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Durbin Delivers Opening Statement in Judiciary Committee Hearing on Public Safety & Gun Safety Laws in a Post-Bruen America

Today’s hearing will examine how the new standard set by the Bruen decision is endangering public safety as the country faces a gun violence epidemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled, “Protecting Public Safety After New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.”  The hearing focuses on the radical new standard for the constitutionality of modern-day gun safety laws set by the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen in 2022.  With that decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutionality of modern-day gun safety laws depends on whether the government can demonstrate that there were sufficiently similar historical gun laws in place at the time of the adoption of the Second Amendment in 1791 or the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868.

Today’s hearing is the first Judiciary Committee hearing in the 118th Congress on the gun violence epidemic, following the 11 hearings that were held in the 117th Congress on commonsense steps to reduce gun violence. 

Key quotes:

“On March 1, Officer Vásquez Lasso responded to a 911 call about a domestic violence incident.  When he arrived on the scene, the suspect fled and a chase ensued. The suspect had a gun, and when he ran onto an elementary school playground, he turned and fired it five times while children took cover under a slide nearby.  Officer Vásquez Lasso was killed.”

“Law enforcement officers, emergency responders, social services workers, community leaders, and teachers.  These are increasingly dangerous jobs, in part because there are more guns than people in this country and hundreds of Americans get shot every day.”

“We owe it to these Americans to pass laws that will help protect them from being shot and killed.  I believe that well-regulated firearm ownership to keep Americans safe is consistent with the Second Amendment.”

“But we’re up against a gun lobby that wants to strike down the gun laws on the books and stop new ones from passing.  And that brings us to the Bruen case.”

“The courts said gun safety laws passed muster under Heller’s two-step test that both looked at history and considered modern-day ends and means.  That was just too much for the gun lobby to take.  So they went to work.”

“And then, as I feared, the gun lobby worked to get a case before the Supreme Court—the Bruen case.  Last year the Court’s majority went further than necessary to decide the case and established a new, purely historical test for considering the constitutionality of gun laws.”

“Under the new Bruen historical test, judges decide not whether a law reasonably protects public safety, but whether the law resembles laws that were in place in 1791 or in 1868.  In the beginning, in 1791, we are talking about muzzle-loading muskets.”

“I think about drawing that standard – legality and constitutionality based on 1791.  I think about last Fourth of July in Highland Park, Illinois, when a deranged individual went on the roof of a downtown business and discharged 83 rounds in 60 seconds, killing seven innocent people and injuring dozens of others, including paralyzing an eight-year-old little boy, Cooper Roberts.”

“The chaos that the Bruen decision has caused was predictable.  For 15 years, courts had been steadily applying the Heller decision to make reasoned judgments about gun laws on the books.”

“Now the Supreme Court has imposed a radical new framework, under Judge Thomas’ decision, with barely any guidance to apply it and plenty of opportunity for judges to cherry-pick from history to engage in judicial activism in the name of originalism.”

“The gun lobby saw Bruen as a landmark win.  But it’s a significant challenge for police and law enforcement, when it comes to public safety.  That’s what we’ll discuss today.”

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.