A fourth-grade survivor of last month's mass shooting at a Texas elementary school told U.S. lawmakers that after the gunman murdered her teacher and friends, she smeared blood on herself in a desperate bid for survival.
Miah Cerrillo, 11, and the parents of multiple young Americans killed and wounded in a spate of recent mass shootings testified on Wednesday before a congressional panel as a bipartisan group of senators negotiates to see if there is any compromise on gun safety that Democrats and Republicans can agree to.
"He told my teacher, 'Good night' and shot her in the head," Cerrillo said in a taped interview played for the House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee.
"And then he shot some of my classmates and the white board," she said, adding: "He shot my friend that was next to me ... and I thought he was going to come back to the room. I got the blood and put it all on me."
The young girl said she fears such violence could happen again at school.
Cerrillo spoke about two weeks after the shooting by an 18-year-old at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 of her classmates and two teachers.
A spate of mass shootings across the United States in recent weeks has killed dozens and sparked the latest round of bipartisan talks in the U.S. Senate.
With Democrats and Republicans deeply divided on guns, the talks have focused on modest goals including encouraging states to pass "red flag" laws to deny firearms to people judged a risk to themselves or the public and federal funding to improve school security.
Republicans on the House panel vowed to defend the right to keep and bear arms as protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Many of them have objected to proposals such as limited sales of the assault-style rifles used in the Uvalde massacre and another mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, grocery story that killed 10 Black victims.
‘Defend myself from evil’
Another witness, Lucretia Hughes of the DC Project Women for Gun Rights, criticized the idea of more gun control laws.
"Y'all are delusional if you think it's going to keep us safe," she said. She added that her 19-year-old son was shot dead in April 2016 by a person with an illegally obtained gun.
"How about letting me defend myself from evil? You don't think that I'm capable and trustworthy to handle a firearm?" Hughes added.
Public opinion polls show a majority of Americans favor steps to expand background checks of prospective gun buyers and other moves to rein in spiking gun violence.
But Wednesday's hearings underscored the deep emotions of the debate.
Parents urge stronger gun control
The sobbing parents of one of the dead Uvalde students urged Congress to take tough steps to control gun sales.
"Somewhere out there, there's a mom listening to our testimony ... not knowing that our reality will one day be hers unless we act now," said Kimberly Rubio, mother of murdered daughter Lexi.
The mother of a victim of the Buffalo massacre, the alleged work of an avowed white supremacist, asked the committee: "What in the world is wrong with this country?"
Zeneta Everhart, mother of Zaire Goodman, who was injured in the shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, added, "Lawmakers who continuously allow these mass shootings to continue by not passing stricter gun laws should be voted out."
Meanwhile, the full House was debating a bill to raise the minimum age to 21 from 18 on purchases of certain firearms and toughen prohibitions on untraceable guns. That bill is highly unlikely to pass the Senate, where it would require the votes of 10 Republicans.
The bipartisan Senate negotiations, led by Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican John Cornyn, are also including measures such as upgrades to school security, strengthening mental health services and doing more to keep guns out of the hands of people who are legally barred from owning them, such as felons.
Rather than pushing for a quick vote on the sweeping House bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has opted to give more time for the bipartisan negotiations.
Democrats in the past have tried to pass wide-ranging gun control legislation to stem the tide of mass murders, which already have topped 200 this year alone in the United States, and other gun-related violence.
This time, Democrats have signaled to Republicans that they would be willing to accept a more narrow first step with legislation, even as President Joe Biden calls for tougher action, such as banning assault weapons.