Son of Buffalo Victim Pushes Congress: ‘What Are You Doing?’

WASHINGTON — The son of Ruth Whitfield, an 86-year-old woman who was killed when a gunman opened fire in a racist attack on black shoppers in Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday challenged Congress to act against the “cancer of white supremacy” and the national epidemic of gun violence.

Garnell Whitfield Jr’s emotional testimony comes as lawmakers furiously work towards a bipartisan agreement on gun safety measures in the wake of successive mass shootings. Ten days after the deaths of his mother and 9 others in New York, another 18-year-old gunman with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 schoolchildren and two teachers.

‘What are you doing? You were chosen to protect us,” Whitfield Jr. said. against members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Is there nothing you are personally willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it inspires?” he asked. “If there is none, then, with respect, Senators,” you must transfer your positions of authority and influence to others who are willing to take the lead in this matter.”

The hearing is the first of two this week as families of the victims and survivors of the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings appear at public hearings and events on Capitol Hill to demonstrate the human toll of gun violence in America and to demonstrate to Congress. spurs to action.

Pushing for a deal, President Joe Biden met Tuesday with Senator Chris Murphy, a key Democratic negotiator who has spent most of his career curbing the nation’s mass shootings following the heartbreaking massacre of 20 children at Sandy. Hook Elementary in his home state of Connecticut a decade ago.

“Enough,” Biden said in a televised address last week calling on Congress to take action.

On Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee is expected to hear more from the families of the victims and from fourth-grader Miah Cerrillo who caught the attention of Americans after she described covering herself in her dead classmate’s blood and playing dead to make up for the shooting. to survive in Uvalde.


Tuesday’s Senate hearing focused directly on the white supremacist ideology that authorities say led an 18-year-old gunman dressed in military gear to drive for hours to a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo and live stream his violent frenzy. . Ten people were killed and several injured in the shooting.

“My mother’s life mattered,” Whitfield said. “Your actions here will tell us if and how much it mattered to you.”

Senators have gathered privately in a small bipartisan group led by Murphy and Republican Senator John Cornyn, in an effort to negotiate a compromise that could actually become law.

But lawmakers have been here before — been unable to pass substantial gun safety laws in decades, despite strong objections from Republicans in Congress, some conservative Democrats, and the fierce lobbying of gun owners and the National Rifle Association. No major legislation has been passed since the 1994 assault weapons ban, which has since expired.

The package under discussion is a long way from the sweeping assault weapons ban or universal background checks that are popular with Americans and advocated by gun security groups but rejected by Republicans.

Instead, the senators are targeting incremental policy changes through a system that would send funds and other incentives to states to strengthen school campus safety, provide more mental health services to youth, and possibly encourage states to follow red flag laws. to strive to hold firearms from the hands of people who would do harm.

“I’m optimistic we can get more than 60 votes, but the question is what that package looks like,” Cornyn told reporters as lawmakers returned to the city on Monday after a week-long recess.

Cornyn was referring to the 60-vote threshold needed in the 50-50 Senate to pass legislation past a filibuster that can block virtually any bill.

The Texas senator said he was preparing to brief his colleagues on the status of the negotiations at their weekly Senate luncheon Tuesday. But he warned Democrats not to rush the process, saying “arbitrary deadlines” don’t help the talks.

While senators are reluctant to raise the age requirement for gun purchases from 18 to 21, as has been done in some states, an alternative idea is to open the files of juvenile delinquents to find trouble spots before adults can purchase guns.

Murphy said Cornyn has expressed a legitimate concern that law enforcement officers often do not have access to juvenile files when making a background check decision.

“Obviously that seems like something we need to sort out and address,” Murphy said. “That’s certainly part of our conversations. It’s complicated because different states have different rules when it comes to juvenile files.’

The proposals are gaining momentum, but are also sparking concern among Democrats and some advocacy groups pushing senators to do more and faster to stem the tide of mass shootings across the country.

Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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