Santa Fe mother invited to State of the Union, Congressional hearing on gun reform

SANTA FE, Texas (FOX 26) — A Santa Fe High School mother was invited to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday by U.S. Rep. LIzzie Fletcher. While in Washington, D.C., Rhonda Hart also had the opportunity to sit in during a heated House hearing on gun violence. 

Hart was the only Santa Fe parent in that hearing, but she was joined by several Parkland survivors and their families, along with other activists committed to gun violence prevention.

Congresswoman Fletcher from the 7th District of Texas said she invited Hart to Washington, D.C., after being impressed by her resilience, engagement and dedication to gun reform. 

"I just don't want another family to have to go through this because this is awful," said Hart. 

Since her 14-year-old daughter Kimberly Vaughn was one of ten people killed during a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in May 2018, Hart has made it her mission to lobby for gun violence prevention. 

Hart is now an active member of the non-partisan group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

"The three points that we really focus on are universal background checks, what safe storage is and red flag laws, or extreme risk protection orders," added Hart. She has also connected with a number of lawmakers to push for legislative change, including Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, who co-sponsored House Resolution 8, a bipartisan measure introduced in Congress in January that would enforce universal background checks for all gun sales. 

In fact, Hart sat in on Wednesday's hearing as members of the House Judiciary Committee, like Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, discussed the bill in front of survivors and families from Parkland and Santa Fe, the sites of two of the deadliest school shootings from 2018. 

"I was brought to tears hearing some of their remarks," said U.S. Rep. Garcia. She also said this was the first time in eight years that Congress has held a hearing on gun control. The push has become a high priority since the Democrats took over the House majority after the mid-term elections. 

"This is the first time in years that Congress has really seriously looked at universal background checks, ending some of the loopholes we have and doing everything that we can to stop gun violence in America," added Rep. Garcia.

Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo was also at Wednesday's hearing in Washington, D.C., as a witness pushing for HR-8 to pass. Chief Acevedo has been vocal about cracking down on gun violence and decreasing crimes rates across the board.

"I do believe the legislation will save at least one life," said Acevedo. "And if it's my child who dies, I want him to know and I want God to know that I was here speaking on that life."

"A lot of the mass shootings here that have occurred recently, those people didn't need to have guns in the first place," said Hart. "Yes, there are responsible owners but especially in the Santa Fe case, they probably didn't need to have one in their house."

Garcia said she expects the bill to pass. If it does, it will move along to the U.S. Senate next where Republicans still hold the majority.

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