootings in Texas and New York gripped the nation last month. But few believe anything beyond modest gun reforms has a chance of passing.

Survivor Miah Cerrillo addresses Congress in a video, recounting the shooting attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. © Getty Survivor Miah Cerrillo addresses Congress in a video, recounting the shooting attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Why she's testifying: Still facing nightmares, Uvalde survivor Miah Cerrillo, 11, will testify at House hearing on guns

Biden: Voters want action on crime, guns

President Joe Biden said Wednesday voters sent a clear message they are worried about crime in primary elections this week which saw a progressive district attorney in San Francisco removed from office amid fears that his policies had made the city less safe.

“I think the voters sent a clear message last night: Both parties have to step up and do something about crime, as well as gun violence,” Biden told reporters before boarding Air Force One for a trip to Los Angeles.

Biden called again for more states and local governments to use funds from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to hire police officers and reform their police departments.

– Michael Collins

Quinnipiac Poll shows 3 in 4 Americans support raising the age limit to buy a gun

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows nearly 3 in 4 Americans support raising the minimum legal age to buy a gun to 21. Among Democrats there is 91% support behind raising the age limit. Among independents there is 76% and among Republicans, there is 59% support.

There is overwhelming support for background checks for all gun buyers at 92%. There is also strong support among Americans behind red flag laws at 83%.

When respondents were asked what they thought were the main causes of mass shootings, 40% cited mental health issues while 19% believed the cause to be the availability of guns. Forty-five percent of Republicans and 41% of independents said they mental health issues caused mass shootings while 46% of Democrats said they thought the availability of guns was behind mass shootings.

– Kenneth Tran

Kimberly Rubio, mom of Uvalde victim, haunted by last goodbye with daughter

Kimberly Rubio, whose daughter Lexi died in the Uvalde massacre, described her final moments with her daughter as she and her husband Felix attended an awards ceremony at Robb Elementary School on May 24. Lexi had earned all As and won a "good citizen award."

The Rubios promised to take Lexi out for ice cream that night to celebrate. They parted ways at around 11 a.m., after a picture-taking session.

"I told her we loved her and we would pick her up after school," said Rubio, who testified via video. "I could still see her walking with us towards the exit. In the reel that keeps scrolling across my memories, she turns her head and smiles back at us to acknowledge my promise. And then we left."

"I left my daughter at that school and that decision will haunt me for the rest of my life," Rubio said.

Felix Rubio and Kimberly Rubio, parents of Lexi Rubio 10, a victim of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, appear on a screen as they testify remotely during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on June 8, 2022. © ANDREW HARNIK, POOL/AFP via Getty Images Felix Rubio and Kimberly Rubio, parents of Lexi Rubio 10, a victim of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, appear on a screen as they testify remotely during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on June 8, 2022.

At 11:33 a.m. that same morning, the 18-year-old shooter arrived at Robb Elementary School. Lexi Rubio was among 19 children killed. Two teachers were killed.

Kimberly and Felix Rubio testified about their increasingly desperate search for their daughter that afternoon.

“Bus after bus arrived, but she wasn’t onboard,” Kimberly testified.

She and other family members drove to different hospitals looking for her. “At this point, some part of me must have realized that she was gone,” said Kimberly. Her worst fear was later confirmed.

Tearing up, she pleaded for lawmakers to not “want to think of Lexi as just a number. She was intelligent, compassionate and athletic. She was quiet and shy unless she had a point to make.” 

Closing her testimony, Kimberly said: “Somewhere out there there's a mom listening to our testimony, thinking I can't even imagine their pain. Not knowing our reality will one day be hers, unless we act now.”

– Kenneth Tran

GOP lawmaker accuses Dems of traumatizing survivors

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., accused his Democratic colleagues of traumatizing mass shooting survivors, and their families, by inviting them to testify before the House committee.

He particularly called them out for having Miah Cerrillo, an 11-year-old Uvalde survivor, submit a pre-recorded video testimony, in which she relived her experience during the shooting.

Miah’s father told USA TODAY earlier in the week his daughter was testifying to “make safer schools.”

Biggs said she was forced to relive trauma “for political purposes.”

“If we’re talking about PTSD, you just prolonged it,” he said.

– Candy Woodall

‘Violent people’ – not guns – are the problem: GOP lawmaker

Rep. Jody Hice, a Georgia Republican and member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said Congress can’t fix the gun violence epidemic without addressing “violent people.”

“Guns are not the issue,” he said. “We have a people-violence problem, who misuse guns and other means whenever they intend to harm individuals.”

Hice said the solution lies in teaching “moral absolutes” and “respecting one another and respecting life.”

“We’ve got to, in the midst of this conversation, I believe, embrace religious beliefs.”

– Candy Woodall

AOC: Volume of mass shootings ‘delegitimizing’ to the U.S.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used her time to compare the number of mass shootings from 2009 through 2018 in the United States (288) to the total committed in the country’s G-7 partners - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom (five).

“Two hundred eighty-eight versus five. This is not normal,” the New York Democrat and liberal firebrand said. “Not only is it not normal, it is internationally embarrassing and delegitimizing to the United States.”

Ocasio-Cortez called the situation abhorrent.  

“Because for all the billions and trillions that this body authorizes in the name of national security, we can't even keep our kids safe from their schools being turned into a war zone,” she said.

-Ledyard King

Democratic Rep. Mfume blasts NRA – and Congress – for gun industry immunity

Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md., recalled his  efforts to sue the gun industry for gun-related deaths when he was head of the NAACP.

The NRA spent 18 months lobbying Congress to win “absolute immunity on the gun industry and unfortunately was able to get this Congress to pass and sign into law,” he said, referencing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which grants immunity to gun manufacturers and dealers from lawsuits related to gun crimes. 

“It is just unbelievable that we will give absolute immunity to any industry in this country particularly when there’s harm and personal injury.” 

- Kenneth Tran

Texas Rep. Pat Fallon: Smartphones, breakdown of family partly to blame for rise in mass shootings

GOP Rep. Pat Fallon from Texas said after mass shootings, “It is natural to want to focus blame."

“We need to do something effective that will keep our children safer,” said Fallon. “Some people want to blame guns, some people want to blame gun manufacturers, some people want to blame believe it or not, the Constitution, some people want to blame an entire political party.”

Fallon said “the shooter is the only one to blame.”

But he also said there are other factors at play.

Fallon claimed mass shootings are in some measure due to “a noticeable breakdown of the family, there’s been an erosion of faith.”

Cell phones, Fallon said, also shared culpability for mass shootings.

“There’s been a seismic drop in social interactions in large measure of these dang smartphones and the proliferation of social media which is better described as anti-social media,” he said.

- Kenneth Tran

Buffalo police commissioner calls photo of child with AR-15 ‘disturbing’

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, asked Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia whether he thinks gun manufacturing companies should market weapons to children after Daniel Defense, a gun manufacturing company, posted a picture of a young boy holding an AR-15 on Twitter.

Gramaglia called the picture "disturbing" and asked, "how many children in our country" have taken their own lives and the lives of others because of the lack of “storage of weapons?"

Shortly after the shooting, Daniel Defense took down the picture from its Twitter account, and the account was made private, according to Krishnamoorthi.

-Merdie Nzanga

'Will we be recorded as such a society that accepts the sacrifice of innocents?’: Rep. Jamie Raskin

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, opened his remarks by comparing the United States’ history of mass shootings to human sacrifices.

“In the history of our species, a number of civilizations have practiced or allowed human sacrifice, including the sacrifice of children,” said Raskin. “Will we be recorded as such a society that accepts the sacrifice of innocents?”

Raskin said the United States is “globally unique” from other countries in terms of gun violence and gun deaths. “No other nation comes close to what we see here.” 

“Will we continue to accept the slaughter of innocents, including innocent children, as acceptable collateral damage for loyalty to a completely bogus and distorted misreading of the Second Amendment and what the Supreme Court has said about it?” he said.

- Kenneth Tran

‘I buried six young children’: Rep. Gerald Connolly

Rep. Gerald Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia, told the House Committee about his experience during the Virginia-Tech shooting.

“I was the chairman of Fairfax County when the Virginia-Tech massacre occurred,” said Connolly.

“I buried six young children, students that week. Six. I’m still in touch with many of the families years later. And the emptiness in their hearts, souls, cannot be filled. It is a tragedy that lives with them forever.”

- Kenneth Tran

‘Evil deeds do not transcend constitutional rights’: GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde

Rep. Andrew Clyde, a Republican from Georgia who is also a gun dealer, said “no one should weaponize or politicize these abhorrent acts to punish law abiding citizens.” 

“Evil deeds do not transcend constitutional rights, it’s the other way around. Constitutional rights are the ones that transcend evil deeds,” he said.  

Speaking about the Uvalde massacre, Clyde said he believes the shooting was “mostly preventable.” 

Instead of stricter gun control policies. Clyde criticized President Joe Biden for being “uninterested in pursuing tighter security of schools.” He cited his military service, saying “the harder the target you are, the less likely you will be engaged by the enemy.” 

He said schools should have “sensible security measures,” such as single points of entry and “a volunteer force of well trained and armed staff in addition to a school resource officer.”

- Kenneth Tran

What are ghost guns?: In town hall, Biden brings up worries about the untraceable weapons

Uvalde native Matthew McConaughey meeting with lawmakers about gun control

After making an appearance and delivering an emotional speech about gun control at Tuesday's White House Press briefing, actor and Uvalde native Matthew McConaughey is on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers, according to a reporter who spotted him. 

- Kenneth Tran

‘No match’: Buffalo police commissioner says slain ex-officer had no chance against AR-15

Joseph Gramaglia, the police commissioner of Buffalo, New York, praised retired police officer Aaron Salter Jr, who was fatally shot trying to protect customers at the Buffalo supermarket that left 10 people dead.

"It is often said that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun. Aaron was a good guy and was no match for what he went up against: a legal AR-15 with multiple high-capacity magazines. He had no chance," Gramaglia said.

The shooter "should have never been able to have access to the weapons he used," the police commissioner said, uring Congress to act on gun reform. "Congress must act immediately to close the loopholes in our current system and the caps that allow easy access to military-style weapons."

-Merdie Nzanga

Deadliest weekend in the US for mass shootings this year: 3 days, many guns, 17 fatalities

NYC Mayor Adams pushes for federal gun laws: “It’s more than what we do locally.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams told lawmakers federal action is needed, as guns coming from out of state are out of local government’s control. Adams also emphasized the impact one gun can have. 

One of the 3,000 illegal guns the New York Police Department seized “was stolen in July 27, 2020. It was used in six acts of violence. Individual cases shooting individuals, shooting into a random crowd, the gun found its way on the streets of New York.” 

“It’s more than what we do locally. We need the assistance of the federal government to stop the flow of guns in our cities.”

-- Kenneth Tran

A community in pain: Uvalde forever changed after tragic shooting

'We are a nation of gun violence survivors'

Nick Suplina, Senior Vice-President of Law and Policy for Everytown for Gun Safety, told the House Committee the latest string of mass shootings shows it is “a uniquely American problem.” 

He pointed out to lawmakers that mass shootings only make up a small fraction of gun deaths compared to “homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings.”

“We estimate that one half of all Americans have been touched by gun violence either directly or through someone they care for. In other words, we are a nation of gun violence survivors,” said Suplina. 

Suplina directed criticism towards the gun industry. “The gun industry is using fear to sell guns and it believes that mass shootings are great for gun sales. They are making money on these tragedies,” said Suplina.

- Kenneth Tran

Dinosaurs, Spider-Man, TikTok: Texas man donates custom caskets for Uvalde shooting victims

'The same debates'

Greg Jackson Jr, executive director for the Community Action Fund, a gun violence advocacy group, was shot near the Capitol while walking home in 2013.

Jackson Jr said Wednesday he "didn't feel welcomed at the hospital" and instead was met by police who "treated him as a suspect first, and patient second."

"I was watching members of Congress have the same debates that we're having right now., that was 9 years. ago."

-- Merdie Nzanga

More: Teacher closed door gunman used to enter school, authorities say; Uvalde community lays first victims to rest

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‘Our God-given right to defend ourselves’: Mother of DC victim

Lucretia Hughes' life changed forever in April 2016 when she learned her 19-year-old son Emmanuel was shot in the head at a party while playing dominoes.

"My ex-husband answered the phone and let out a blood-curdling scream, a scream of pain from the depths of his soul," she said.

Hughes, a member of D.C. Project - Women for Gun Rights, said that her organization "believes education is the key to safety" regarding guns and "not ineffective legislation."

Hughes wants Congress to act on stricter gun control measures but believes in the right for people to defend themselves.

"Despite living with the heartache of losing my son daily, I believe it is our God-given right to defend ourselves from any act of violence."

-- Merdie Nzanga

More: Matthew McConaughey calls for 'gun responsibility' in op-ed after Uvalde school shooting

‘Frustrated, heartbroken’: Former teacher says inaction is acceptance

Becky Pringle, now president of the National Education Association, spoke to the House Committee about her time as a teacher watching mass shootings unfold. 

“As a teacher with three decades of experience, I am frustrated, I am heartbroken, I am angry, that this is where we are 23 years after Columbine,” said Pringle. She and her fellow teachers had been falsely comforted “by 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, Marjorie Stoneman Douglass, and now Robb Elementary.” 

“Is this who we are? Is it?” asked Pringle. “Our country has already experienced nearly 240 mass shootings in 2022 alone.” If trends continue, Pringle says there will be 22,255 more gun-related deaths this year. 

“Inaction equals acceptance of the unacceptable,” said Pringle.

-Kenneth Tran

Gun violence 'killing more Americans than war': New York City Mayor Eric Adams pleads for action 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams testified to members of Congress in support of stronger gun control policies

“We are facing a crisis that is killing more Americans than war. A crisis that is now the number one cause of death for our young people. A crisis that is flooding our cities faster than we can take them off the street,” said Adams.

Adams told the House committee the New York Police Department so far this year has seized over 3,000 illegal guns and said there is no indication the flow of illegal weapons will stop.

- Kenneth Tran

What is a mass shooting?: There's no consensus definition, but here's what you should know

Miguel Cerrillo, father of Miah Cerrillo, a fourth-grade student at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, testifies during the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing with family members and survivors of the Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas massacres on June 8, 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. © Pool, Getty Images Miguel Cerrillo, father of Miah Cerrillo, a fourth-grade student at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, testifies during the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing with family members and survivors of the Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas massacres on June 8, 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Armed man arrested near Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh's home

Even as the House hearing was underway, news emerged that an armed man, who allegedly made threats against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, was arrested early Wednesday near the justice's Maryland home, according to a court spokesperson.

The suspect, who was not immediately identified, was arrested about 1:50 a.m., and transported to a local Montgomery County, Maryland Police district.

Armed man arrested near Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh's home; made threats against the justice

'Something needs to change': Miah Cerrillo’s father testifies

Speaking through tears, Miguel Cerrillo implored Congress to act on gun reform.

The father of 11-year-old Uvalde survivor Miah Cerrillo cried as he talked about nearly losing her in the mass shooting.

“I wish something will change not only for kids, but every single kid in the world because schools are not safe anymore,” he said. “Something needs to change.”

-Candy Woodall

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‘I don't want it to happen again,' Miah Cerrillo testifies

The most powerful voice in the hearing came from fourth-grader Miah Cerrillo, an 11-year-old who survived the Uvalde mass shooting with unbearable ingenuity.

She smeared her murdered friend’s blood on herself to play dead and stay alive. She called 911 for help, though help didn’t arrive for more than an hour.

Miah told members of Congress Wednesday about her fears and why she wants change.

“I don’t feel safe at school,” she said in a pre-recorded video. “I don’t want it to happen again.”

When asked if she thinks it will happen again, she shook her up and down and said “yes.”

-Candy Woodall

Uvalde pediatrician haunted by memories

Dr. Roy Guerrero, a pediatrician at Uvalde Memorial Hospital, said he is haunted by memories of screams and bloodshed from the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

“I will never forget what I saw that day,” he said.

He saw parents sobbing – the mothers’ cries he will never get out of his head.

He saw fourth-grader Miah Cerrillo in the hallway, her white shirt covered in blood and her shoulder bleeding from shrapnel.

Guerrero knew her as the girl who survived liver surgery as a baby. On May 24, she was a survivor of a mass shooting.

School was almost out in two days. He expected to be treating sprained ankles from summer camp. Instead, he treated wounds from an assault rifle and saw the children who were “decapitated” in the massacre.

-Candy Woodall

Zeneta Everhart, whose son Zaire Goodman, 20, survived being shot in the neck during a gunman's attack on a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., testifies on Capitol Hill on June 8. © JASON ANDREW, POOL/AFP via Getty Images Zeneta Everhart, whose son Zaire Goodman, 20, survived being shot in the neck during a gunman's attack on a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., testifies on Capitol Hill on June 8.

Buffalo shooting victim’s mother: Lawmakers who don’t support stricter gun laws ‘should be voted out’

Zeneta Everhart, the mother of Zaire Goodman, a survivor of the Buffalo shooting delivered impassioned testimony to the House committee.

"Parents who provide their children with guns should be held accountable," Everhart said. She said lawmakers need to pass stricter gun laws, saying those who do not support such changes are allowing mass shootings to continue and “should be voted out."

As Buffalo victims testify: Race and history circle us

Everhart described her son’s injuries in detail and said lawmakers who don't support change should come to her house and clean his bullet wounds.

“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 by an AR-15," she told the committee. "As I cleaned his wounds, I could feel pieces of that bullet in his back. Shrapnel will be left inside of his body for the rest of his life."

She added: "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."

-Merdie Nzanga and Kenneth Tran

Miah Cerrillo speaks in video, father speaks at hearing

Miah Cerrillo is sharing her testimony with Congress in a pre-recorded video that will be aired Wednesday morning during the hearing.

Her father, Miguel Cerrillo, will share additional brief remarks in person, committee Chair Maloney said.

-Candy Woodall

‘A uniquely American tragedy’

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, launched Wednesday’s hearing by saying she wanted to “examine the destruction and heartbreak” gripping the nation after the recent series of mass shootings, including one in her home state of New York.

On May 14, in a Buffalo supermarket, an 18-year-old killed 10 Black shoppers in what the FBI described as a racially motivated mass shooting.

Ten days later, an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

“We are failing our children, and we are failing each other,” Maloney said in her opening remarks.

She said gun violence is the leading cause of death for children and “a uniquely American tragedy.”

Maloney emphasized that she supports the Second Amendment, but she doesn’t support outdated gun laws that allow 18-year-olds to get weapons of war and carry out violent crimes.

-Candy Woodall

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, advocates holding rally

As gun violence survivors and victims’ families testify before the committee, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders will join gun-safety advocates Wednesday morning outside the Capitol to rally for tighter gun laws.

The chairman of the House Gun Violence Taskforce, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., will attend the event along with Pelosi, gun violence survivors and hundreds of gun safety advocates. They plan to gather at 11 a.m. Wednesday in front of the Capitol reflecting pool.

Also in attendance will be: Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., who lost a son to gun violence; Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser; Art Acevedo, former police chief in Houston, Austin and Miami; and others.

-Candy Woodall

Three GOP witnesses added to hearing

The Republicans are adding two witnesses to deliver testimony during Wednesday morning’s House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on gun control.

Lucretia Hughes, of the DC Project and Women for Gun Rights, will be part of the first panel of witnesses, along with with Miah Cerrillo and families of victims. Amy Swearer, a legal fellow with the Heritage Foundation, will speak during the second panel, which also includes gun-safety advocates and the Buffalo police commissioner.

Democrats have also added New York Mayor Eric Adams to the second panel. He has been calling for reform, as his city grapples with an uptick in gun violence.

-Candy Woodall

What we know about the House hearing

Mourners pay their respects on May 27, 2022, at a memorial for the children and teachers killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. © Trevor Hughes/USA TODAY Mourners pay their respects on May 27, 2022, at a memorial for the children and teachers killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022.

The hearing Wednesday comes during an emotionally charged week on Capitol Hill. It began with a rally Monday for gun safety laws and has included tense negotiations in the Senate, heated debate in the House and passionate hearings in both chambers.  

McConaughey, a native of Uvalde, has been meeting with members of both parties to encourage them to work together, he said during a White House briefing Tuesday.

Lawmakers are facing mounting pressure to respond to the scourge of violence, particularly after mass shootings in Texas and New York gripped the nation last month.

Members of the House Oversight and Reform Committee will hear from a young survivor, victims' parents, a community pediatrician, advocates and others who are reeling from trauma after the mass killings on May 24 at Robb Elementary in Uvalde and the May 14 racially motivated massacre of 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket in a Black neighborhood. 

The committee said the hearing will examine "the urgent need for Congress to pass commonsense legislation that a majority of Americans support."

Democrats who have majority leadership on the committee want to ban assault weapons, boost background checks and pass "red flag" laws, which allow courts to remove firearms from those deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Hearing details: Uvalde and Buffalo survivors, families to testify before House Oversight committee on mass shootings

What we know about the witnesses

The hearing is expected to be lengthy and emotional, with two panels of witnesses.

Miah is part of the first panel, which includes Zeneta Everhart, the mother of Buffalo shooting victim Zaire Goodman; Felix and Kimberly Rubio, the parents of Uvalde shooting victim Lexi Rubio; and Dr. Roy Guerrero, the sole pediatrician in Uvalde.

Those panelists will offer their stories, experiences and trauma just weeks after the mass shootings. They will not field questions from lawmakers, according to a spokesperson for the committee. 

The second panel of witnesses includes Greg Jackson, Jr., executive director of Community Justice Action Fund; Joseph Gamaglia, Buffalo police commissioner; Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association; and Nick Suplina, senior vice president for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety. 

The other side: Everyone knows the NRA. Who's on the other side? These groups lobby for curbs on firearms

What we know about the House Oversight and Reform Committee

a man wearing glasses: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is one of 25 Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee that is holding a hearing Wednesday morning to examine the gun violence epidemic gripping the nation. This file photo shows her at a House Oversight hearing on July 26, 2019. © J. Scott Applewhite, AP Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is one of 25 Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee that is holding a hearing Wednesday morning to examine the gun violence epidemic gripping the nation. This file photo shows her at a House Oversight hearing on July 26, 2019.

The large committee that will hear the testimony includes 25 Democrats and 19 Republicans. 

Democratic members include Maloney, who is in an intense primary battle with fellow New York Democrat Jerry Nadler; Jamie Raskin, who is also busy this week on the Jan. 6 committee this week investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive who has been calling for reform; Cori Bush, Ayanna Pressley and others

Republican members include Jim Jordan, an outspoken Republican member of the GOP Freedom Caucus who opposes most gun restrictions; Andy Biggs of Arizona; Nancy Mace of South Carolina; Byron Donalds and Scott Franklin of Florida, where reform measures have passed, and others

A push for reform

The House Oversight and Reform committee is the latest panel to examine the gun violence epidemic.

House Judiciary members last week passed a package of six bills, dubbed the Protecting Our Kids Act, that passed along party lines.

'Shame on us!': House committee passes gun bills that are likely to die in Senate

Senate committees this week are holding hearings on gun laws and white nationalism, which the FBI said was a factor in the Buffalo shooting.

The full House will vote on the Protecting Our Kids Act, a "red flag" bill and an assault weapons ban this week, according to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  But all those measures are expected to hit a roadblock in the Senate, where Democrats do not have the 10 Republican votes needed for their bills to survive a filibuster.

Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., are leading a bipartisan group of senators in negotiations on a narrower gun-control package than House Democrats. 

The senators' plans focus on red-flag laws, mental health and school safety. 

As of Tuesday night, those Senate negotiations were ongoing.

Half of Republicans support stricter gun laws, poll shows

As lawmakers hash out bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill, an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds half of Republicans support stricter gun laws.

The increase in GOP support – from 35% last year to 50% this month – marks a double-digit increase after a series of horrific mass shootings at schools, stores, streets and houses of worship.

A party shift "could boost the prospects for Congress to tighten federal gun laws, an effort that has failed for decades," according to previous coverage

GOP senator now open to reform

Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis, of Wyoming, who has rigidly supported Second Amendment rights and earned a "lifetime A-plus" rating from the National Rifle Association,doesn't seem to be an obvious choice to support bipartisan efforts to reforming the nation's gun safety laws. 

But the number of constituents calling her office have made her rethink her position.

"I've been a little surprised at the phone calls we've been getting and how receptive Wyoming callers seem to be to address guns in some manner," she told CNN. "I am of the opinion that it's more of a mental health issue than a gun issue. But, you know, I'm listening to what people from Wyoming are saying."

She is considering voting for bipartisan measures in the Senate that would change "red flag" laws, open juvenile criminal records, and boost mental health programs and school security. 

"That's something that I'd be inclined to want to look at," Lummis told CNN.

Candy Woodall is a Congress reporter for USA TODAY. She can be reached at cwoodall@usatoday.com or on Twitter at @candynotcandace.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: House votes to raise age to buy semi-automatic rifles after Uvalde, Buffalo families testify: Recap

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