Durbin Questions Witnesses on Trauma & Background Checks During Judiciary Committee Hearing on Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today asked questions of witnesses during a Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Constitutional and Common Sense Steps to Reduce Gun Violence”.  Durbin first asked Dr. Selwyn Rogers, Jr., Chief of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at University of Chicago Medicine, to explain how trauma perpetuates a cycle of gun violence in Chicago. 

“We face two realities, certainly from a Chicago perspective, that a lot of gun violence has been spawned by young people, gangs, and communities that are awash in guns…We also know many of the shooters have a history, at least a history of Adverse Childhood Experiences. Could you explain to us that issue of trauma and the likelihood that it will lead to shooters and victims?” Durbin asked.

Dr. Rogers answered by stating “hurt people, hurt people” and that studies have demonstrated how those who have been victims of gun violence and other forms of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are at a higher risk of repeating episodes of gun violence. Dr. Rogers told the Committee that we must find ways to address those in economically depressed communities that are at the highest risk for being victims of and perpetrators of gun violence. Rogers also said the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation in Chicago through increased social isolation, higher rates of unemployment, and increased mental health problems.

Durbin then asked Chief Fernando Spagnolo, Chief of Police for the Waterbury Police Department in Waterbury, Connecticut, to share the risk police officers face every day with increased numbers of guns on the streets of America.

“So far this year, 16 Chicago police officers have been either shot or shot at in the line of duty. Last week alone, three officers were shot and injured. We know what happened last night in Boulder. The policeman who responded to the scene, Eric Talley, father of seven, lost his life. Can you talk about the risk that law enforcement officers face while America is seeing record numbers of guns being sold. Also, should a gun be sold to an unknown person without that person passing a criminal background check?” Durbin said.

Chief Spagnolo answered by stating he believes strongly in the background check process and that it works well in Connecticut, but one of his greatest concerns for his officers is the amount of guns they face in the streets on a daily basis. Chief Spagnolo testified his officers are taking, on average, one to two illegal guns off the street a day in Waterbury, that there was a 300 percent increase in conceal carry permit applications in 2020, and that many of the guns are straw purchases which end up in the hands of people legally barred from owning them.

Video of Durbin’s questions at the hearing is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions at the hearing is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions at the hearing is available here.