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The House passed new gun measures after heart wrenching testimony from survivors

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll gives Americans' views on guns and gun violence. Most said it was more important to address violence than to protect any perceived threat to gun rights. The House voted yesterday to ban sales of high-capacity magazines and to raise the minimum age for buying semiautomatic weapons to 21. In some states, it's 18. The measures cleared the House after committee testimony from people who've experienced the effects of gun violence. Kimberly Rubio talked about losing her daughter Lexi in the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIMBERLY RUBIO: We understand that for some reason, to some people - to people with money, to people who fund political campaigns - that guns are more important than children. So at this moment we ask for progress.

INSKEEP: Greg Jackson Jr. also testified before the House Oversight Committee. He is executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund, and he joins us now. Good morning, sir.

GREGORY JACKSON JR: Hey, good morning.

INSKEEP: What was it like to be in the room for that kind of testimony?

JACKSON: Oh, I mean, heartbreaking and just to see so much pain in those who have been directly impacted - we had survivors from Buffalo, Uvalde and other forms of gun violence, you know, across the country, all in one room, pouring their heart out before the members and then hearing the members really debate something that's life or death for so many Americans.

INSKEEP: When you say people who have been affected by gun violence, do you count yourself among them?

JACKSON: I do. I'm a survivor of gun violence. I was shot on April 21 of 2013, unfortunately.

INSKEEP: What happened?

JACKSON: Actually, I was walking home. You know, I was walking home, and there was two folks having an altercation, and it turned into gunfire. And I was shot as an innocent bystander. And the bullet that hit me hit two arteries, and I nearly bled to death. My recovery took 21 days in the hospital, six surgeries and about six months to learning how to walk again and get back to some form of normal.

INSKEEP: I'm interested by your description as - of yourself as an innocent bystander. One of the arguments, of course, about gun violence is that if people had more guns, they could defend themselves. I'm not sure that would apply in your case. Would it have applied in your case?

JACKSON: Definitely not. You know, I think people don't realize with gun violence, it happens so fast. And in so many situations, you know, folks who are just walking by or standing by or unfortunately, folks like Pamela Thomas in D.C., who was shot while driving - you know, a lot of us are losing our lives and being harmed without being a part of the initial situation that led to violence.

INSKEEP: What would you like to change?

JACKSON: Well, I think there's a lot we can change. But most importantly, we need to acknowledge this as a public health crisis. And with every other public health crisis, we've seen a public health response that includes resources for victim services and those directly impacted. It also includes a real policy change that reduces the risk factors of violence. And a lot of that was what we saw in the package that was voted on yesterday. But we need that comprehensive strategy and plan that addresses the hardware and, frankly, the oversaturation of guns in our communities, as well as resources to help the 100,000 people every year that are directly impacted by gun violence and are traumatized forever.

INSKEEP: Let me give you a chance to address people on the other side of this. We know that certain kinds of gun regulation are constitutional. The reason we know that is because Antonin Scalia, a conservative justice revered by conservatives, authored a gun decision in 2008 which actually threw out a gun regulation, but also said that reasonable regulations are OK - acknowledged, in effect, that reasonable regulations are OK. So we don't need to discuss that it's constitutional. And yet critics of gun control claim that any gun control is unconstitutional. And what they really seem to mean, I think, is that it's a slippery slope. If you start allowing any gun regulation, you will end up having all gun regulation or taking away guns. How, if at all, would you reassure anyone who does have a right to firearms in America and does have that fear?

JACKSON: Yeah. I mean, this is not an attack on folks' right to hold a gun. We've seen very clearly that every part of the Constitution is pushing for your rights to be upheld within reason. You know, just like - we have the First Amendment. It still means you can't yell fire, you know, in a movie theater, and the same thing with guns. We know that people have the right to protect themselves and their family, but we don't have the right to bear arms that can decapitate people. You know, and unfortunately, we heard from the pediatrician yesterday during the hearing, you know, there was some of the children who were literally decapitated by the strength of these firearms. And that type of weaponry is not built for defense. It's not built for protecting your family. It's only built to destroy people in mass. And unfortunately, that's what's happening in too many of our communities across the country. So these regulations are just meant to keep these weapons within reason of protecting yourself, without arming those who mean to do harm, to destroy people and destroy entire communities.

INSKEEP: In about 30 seconds, would you say the measure passed yesterday by the House would have prevented a shooting like that in Uvalde?

JACKSON: It definitely would have prevented a shooting like that, and I think so many others in the past.

INSKEEP: Mr. Jackson, thanks very much for your time. I really appreciate it.

JACKSON: All right. Thank you.

INSKEEP: Greg Jackson, Jr. testified yesterday before a House committee just before the House passed some gun regulation measures. He heads the Community Justice Action Fund. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.