Following Judiciary Committee Hearing On Domestic Terrorism, Durbin Urges Senate To Act To Combat Hateful Ideology That Has Inspired Mass Shootings

On Senate floor, Durbin reflects on the words of Garnell Whitfield, Jr., who lost his mother: ‘Mrs. Ruth Whitfield’s life mattered, your actions here will tell us if and how much it mattered to you’

WASHINGTON  U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke on the Senate floor urging the Senate to combat domestic terrorism and prevent the next mass shooting. Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on domestic terrorism following the mass shooting in Buffalo that killed ten Black Americans in a racist act of violence. The hearing—the Committee’s third on domestic terrorism this Congress—explored the continued threat posed by violent white supremacists and other extremists, including those who have embraced the so-called “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, as well as the federal government’s response to this threat. The Committee was joined by families of some of the victims.

Durbin said, “Just weeks after laying their loved ones to rest, these family members flew down to Washington to deliver one straightforward message to Congress: Do something. Do something to prevent the next mass shooting, to combat the lethal threat posed by violent white supremacists, and to honor the memory of those who were slain in this horrifying act of racist violence… During yesterday’s hearing, Mr. Whitfield courageously voiced what millions of Americans feel after the devastating run of mass shootings in America: Outrage.  He asked me and my fellow Committee members a real important question, ‘what are you doing? You were elected to protect us.’”   

During his speech, Durbin urged the Senate to pass legislation to help reduce gun violence in the United States, including closing gaps in the gun background check system following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that claimed the lives of 19 students and two teachers. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death among American children and teens. Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the need to protect children from gun violence and to hear from experts about the lasting trauma that gun violence leaves on children.

Durbin also called on the Senate to condemn and combat the hateful ideology that has inspired attacks like the mass shooting in Buffalo. During the Trump Administration, officials within the FBI and Department of Homeland Security found that, since 2000, white supremacists have been, “responsible for more [homicides] than any other domestic extremist movement.”

“It’s no coincidence that the threat of white supremacy is growing worse at a time when racist rhetoric is being dragged into the mainstream of our discourse,” continued Durbin. “The fact is, in 2022, hate has a formidable platform. Media figures like Tucker Carlson are amplifying false and racist conspiracy theories—like the so-called “great replacement” theory—to millions of Americans… Carlson—and pundits like him—traffic in fear and hate. They are radicalizing their viewers by preying on paranoia—and winking to the far-right extremists who look to them for leadership.”

Just this morning, news broke that a man was arrested near the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The man was carrying a weapon and told police he was planning on killing the Justice. Durbin called on both sides of the aisle to work together to condemn violence.

“We have to stand united, Democrats and Republicans, left and right, and condemn violence wherever its source,” said Durbin. “Whether violence is being threatened against a sitting Supreme Court Justice—or a Capitol Police officer on January 6th who defended this building against the insurrectionist mob—it is unacceptable and inexcusable all the same.”

As the threat of domestic terrorism looms over the country, members of law enforcement must have the resources and training to prevent extremism. Durbin’s Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, which was filibustered by Senate Republicans two weeks ago, would authorize domestic terrorism offices within DOJ, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and FBI, and require biannual reporting on the state of domestic terrorism threats. It also requires the offices to focus their limited resources on the most significant threats, as determined by the joint report. The intent of the legislation is to better equip these agencies and enable them to work together to effectively identify risks.   

Durbin concluded, “As we watch one community after another torn apart by sickening acts of violence, the members of this Senate have to go beyond thoughts and prayers. If anyone is unwilling to take the most basic steps to save lives, I would encourage them to follow the advice that Mr. Whitfield offered yesterday, ‘yield your positions of authority and influence to others that are willing to lead.’”           

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.