Durbin Calls On Senate To Ban Military-Style Assault Weapons Following Highland Park Hearing

Durbin: our kids are being schooled in survival

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on his colleagues to ban military-style assault weapons that can be used to kill large numbers of people in mere seconds. Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Independence Day Parade mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois – the 309th mass shooting this year. The hearing was the Judiciary Committee’s tenth hearing held in the 117th Congress on addressing the nation’s gun violence epidemic. Gun violence is the number one cause of death for America’s children. By the time of yesterday’s hearing, sixteen days after the Highland Park attack, there had been 356 mass shootings  - nearly 50 more mass shootings in just 16 days.

Durbin said, “In many of the deadliest of these shootings, the attacker used an assault weapon—a gun specifically designed to kill the maximum number of people in a few seconds.  The same weapon we saw in Uvalde, Texas, where kids were killed, the same weapon used in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and sadly the same weapon that was used in Highland Park. During that 4th of July parade in Highland Park, a deranged gunman perched himself on a rooftop and used a Smith & Wesson assault rifle to kill seven people and wound dozens. He shot 83 rounds in less than a minute. Let me say that again: 83 rounds. Less than a minute.”

During his speech, Durbin shared the stories of Kevin and Irina McCarthy, two victims in the Highland Park shooting, who left behind their two-year-old son, Aiden. Aiden is now an orphan.

“Kevin and Irina McCarthy brought Aiden to the parade, his first parade, and then when the shooting started, they shielded him with their bodies,” Durbin continued. “In a matter of minutes, Aiden lost both of his parents. That's the reality when a parent has to shield a child like this from a mass shooting.”

Durbin also praised Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, who testified at yesterday’s hearing. When the shooting started, she thought it was a drum cadence from the local marching band, but when she realized it was an active shooter, she evacuated the crowd.

Durbin continued, “The children and the teens at the Highland Park parade instinctively knew what was happening because they had been trained in their schools to deal with mass shooting. That's how common these mass shootings have become. These kids, our kids, our grandkids are being schooled not just in the ABC's, but they're being schooled in survival so if a shooter shows up in the classroom, they know what to do to try to survive. Mayor Rotering told our Committee the children are frightened to go back to school, they're frightened to play outside. Many never want to go to a parade again, for the rest of their lives. [The Mayor continued] ‘fear of a shooter is not normal, but now in Highland Park, Illinois, and so many other communities, it is the new normal. It can't be said enough that mass shootings with assault weapons are a uniquely American phenomenon.’”

Durbin also highlighted the story of Cooper Roberts, an 8-year-old boy who suffered many injuries during the shooting. He is still in the ICU fighting for his life. Durbin also criticized the companies who make assault weapons, including Smith & Wesson, Mossberg, Bushmaster, and Daniel Defense, noting that these manufacturers have launched ad campaigns marketing their assault weapons like they’re fashion accessories.

“That is the type of weapon that shot Cooper Roberts, that killed the parents of Aidan McCarthy. How is it being marketed? A symbol of independence and freedom,” said Durbin. “The manufacturers of these weapons should be ashamed of what's happening across America. It's time for us to name and shame these companies. It's time to hold them accountable for the devastation that they make possible.”

Durbin disputed claims by his Republican colleagues that the way to prevent these mass shootings is to arm more civilians. In one survey of 433 active shooter attacks, 22 were stopped by a ‘good guy with a gun,’ about five percent.

“So are we going to continue this American tradition of mass shootings? Sadly, we will, unless this body, this Senate decides that it's worth the fight, worth the political debate. After Highland Park, count me in. I want to be on the record of saying it's time to put an end to these assault rifles, these weapons of war, which have sadly taken so many innocent lives, like poor Aiden McCarthy's parents and five others who died in Highland Park. I hope for our children's sake that we don't run away from this problem. The people in Highland Park had to run away from their 4th of July parade, and now they're counting on us to stand up and face it squarely,” Durbin concluded.

Last month, the Senate passed and the President signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. While there were many significant provisions in the bill to combat gun violence, it did not include restrictions on assault weapons.

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.