Durbin Marks 10th Anniversary Of Hadiya Pendleton’s Death, Calls Out Republicans For Attempts To Dismantle Existing Gun Safety Laws

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin railed against Senate Republicans’ plans to weaken the National Firearms Act, a gun safety law that has been in place since 1934

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed outside a park on the South Side when she was only 15 years old.  Stressing that gun deaths like Hadiya’s are far too common in America, Durbin went on to denounce Republican efforts to weaken gun safety laws. 

“It was ten years ago roughly when the [second] inauguration of Barack Obama took place…  There was a school class in Chicago that decided to send out the students and their band to march and to honor the President… It included in its ranks a young lady named Hadiya Pendleton.  After she witnessed that swearing in, she went back to Chicago.  Sadly, two weeks later she was senselessly shot down and killed on the South Side.  She was 15 years old,” Durbin began.  “Friday would have been her 26th birthday.” 

Last week, Durbin joined U.S. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-02) in introducing the Wear Orange Resolution, which supported the designation of June 2, 2023, as “National Gun Violence Awareness Day” in honor of Hadiya’s birthday.  Durbin also joined BUILD’s Wear Orange Day community event in Chicago to honor those lost to gun violence and raise awareness about ways to protect communities from gun violence. 

“I joined community members in Chicago in a violence prevention center, called BUILD.  The people I spoke to were united, not only in wearing orange to signify their unity, but sharing the belief that we've got to do more to protect communities from gun violence.  In the more than 10 years since Hadiya was killed, America's crisis of gun violence has gotten progressively worse.  Today, gunfire is the number one killer of America's children,” Durbin said.

Durbin continued, “Think about that for a second.  Gun violence, the number one killer of America's children today, of all the things they face in life.  One in five Americans now say they've lost a loved one to gun violence.  One in five.  Many Americans say they live in fear of sending their kids to school, or the local grocery store, or church.  That they'll become targets of the next mass shooting.  Some politicians claim, ‘well, that’s part of American life.  We have to accept it.’  I think they’re wrong.  Nearly 90 percent of Americans who support new gun safety laws agree.  It’s time for Congress to do something.”

However, rather than work across the aisle to advance bipartisan gun safety legislation, Senate Republicans are advancing a Congressional Review Act resolution to repeal a vital gun safety regulation under the National Firearms Act.  Reversing this commonsense provision would allow violent criminals to access stabilizing braces that can convert pistols into short-barreled rifles.  Durbin called out this Republican-led effort, questioning their reasoning for repealing legislation that would fuel the gun violence epidemic rather than curb it.

“That is why it is unbelievable to me, having served in this body for a number of years, that this week the Senate Republicans want to take us backwards and weaken an existing gun law, one that has been on the books since 1934, almost 90 years – the National Firearms Act.  Congress passed this law almost 90 years ago to set strict rules around particularly dangerous firearms, like machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, and short-barreled rifles,” Durbin said. “But right now, the Republican effort on the floor wants to wipe away a regulation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives that restricts devices that can convert pistols into short-barreled rifles.” 

These devices, known as stabilizing braces, can be attached to pistols to enable them to be fired from the shoulder.  When attached to a pistol, stabilizing braces provide the accuracy of a rifle and the easy concealability of a handgun.  This kind of weapon was used in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, in 2019, allowing the mass shooter to kill nine people and injure 17.  A similar weapon was used to kill 10 people in a mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, in 2021. 

Durbin continued, “Now, ask yourself, is this what America needs in the year 2023? Weakening gun laws that have been on the books since Franklin Roosevelt was president?  Making it easier to conceal short-barreled rifles in your handbag or backpack?  Absolutely not.  But this Republican proposal, at this moment of gun violence and bloodshed in America, would make it easier for mass shooters and criminals to access these dangerous weapons.”

“The only question is, why are the Republicans bringing this up at this moment in our history?  Why?  Is it for the gun lobby or for the American people?” Durbin concluded his speech.

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.