June 15, 2022

Durbin Delivers Opening Statement at Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on the Impact of Gun Violence on Children

Witnesses include 19-year old from Chicago who grew up surrounded by gun violence, including losing his best friend to a fatal gun wound as a teenager

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Protecting America’s Children From Gun Violence.”  This is the ninth hearing that the Judiciary Committee has held in the 117th Congress on aspects of the nation’s gun violence epidemic.

Key Quotes:

“Today, the Committee will consider the terrible reality that guns have now become the leading cause of death for children in America. Not auto accidents. Not cancer. Guns.” 

“No aspect of this crisis is more important than its impact on our children. Protecting our kids has to be our most solemn obligation as lawmakers. So what can we do? First, we need to admit that this is a problem with a solution.  For too long, gun tragedies have been met with inaction in Washington.  But when we are talking about the number one killer of kids in America, we can’t just shrug our shoulders and say there’s nothing we can do.” 

“I’m glad that there is now a bipartisan deal on a framework for reform that would help save lives and better protect our kids… This framework doesn’t include everything I want, but it’s made of reforms that Americans overwhelmingly support.  Proposals such as keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, like convicted felons and domestic abusers.  When they shoot, kids too often end up the targets or caught in the crossfire. That’s why we need reforms like better background checks, support for state crisis intervention order, or ‘red flag,’ laws, and tougher laws to crack down on straw purchasing and gun trafficking.”

“But every shooting—whether it happens in a school in Texas or in a neighborhood in Chicago—leaves ripple effects across the community particularly for the kids who witness the violence, who endure the loss of a loved one, or who live in constant fear they might be the next victim.”

“Often, this trauma ends up fueling the cycle of violence.  Decades of neuro-science tell us that when kids witness a shooting, it can harm their developing brain—and make it harder for kids to form healthy relationships, regulate their emotions, and resolve conflicts. Helping children cope with traumatic experiences is vital to breaking the cycle of violence.  That’s why I’ve joined with Senator Capito to introduce bipartisan legislation, the RISE from Trauma Act, to deliver services in schools and communities to address trauma.”

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: after every horrific shooting, there is a debate over whether one reform or another could have prevented the last shooting.  But that misses the point.  It’s too late to prevent the last shooting.  We need to act to prevent the next shooting.  When it comes to gun violence and kids, we need to treat this like the public health crisis it is: study the risks, identify precautions and interventions that work, and apply them.”

Gunfire is now the leading cause of death among American children and teens, and an entire generation of children is being traumatized by horrific mass shootings and the daily toll of gun homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020, the most recent year statistics are available, 4,368 American babies, children and teens died from gunfire.  That’s 12 kids every day—an increase of nearly 30 percent over the previous year.  As Congress debates reforms following the May 24 massacre of 19 fourth-graders and two teachers in Uvalde, this hearing will discuss both the devastating impact of gunfire on child victims as well as the trauma that children suffer when they are injured by gun violence, witnesses to gun violence, or exposed to gun violence in their homes and communities.  The hearing will discuss solutions that would help prevent shootings of children and support those whose childhood is scarred by gun violence.

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.

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