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The mother of a survivor of the mass shooting at Buffalo, New York, grocery store testified before Congress Wednesday that America is “inherently violent,” telling lawmakers, “This is who we are” as a nation stretching back to the introduction of slavery.
Zeneta B. Everhart, a Buffalo native, former TV news producer and currently the Director of Diversity & Inclusion for the office of Democratic New York state Sen. Tim Kennedy, recounted before the House Oversight and Reform Committee receiving the call from her son that he had been shot on May 14.
“Domestic terrorism exists in this country for three reasons. America is inherently violent, access to guns is as easy as buying a piece of bubble gum from the store, and we have an inadequate education system,” she told lawmakers. “America is inherently violent. This is who we are as a nation.”
Everhart argued that “the very existence of this country was founded on violence, hate and racism, with the near annihilation of my Native brothers and sisters.”
“My ancestors, brought to America through the slave trade were the first currency of America, let me say that again for the people in the back, my ancestors, the first currency of America were stripped of their heritage and culture, separated from their families, bargained for on auction blocks, sold, beaten, raped and lynched,” Everhart said. “Yet I continuously hear after every mass shooting that this is not who we are as Americans and as a nation. Hear me clearly, this is exactly who and what America is.”
“As a citizen of this country, I believe in the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. However, no citizen walking the streets needs an AR-15,” she added. “Let me say that again for the people in the back. No citizen needs an AR-15. These weapons are designed to do the most harm in the least amount of time.”
She called on legislators to enact “common sense” gun legislation to protect children and citizens.
“To the lawmakers who feel that we do not need stricter gun laws let me paint a picture for you: My son Zaire has a hole in the right side of his neck, two on his back and another on his leg caused by an exploding bullet from an AR-15,” Everhart said. “As I clean his wounds, I can feel pieces of that bullet in his back. Shrapnel will be left inside of his body for the rest of his life. Now I want you to picture this exact scenario for one of your children. This should NOT be my life or yours.”
Everhart recalled how a “racist terrorist” opened fire at Tops Friendly Market in her historically Black neighborhood on May 14 where her 21-year-old son, Zaire Mysaun Goodman, has been employed since the summer of 2020 when he took the job at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said she was shopping elsewhere at a BJ’s when Goodman called to say he had been shot, and his grandmother, who home just down the block at the time, raced over to see “bodies everywhere.”
But Goodman was already being rushed by ambulance to Erie County Medical Center, where Everhart said she “pleaded with the nurses to let me see my son.” Eventually she and Goodman’s father were allowed in to see him, and she said they, “drove home from the hospital just four hours after a bullet tore through the lower right side of his neck and through his back.”
The shooting ultimately killed three and wounded 11 other people, including Goodman.