WASHINGTON ― The pediatrician who treated juvenile gunshot victims after the elementary school mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, castigated Congress for allowing teenagers to buy guns.
During testimony on Wednesday as lawmakers consider new legislation on gun violence, Dr. Roy Guerrero described treating children who’d been shot by an 18-year-old gunman and seeing the decapitated bodies of children who had been torn apart by bullets from an assault rifle.
Guerrero said he became a pediatrician partly because children are good patients who listen to medical advice, whereas adults are stubborn to change even if it will make them better.
“Why else would there have been such little progress made in Congress to stop gun violence? Innocent children all over the country today are dead because laws and policy allows people to buy weapons before they’re legally even old enough to buy a pack of beer,” Guerrero said.
“They are dead because restrictions have been allowed to lapse,” Guerrero said, referring to the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. “They’re dead because there are no rules about where guns are kept. Because no one is paying attention to who is buying them.”
The Uvalde gunman murdered 19 elementary school students and two teachers using an assault rifle he legally purchased days after his 18th birthday. Federal law allows 18-year-olds to purchase shotguns and rifles from licensed gun dealers while restricting handgun sales to people 21 and older.
House Democrats plan to vote on a package of gun legislation later Wednesday that would include a bill raising the minimum age for most shotguns and rifles, but the bills won’t clear the Senate.
A bipartisan group of senators, however, is negotiating on a more modest package of reforms that could include improvements to the background check system for licensed gun sales, funding for mental health and incentives for states to pass “red flag” laws to confiscate guns from people who are deemed dangerous.
Senate Democrats have pushed for raising the age for assault rifles to 21, but Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told HuffPost on Tuesday that Republicans would probably tank the whole package if it raised the age.
Guerrero said the AR-style rifle used in Uvalde left the killer’s victims unrecognizable.
“Two children, whose bodies had been so pulverized by the bullets fired at them, over and over again, whose flesh had been so ripped apart, that the only clue as to their identities were the blood spattered cartoon clothes still clinging to them,” Guerrero said.