Garnell Whitfield Jr., whose 86-year-old mother was gunned down in the racially motivated Buffalo mass shooting, strongly urged lawmakers on Tuesday (June 7) to take action against the “cancer of white supremacy.”
“What are you doing? You were elected to protect us,” The Associated Press quoted Whitfield’s comments to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Is there nothing that you personally are willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it inspires? If there is nothing then, respectfully, senators … you should yield your positions of authority and influence to others that are willing to lead on this issue.”
Whitfield’s mother, Ruth Whitfield, was among the 10 Black people killed on May 14 by accused gunman Payton Gendron, 18. Investigators said he entered the Tops Friendly Markets store with a military-style assault rifle and opened fire. She reportedly had stopped by the supermarket after returning from a nursing home to visit her husband.
Gendron allegedly espoused the “Great Replacement” theory, which is the false belief that a secret political group is working to replace white Americans with non-white people through interracial marriage, immigration, and inevitable violence.
The Senate hearing focused on the threat posed by white supremacists. But it’s unclear if the hearing will produce substantive results, as Republican lawmakers continue to oppose legislation to address right-wing domestic terrorism and gun control.
On May 18, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act passed the Democratic-controlled House in a 222-203 party-line vote with just one Republican joining Democrats. Two days later, Senate Republicans blocked the bill, which would have enhanced federal resources to prevent domestic terrorism.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Republicans defended their position by suggesting that racial justice protesters who held demonstrations in 2020 after a former Minneapolis officer murdered George Floyd were dangerous extremists, according to the AP.
Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to find a middle ground with Republicans to pass gun control legislation, amid a national outcry among many Americans for reform. The Buffalo shooting was just one in a string of recent mass shootings, which include a gunman killing 19 children and two adults on May 24 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Lawmakers have not passed any meaningful gun control legislation since the 1994 assault weapons ban, which has expired. In the aftermath of the recent horrific shootings, President Biden has called for another national ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which he said “brought down” mass shootings while the 1994 ban was in effect.
Biden met Tuesday (June 7) with Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, at the White House for an update on gun reform legislation, ABC News reported. Murphy said he and GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the two lead negotiators for their respective parties, are trying to hammer out a deal and that an increasing number of Republicans are getting on board.
"While we are very different in our views, we do both agree that we are not willing to do anything that compromises people's Second Amendment rights. We are focusing on keeping weapons out of the hands of dangerous people," Murphy told co-hosts of ABC’s The View.
"We can't find agreement right now on an issue like an outright ban on assault weapons, but we can find an agreement that saves lives around making sure that only law-abiding citizens get access to really powerful firearms."