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Agonizing gun massacre testimony exposes the paucity of the Senate’s gun reform drive

It was never clearer than on Wednesday that the Senate’s paltry ambition on gun reform is overwhelmed by the horrific reality of America’s regular massacres and the unbearable agony of family members left behind.

But, as an 11-year old survivor of the terror in Uvalde — who smeared the blood of a classmate on herself to play dead during the rampage — testified to Congress, and a pediatrician told of decapitated bodies of children hit by bullets from a high velocity rifle, Democrats on Capitol Hill pledged to accept even a narrow, incremental bill if it is offered by pro-gun Republicans just to do something — anything.

In a stricken House committee hearing room, the vicious details of the Uvalde massacre that killed 19 children and two teachers and a previous mass shooting in Buffalo where 10 people died in a supermarket staked out a moral challenge to those conservatives who see any kind of attempt to stem gun violence as unconstitutional. The political effect of the hearing is unclear. But the morning’s human impact, that was almost impossible to watch and charted the real story of tragedies that show Congress has failed in its duty to keep Americans safe, was undeniable.

In a way, the voices of the dead were heard through Miah Cerrillo, who survived the Robb Elementary School massacre when a gunman burst into her classroom and killed her friends. She described on video the moment when her teacher was shot in the head and when she herself got “a little blood and I put it all over me” and stayed quiet. Her father, Miguel Cerrillo, appearing in person said: “Today I come because I could have lost my baby girl. … 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.”

Kimberly Mata-Rubio said by a video link that she attended an academic achievement ceremony for their 10-year-old daughter, Lexi, at Robb Elementary on May 24 then never again saw her alive again.

“To celebrate, we promised to get her ice cream that evening. We told her we loved her, and we would pick her up after school. I can still see her, walking with us toward 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,” Kimberly Mata-Rubio said .

Roy Guerrero, a pediatrician said he would never forget what he saw after racing to the hospital in Uvalde.

“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.”

The scale of the loss and pain witnessed on Wednesday was staggering. While it is not unusual for witnesses to sometimes shock with their tragic personal stories, this was especially searing.

Yet the magnitude of whatever emerges from talks between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate will clearly not come even close to what some of the parents of the victims want in terms of reforms.

A too-familiar pattern

A familiar political dynamic is beginning to unfold. As days pass after the latest act of terror, the momentum for a quick and meaningful political response to change gun laws slows, as Capitol Hill conservatives — some with presidential ambitions that depend on the Republican base — narrow the scope for any reform. Kimberly Mata-Rubio, now fated to join the band of parents who are expert in gun laws because of their personal tragedies, for instance called for a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, the age to purchase such weapons to be raised to 21 and stronger background checks and red flag laws.

After days of calls from victims’ relatives to “do something” there is still optimism that some kind of deal that would draw sufficient GOP senators to overcome the chamber’s filibuster blockade can be worked out. There’s a chance that Congress will make it a little slower for 18-to-21-year-olds to buy a weapon — both the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings were carried out by 18-year-olds who bought their assault-style weapons legally. And there is still debate among a small bipartisan group of senators over encouraging states to pass red-flag laws that could help authorities confiscate guns from people considered a threat.

But there is dissent from several key Republicans on that issue. And others have already signaled they will not vote to raise the age at which someone can buy a gun to 21 — the same age threshold that relates to alcohol purchases in most states.

Hopes for a vote on a genuine package of reforms this week seems also to be dimming, injecting new uncertainty into the possibility of ultimate success.

As Republican senators significantly curtail the breadth of the package, there are growing questions over whether the proposed legislation, when it emerges, would have been able to prevent the massacres in Buffalo or Uvalde or indeed the spate of mass killings that erupted across the country over the weekend at bars, high school graduations and outside a funeral. At some point, Democrats may have to consider whether they are prepared to accept a package that keeps getting smaller.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin told WEBICNEWS’s Manu Raju that any deal that emerges would fall well short of what his party would like to see but that he would accept it anyway.

“I have to face the reality of the 50-50 Senate, the reality of many Republicans who are resistant to any challenge. I’m glad that we have some that are willing to sit down and work. If we can save one life with this process so be it, I support it,” the Illinois senator said.

If the final version of legislation turns out to only contain the most minor tinkering with gun laws, those Republicans who have so far appeared sincere about doing something may be accused of trying to look active amid rising political pressure, but were ultimately most concerned about avoiding antagonizing conservative grassroots voters and steering clear of any personal political risks.


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