Durbin Calls On Senate To Ban Assault Weapons From Civilian Use

On July 20, Durbin will chair a Judiciary Committee hearing on the dangers of widespread civilian access to military-style assault weapons that can be used to kill large numbers of people in mere seconds

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today told the story of 8-year-old Cooper Roberts, who attended the Independence Day Parade in Highland Park, Illinois, with his parents and twin brother, Luke. When a gunman used a military-style assault rifle to fire more than 80 rounds into the crowd, Cooper was shot and paralyzed.

“This poor little boy's situation is a reflection on what assault rifles can do to the human body,” said Durbin. “The assault rifle, the AR-15, and those in the same class are not your ordinary firearms. They discharge their bullets and ammunition at two to three times the velocity of an ordinary firearm. And when that ammunition hits the body of a person, it starts tumbling and tearing apart the body as it goes through. Cooper, this 8-year-old boy, had his spinal cord severed by a bullet... Sadly, the family reported yesterday that he’s back in critical condition at the University of Chicago’s Comer Children's Hospital.”

Cooper and others in Highland Park were shot with a military-style Smith & Wesson M&P15 semiautomatic rifle—the 309th mass shooting this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Yesterday, Durbin met with residents of Highland Park who came to Washington to plead with Congress to rein in military-style assault weapons that are being made readily available for civilian use in this country. The Highland Park families were also joined by a group from Uvalde, Texas, who brought pictures of the 19 children murdered at Robb Elementary School earlier this year.

“The point that they were making to us, and to everyone, is: this is madness—to allow individuals to have this type of weapon who are not members of the military, not policemen—and to use these weapons on other Americans is unthinkable,” Durbin said. “What in the world is America thinking to believe this has something to do with a constitutional right? A constitutional right? What were Cooper's constitutional rights to go to a parade on the Fourth of July in Highland Park and come home safely? Where was the respect for them?”

Durbin continued, “I think it’s time for us to focus on the reality of mass shootings in America… It is impossible for me to believe that we can do nothing to deal with this. The families from Highland Park and Uvalde, Texas, were shaking their head[s] as I explained to them the problems with the filibuster rules in the Senate. Do you think a filibuster rule makes a difference to this family of this wonderful little boy? They could care less about the rules of the Senate—and wonder why Congress can’t respond to this clear and present danger.”

On Wednesday, July 20, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing—its tenth hearing in the 117th Congress on aspects of the nation’s gun violence epidemic—focused on the dangers of widespread civilian access to military-style assault weapons that can be used to kill large numbers of people in mere seconds.

Durbin concluded, “We came to our senses to pass a gun safety bill after Uvalde… But let’s go further—and be honest about this. There is no need for anyone to own this military-style weapon… What would our argument be if someone said ‘I want to buy a grenade launcher? I think I have Second Amendment rights to own one.’ We’d say to him “That’s ridiculous. Grenades are for war.’ Well, these military weapons are for war as well, and I don’t believe they should be sold in the country. I believe the military assault weapon ban that I voted for in 1994 was the right thing to do… We should have extended it… There were far fewer deaths from mass shootings… It’s time for us to step up, accept our responsibilities of office, and protect children like Cooper Roberts.” 

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.