Durbin: Gun Trafficking Strike Force, Investments In Community Violence Prevention Programs, Needed In Chicago

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor about his time with Attorney General Merrick Garland in Chicago last Thursday to discuss several initiatives to address gun violence, including the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) implementation of a firearms trafficking strike force in the city. Durbin and Garland visited the Chicago Police Department (CPD) 11th District Office for a briefing about law enforcement efforts to investigate gun violence and homicides. Durbin and Garland then traveled to St. Agatha Church to meet with READI Chicago participants and hear how trauma-informed care is helping prevent the cycle of violence among at-risk individuals.

Over the weekend, more than 70 individuals were shot in Chicago and ten lost their lives, including a 17-year-old boy. 

“These strike forces will confront what I believe to be one of the most important causes of this gun violence – the illicit trafficking of guns,” Durbin said. “I'm grateful that Attorney General Garland returned to his hometown of Chicago for this purpose, but sadly it was a somber homecoming…These communities and these officers are keeping us [as] safe as they can, but they are up against an avalanche of guns. The grim toll of gun violence in Chicago continues to climb upward. The officers agreed with Attorney General Garland and myself: a major problem is that we have guns being illegally sold to people who never should have had them, who never would have passed a background check, [like] convicted felons or those who are mentally unstable.”

Durbin also spoke about the toll gun violence takes on innocent children. Many of these children are victims of trauma, and Durbin shared his experiences meeting with youth at READI.

“I spoke with a young man, whom I will call John. He's remarkably brave and after learning his story, one cannot ignore the similarities he shares with so many other young people in the city. He grew up in a struggling family. He sold drugs to earn money. Like many of his peers, he ended up carrying a gun and got involved with gang violence. He was arrested, convicted, and served time in prison. Then he came back to the community and wanted to start a different life. That's how he got involved with READI Chicago, where he's now a positive force for change in his home city. It's an inspiring story, but that young man, John, in his early 20's, still remains at risk. He fears that his advocacy on behalf of this program has put crosshairs on his back in the neighborhood and that his family may even be targeted as well. Every street corner in his neighborhood, every street he crosses comes with a risk,” Durbin said.

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.

In June, President Biden and Attorney General Garland announced that as part of the Administration’s comprehensive strategy to prevent and reduce gun crime, DOJ would launch five new law enforcement strike forces to combat illicit firearms trafficking into Chicago as well as four other cities.  The strike forces will coordinate federal, state, and local efforts to identify and dismantle firearms trafficking schemes.  Durbin has announced his support for the President’s efforts and for the creation of these strike forces.  Durbin is also an original cosponsor of bipartisan Senate legislation, the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act, that would strengthen federal laws against straw purchasing and illicit firearms trafficking.

Last month, Durbin introduced the bipartisan RISE from Trauma Act, which would support community-based efforts to break the cycle of violence and address trauma, such as through the work of READI.  READI is a large-scale trauma-informed initiative run by the Heartland Alliance that connects individuals most at-risk of gun violence involvement with cognitive behavioral therapy, paid transitional jobs, and wrap-around support services.  READI serves about 2,500 participants, primarily from Chicago’s South and West Sides, and READI has shown significant results in reducing arrests and shooting victimizations among its participants.