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Durbin Questions Public Health Experts During Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on Gun Violence as a Public Health Crisis

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned public health experts during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “The Gun Violence Epidemic: A Public Health Crisis.”  The hearing featured expert testimony on specific public health initiatives that have recently shown promise in reducing gun violence, such as Chair Durbin’s Chicago HEAL Initiative.  In 2022, there were more than 48,000 firearm-related deaths in the United States.  More than half of firearm-related deaths were suicides, and more than four out of every 10 were homicides.  Guns are now the number one cause of death for American kids and teens.

“Is there anything more important than knowing that little boy or little girl that you sent to school this morning is safe in a classroom and does not have to hide under his desk in an active shooter drill and exercise?  That gets down to the basics.  If you want to know about the safety of your family, it starts with knowledge that when a child goes to school, they are going to come home safe at the end of the day.  If you cannot answer that affirmatively, what are the rest of the questions worth?  This to me is a fundamental public health issue… it involves death by a gunshot.  It is going on in America every single day.  We have a responsibility to do something,” Durbin said.

Durbin first questioned Dr. Franklin Cosey-Gay, Director of the Violence Recovery Program at University of Chicago Medicine, and Vaughn Bryant, Executive Director of Metropolitan Peace Initiatives in Chicago, about the impact of gun violence on young people.  Durbin recalled a meeting he had at Anne & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, where he met with victims of gun violence who had grown up in homes and communities facing trauma, poverty, and upheaval. 

“Can we reach young people who have gone through those experiences and turn their lives around from violence?” Durbin asked.

Dr. Cosey-Gay emphasized that it is important for people who have experienced difficult situations to connect with others who have been through similar experiences.  Dr. Cosey-Gay responded “we need to uplift the role trauma plays in our society… When it comes to addressing issues connected to trauma, you have to understand the role of trust.  Having individuals who understand that life [one exposed to gun violence] is an important first step.”

Bryant responded that it is equally important for young people to work with trained experts in the mental health field paired with people with similar experiences, as Dr. Cosey-Gay stated. 

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here for TV Stations.

The hearing continued Durbin’s and the Committee’s efforts to curb the gun violence epidemic.  Last summer, the Senate passed and President Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most significant gun violence prevention reform in nearly three decades.  Since, Durbin held a full committee hearing on public safety and gun safety laws in a post-Bruen America, filed an amicus brief in opposition to legal challenges in U.S. v. Rahimi, and introduced legislation to curb firearms trafficking enabled by weak American gun laws, among other efforts.