July 27, 2022

Durbin: To Support Law Enforcement, We Must Support Efforts to Reduce Gun Violence

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin reflects on yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the threat America’s gun violence epidemic poses to law enforcement and his new legislation, the Officer Ella French Task Force Support Act

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today spoke about yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Law Enforcement Officer Safety: Protecting Those Who Protect and Serve.” During his speech, Durbin shared the story of a fallen hero: Chicago Police Department Officer Ella French.

“Officer French joined the Chicago Police Department in 2018. A true public servant, she was always eager to help,” Durbin said. “Last year, tragically, Officer French was shot down during a traffic stop. She was 29 years old… The gun that was used to shoot both [her and her partner] had been straw purchased in Indiana, a state adjoining Illinois. A straw purchase takes place when someone without a criminal record who can pass a background check buys a gun for someone who cannot. In this case, the purchaser was turning the gun over to a convicted felon who used the gun to kill Ella and seriously wound her partner.”

Durbin continued, “Every time law enforcement officers put on their uniforms and badges, they put their lives on the line, especially in a country that is now awash in guns. America: a country of 350 million people and 400 million firearms. In fact, guns are not only the number one cause of death for America's children, they're a leading cause of death for officers in the line of duty, second only to COVID.”

During his speech, Durbin highlighted his new legislation to help protect law enforcement officers and communities from gun violence: the Officer Ella Grace French Task Force Support Act of 2022. As demonstrated by the gun used to kill Officer French, firearms trafficking and straw purchasing frequently take place across state and jurisdictional boundaries.  The new legislation will fund multi-jurisdictional task forces that coordinate efforts between Federal, State, Tribal, territorial, and local agencies to investigate and disrupt this criminal activity.  Such task forces can include, but are not limited to, the regional strike forces established by the Department of Justice in July, 2021, as part of the Department’s Comprehensive Violent Crime Reduction Strategy

Durbin concluded, “We've made some progress in recent months in reducing the risk of gun violence for police officers and their families. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act included a provision I’ve long supported: cracking down on those straw purchases like the gun that was used to kill this amazing young woman. We still have a lot of work to do. Yesterday I introduced legislation—and I named it in Officer French's honor—that would provide funding to multi-jurisdictional task forces to combat straw purchasing: the Officer Ella Grace French Task Force Support Act… I hope every Senator who prides themselves in supporting law enforcement will join me in this legislation. I can think of no better way to honor the service and sacrifice of our officers, to protect our families and our children, and to demonstrate to America that this Senate is serious about stemming the tide of gun violence in our country.”

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.