Durbin: Military-Style Assault Weapons Belong On The Battlefield, Not In Our Communities

On the Senate floor, and one week after the Highland Park massacre, Durbin calls on Congress to do more to rein in assault weapons and hold firearms manufacturers accountable

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today spoke about the deadly toll that gun violence—particularly mass shootings caused by assault weapons—continues to take on our communities.

“On June 8th—15 days after their 10-year-old daughter Lexi was murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas—Kimberly and Felix Rubio testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform,” Durbin said.  “Kimberly issued a prophetic warning. She said, and I quote, ‘There’s a mom listening to our testimony thinking, ‘I cannot even imagine the pain of this family’—not knowing that our pain will one day be her pain, unless we do something now.’” It took less than a month for that prediction to come true.

Durbin went on to tell the stories of those—including children—who fell victim to the Highland Park, Illinois, shooting, when a gunman armed with a military-style assault rifle opened fire on families gathered to watch the town’s Fourth of July parade, killing seven people and injuring dozens more. Among the casualties were Kevin and Irina McCarthy, who were at the parade with their 2-year-old son Aiden.

Durbin continued, “When the shooting started, Kevin placed his body over Aiden to protect him. He died protecting his son. That son’s mother died right next to him. Another parade-goer saw Aiden, his little legs smeared with his father’s blood, and carried him to safety… He lost both his mom and dad at that parade.”

According to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), the Highland Park Parade shooting was the 309th mass shooting in America this year—and those mass shooting incidents involving four or more victims are in addition to the daily toll of gun violence. Also according to GVA, at least 220 people were killed and close to 570 others were injured in shootings over the Independence Day holiday weekend.

Durbin went on to outline how the gun industry has been aggressively promoting the civilian sale and use of military-style assault weapons even in light of the devastating harm these weapons are causing in our communities. Showing a series of advertisements, Durbin detailed how firearms manufacturers have not only made these weapons readily available for civilian use, they have rebranded them—weapons that have been used to slaughter children in schools, elders in a grocery store, and families at parades—as symbols of patriotism.

“‘Engineered to the specs of freedom and independence,’” Durbin said.  “This is what one gun manufacturer, Mossberg, wants you to believe is the epitome of American freedom and independence. This is an actual ad for an AR-15 style semiautomatic assault rifle… The shooter in Highland Park had three of these high-capacity magazines and was able to fire 90 rounds because of it.”

Additional advertisements included one from Daniel Defense, the manufacturer of the semiautomatic assault rifle used in the Uvalde, Texas, massacre, and one of several weapons found following the Las Vegas, Nevada, massacre in 2017; and one for a “JR-15,” an AR-15 style rifle manufactured by WEE1 TACTICAL and designed for children.

Durbin concluded, “[Military-style assault weapons] belong not in towns like Highland Park, but on the battlefield—not in our communities, and certainly not in the hands of children. Current federal law affords the firearms industry broad and unjustifiable immunity from civil liability… But that immunity is not unlimited. Firearms manufacturers do not have a license to recklessly peddle high-powered killing machines to those who should not have them. They must be held accountable. And believe me, the Senate Judiciary Committee is going to look at that law." 

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.