A student who survived the Uvalde shooting by covering herself in a classmate’s blood has told Congress of witnessing the moment her teacher was killed during the massacre.
« He told her goodnight, and shot her in the head, » Miah Cerillo, 11, said.
« And then he shot some of my classmates. »
The school shooting claimed the lives of 21 people, including 19 young children, and has renewed a national debate over gun laws.
But efforts to advance national gun-control regulations have often stalled.
In an emotional pre-recorded testimony before a congressional panel on US gun violence, the young Ms Cerrillo recalled her experience, which for her began when a teacher told students to hide after seeing the gunman, an 18-year-old local.
The gunman shot her teacher as children took cover behind her desk and their book bags.
Ms Cerrillo was wounded by fragments in her shoulders and head. During the incident, she pretended to be dead before using her teacher’s phone to call 911 and ask for police.
« I thought he was going to come back to the room, so I grabbed the [her classmate’s] blood and put it all over me, » she said. « I just stayed quiet. »
Miah’s father, Miguel Cerrillo, said that his daughter is suffering from lingering trauma from the event.
« She’s not the same little girl I used to play with, » he said tearfully. « Schools are not safe anymore. Something really needs to change. »
Lawmakers also heard from the parents of Lexi Rubio, one of the students killed in the Uvalde shooting.
« Somewhere out there, a mom is hearing our testimony and thinking to herself ‘I can’t imagine the pain’, » Kimberly Mata-Rubio said. « Our reality will one day be hers, unless we act now. »
The testimonies from the Cerrillo and Rubio families came the same day as a Department of Justice announcement that it will review the police response to the shooting to look into policies and procedures for future active shooter events. The review will also examine school safety measures and support for victims and families in the wake of incidents.
Later on Wednesday, the complete US House of Representatives is scheduled to debate a bill that would see the minimum age to buy some guns raised from 18 to 21. The bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate.
Only a handful of the 50 Republican senators appear open to new gun legislation, with Democrats seeking narrower gun measures to compromise with their Republican colleagues.
Proposals with the greatest support include a « red flag » law that would prevent individuals with mental illness or a criminal history from purchasing firearms and expanded background checks on gun purchasers that would include private gun sales.
Speaking at a rally in Washington DC, Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, a gun control advocacy organisation, told the BBC that the testimony of survivors and widespread public calls for change can be a « powerful » call to action.
« There’s focus on the issue, » she said. « When there’s a national shooting tragedy, we finally see more people in America decide they are going to get off the side lines. »
Ms Watt’s comments were echoed by Steven Kling, an army veteran and gun owner who said he feels a « change in the air ».
« There’s evil everywhere, » he said. « But we make it really easy to get guns here. That has to stop. »
By Bernd Debusmann Jr & Chelsea Bailey – BBC News