Durbin Joins Colleagues To Introduce New Legislation To Help Break The Cycle Of Urban Gun Violence

Bill Would Create Nationwide Strategy To Build Safer Communities And Save Lives By Investing In Evidence-Based Violence Reduction Initiatives

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to introduce new legislation to reduce urban gun violence in American cities.  The Break the Cycle of Violence Act would provide federal grants to communities for evidence-based gun violence intervention and prevention programs designed to interrupt cycles of violence.

“In Chicago and communities across the country, people are experiencing gun violence on a daily basis.  Just last weekend, forty people in Chicago were shot, five fatally,” Durbin said.  “But legislation like the Break the Cycle of Violence Act could help change this reality.  It would provide crucial investments and federal resources for community-based violence intervention and prevention programs, which have been proven to reduce gun violence.  It is time for my Republican colleagues to join us in working to end the gun violence epidemic.”

Research has shown that a combination of community-oriented intervention programs and commonsense gun violence prevention policies can cut gun violence rates in urban areas in half in as little as two years.  In our nation’s urban centers, homicide rates are nearly 10 times the national average and have a disproportionate impact on young people of color.  In fact, African-American men, who make up just six percent of the U.S. population, account for 51 percent of all homicide victims.  From 2012 to 2017, African-American children and teens were 14 times as likely to be shot to death as their white peers.  Hispanic and Native American children and teens were both nearly three times as likely to be shot to death as their white peers.

While the human cost of gun violence is agonizing, the economic costs for communities and taxpayers are similarly staggering.  Gun violence costs the United States $229 billion every year—with each American bearing $700 of this cost annually.  A single gun homicide costs taxpayers $448,000 in medical and criminal justice expenses. 

The grants would be used to implement the following violence reduction initiatives:

  • Hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIP) that provide intensive counseling, peer support, case management, mediation, and social services to patients recovering from gunshot wounds and other violent injuries.  Research has shown that violently injured patients are at high risk of retaliating with violence themselves and being re-victimized by violence in the near future.  Evaluations of HVIPs have found that patients who received HVIP services were four times less likely to be convicted of a violent crime and roughly four times less likely to be subsequently reinjured by violence than patients who did not receive HVIP services.
  • Evidence-based street outreach programs that treat gun violence as a communicable disease and work to interrupt its transmission among community members.  These public health-centered initiatives use street outreach workers to build relationships with high-risk individuals in their communities and connect them with intensive counseling, mediation, peer support, and social services in order to reduce their risk of violence.  Evaluations have found that these programs are associated with significant reductions in gun violence, with some sites reporting up to 70 percent reductions in homicides or assaults.
  • Group violence intervention strategies, which are a form of problem-oriented policing that provides targeted social services and support to individuals at highest risk for involvement in community violence, and a process for community members to voice a clear demand for the violence to stop.  This strategy also communicates that there will be swift accountability for those who continue to perpetrate violence.  This approach coordinates law enforcement, service providers, and community engagement efforts to reduce violence among a small, identifiable segment of the population that is responsible for the vast majority of gun violence in most cities. 

Organizations that have endorsed the Break the Cycle of Violence Act include: African American Mayors Association; Amnesty International; American Public Health Association; Brady; Giffords: Courage to Prevent Gun Violence; National Black and Brown Gun Violence Prevention Consortium; Cure Violence; National Network for Safe Communities; Health Alliance for Violence Intervention.

Last year, Durbin and 10 of the largest hospitals serving Chicago launched the Chicago Hospital Engagement, Action, and Leadership (HEAL) Initiative, which is a collaboration aiming to reduce violence and improve health in Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods.  Recognizing their roles as the leading employers, the hospitals are making tangible commitments on actions—outside of their traditional health care roles—to uplift their communities.

Earlier this year, Durbin and U.S. Representative Danny Davis (D-IL-07) introduced the RISE from Trauma Act (Resilience Investment, Support, and Expansion).  The bipartisan legislation seeks to increase support for children who have been exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and trauma, such as witnessing violence, parental addiction, or abuse.  Expanding upon a GAO report, the legislation will also help to build the trauma informed workforce and increase resources for communities to support children who have experienced trauma.