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Durbin Reads Out Death Tolls of Deadliest Mass Shootings in Last Decade, Calls on Colleagues to Pass Gun Safety Legislation in Wake of Nashville School Shooting

In speech on the Senate floor, Durbin calls for banning of high capacity magazines, emphasizes horrors of mass shootings

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today took to the Senate floor to discuss the devastating toll of mass shootings and the dangers of failing to implement proper gun safety legislation to regulate the ownership of assault weapons, including AR-15s.  Durbin spoke about the heartbreak the families and community of the Nashville school shooting are feeling after a shooter killed three children and three adults earlier this week.

“The events this week in Nashville, Tennessee, are still fresh in our minds.  The thought that a shooter went on the campus of a Christian school, a school for children, little children, this person who went on that campus blasted her way into the building and then took the lives of three, nine-year-old children and three adults… It is heartbreaking to think that we are reliving this scene over and over again where our children who are sent by their loving parents off to school, lunches in hand, never came home,” Durbin began.  “Never came home.”

Durbin recalled that the mass shooting in Nashville was committed with an AR-15, like many other mass shootings in the U.S.  Durbin then referenced a Washington Post editorial, quoting the Editorial Board’s message that emphasized how unsurprising the reports of mass shootings are because of the lack of regulation on assault weapons.

“The Washington Post had an editorial which touched me personally… I’ll quote from it.  The Editorial Board wrote, ‘These attacks are always heart-wrenching, but they’re not surprising anymore – neither the massacres themselves nor the weapons used to carry them out.  Ten of the 17 deadliest mass killings in the United States since 2012 involve AR-15s.  The names of the towns and cities where these tragedies took place have become all too familiar: Newtown, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, Parkland, Uvalde, and beyond,’” Durbin said.

Citing the editorial’s chart, Durbin spelled out the death tolls of some of the deadliest mass shootings since 2012.  In ten of the 17 deadliest mass shootings over the last eleven years, the shooter used an AR-15.

“I’m going to read the names of these communities into the record, as they should be,” Durbin continued. “Las Vegas, Nevada, 2017, an AR-15 was used, 60 people were killed… Newton, Connecticut, Sandy Hook Elementary School, 2012.  The shooter had an AR-15.  The shooter killed 27 people, including those beautiful little children.”

“[In Highland Park], Fourth of July, 2022, an AR-15, seven killed, dozens wounded, including an eight-year-old boy who will be paralyzed for life.  These are the realities of the AR-15 as it is being used.  It was designed to do just this, kill massive numbers of people, of human beings,” Durbin emphasized.

Durbin reiterated the editorial’s statistics that the AR-15 has risen in popularity, despite the outrageous death toll of mass shootings.

“‘One in 20 U.S. adults own at least one AR-15…That’s roughly 16 million people, storing roughly 20 million guns designed to mow down enemies on the battlefield with brutal efficiency,’” Durbin quoted.  “‘The rifle fires very small bullets at very fast speeds.  The projectiles don’t move straight and smooth through targets like those from a traditional handgun.  Their velocity turns them unstable upon penetration so that they tumble through flesh and vital organs.’”

The editorial goes on to describe what an AR-15 bullet is designed to do to its targets in graphic detail.  Acknowledging that the details, placed in the context of school shootings that claimed the lives of children, would be gruesome to share, Durbin stressed the devastation assault weapons are designed to inflict.

“I thought long and hard about reading the next two or sentences in the Washington Post editorial on the floor of the Senate.  I'm not going to read them,” Durbin said.  “Because they spell out in a few words, but in graphic detail what happens to the body of a child when it's struck by bullets from one of these military-style  assault weapons.  I can't bring myself to think one of the parents might be listening to the Senate proceeding and have to relive the horror of the moment.  Let’s suffice to say that what happens is devastating and horrible to any human body, but certainly to the body of a small child,” Durbin continued.

Durbin returned to the editorial, reading aloud sober statistics about how many rounds a military-style assault weapon can fire off in a matter of seconds.  The editorial cites the 2019 shooting in Dayton, Ohio, where the shooter was able to hit more than two dozen people with 41 bullets in a matter of 32 seconds because of the 100-round magazine his assault weapon was equipped with.  The Washington Post concluded in its analysis that potentially six of the nine lives lost in that shooting could have been saved if the shooter had used a 15-round magazine, which would have forced him to reload twice in order to send off the same number of bullets. 

“There should be a ban on these high capacity magazines.  It’s hard to imagine that you can listen to these numbers and the devastation of these weapons and imagine someone rationalizing that when our Founding Fathers sat down so long ago to write the Second Amendment they envisioned what we are facing today in Nashville, Tennessee, in Highland Park, Illinois,” Durbin said.

“To think that the United States of America accepts this as part of our constitutional right, our constitutional responsibility to own a weapon, a mass-killing weapon like the AR-15.  That virtually one out of four guns manufactured in this country today are AR-15 weapons. Are we out of our minds to let this happen? To let children in Nashville, children in Connecticut, children be victimized or anyone to be victimized by these [guns] at a Fourth of July parade or wherever it happens to be…Why in the world does an individual need an AR-15, particularly with a high capacity magazine?” Durbin continued.

Durbin concluded his floor speech by calling on Americans to hold their lawmakers accountable for their position on gun safety legislation.  While he expressed his own support for banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, Durbin noted that the filibuster and a Republican-controlled House of Representatives will prove to be a challenge in passing legislation.

“What are we going to do about it?  Obviously, the question is what's next?  I will tell you what's next.  The American people are next. If they're fed up with the situation, as I am, and I know many of them are, they have to make it a condition when they vote for members of Congress.  Currently the House of Representatives is under the control of the Republican party.  The likelihood that they'll consider any gun safety legislation is minimal,” Durbin explained.

“I will tell you, as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I am sorry we don't have the votes now to act.  We need to do it, not just for the great people of this nation, but also for their children and grandchildren,” Durbin concluded.

As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Durbin held a hearing on the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen earlier this month.  In the 117th Congress, the Judiciary Committee held 11 hearings about commonsense steps to reduce gun violence, including a hearing centered on the mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois.

Last Congress, Durbin was a strong supporter of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which cracks down on straw purchasing, expands background checks for buyers under 21 years of age, takes steps to close the “boyfriend loophole,” supports state red flag laws, and offers billions in funding for counseling, mental health, and trauma support for victims of gun violence. While the bipartisan legislation was a starting point for gun reform, Durbin is a staunch advocate for the assault weapons ban and additional gun safety measures.

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.