Durbin Discusses Devastating Impact of Gun Violence During National Gun Violence Awareness Day

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today held a news conference with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and medical officials from Cook County Health to discuss the devastating impacts that gun violence has on victims and communities. Durbin thanked the medical staff at Cook County’s John H. Stroger Hospital for their heroic efforts to save victims of gun violence, while highlighting the need for Congress to enact common sense gun safety reforms and address the emotional trauma from witnessing violence.  The news conference took place on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, as Americans are wearing orange in honor of gun violence victims including Hadiya Pendleton, who was tragically shot and killed at age 15 in Harsh Park in 2013.  The month of June is National Gun Violence Awareness Month.

“The damage inflicted by assault weapons like AR-15s on human bodies is horrific,” Durbin said. “These are weapons of war that are used in mass shootings around the country. Congress must act on common sense reforms to close gaps in our gun laws and help protect our kids and our communities from the next shooting. We need to identify the biggest risks and threats and act to reduce them. We also need to continue to address an entire generation of children who are being traumatized by our nation’s gun violence epidemic.”

“As a Black woman, a mother, a former teacher and an American, the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde and Tulsa, and the ongoing violence plaguing our communities is very personal,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Awareness is not enough. We will continue to address the systemic factors that led to this crisis and advocate for effective gun safety policies at all levels of government.”

“Guns are now the leading cause of death for children, surpassing motor vehicle deaths in 2020 for the first time,” Cook County Health CEO Israel Rocha, Jr, said. “We cannot, as a nation, let this trend go unaddressed.”

“Sadly, as much as our medicine to repair gunshot wounds has advanced, so too have the guns and the bullets,” Cook County Health Chair of Trauma Dr. Faran Bokhari said. “We can work to repair the injuries left by a typical hand gun but bullets from semi-automatic or assault rifles can leave damage so extensive it is impossible to repair.

On June 15, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on gun violence and kids. Gunfire became the leading cause of death among American children and teens (age 19 and under), according to recently-released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. A total of 4,368 American youth died in 2020 from gun violence (homicides, suicides and accidents)—a nearly 30 percent increase from 2019. The number of youth gun deaths passed the number of youth motor vehicle deaths for the first time in 2020. There have been at least 233 mass shootings in which four or more people are shot thus far this year in just 154 days—more than one mass shooting per day.

Last week, Durbin announced $7 million in federal funding available for trauma support services in schools, part of a new grant program Durbin authored in 2018.  Durbin is also working to pass the RISE from Trauma Act, bipartisan legislation with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), to increase trauma-informed care in our communities.

For the past three years, Durbin has also convened the Chicago HEAL Initiative.  Launched in 2018 by Durbin and 10 of the largest hospitals serving Chicago, including Cook County Health, the HEAL Initiative is a collaboration to address the root causes of gun violence through economic, health, and community projects in 18 of Chicago’s neighborhoods with the highest rates of violence, poverty, and inequality.