Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Field Hearing On Reducing Gun Trafficking And Violence
CHICAGO — On Monday the Senate Judiciary Committee held a field hearing in Chicago on reducing violence in the city where homicide rates have increased more than 4% in the last year.
“At least 12 major cities have set homicide records in the year 2021. Why? Fewer cops on the street, reduced after school programs, court systems pushed to the limit and mental health issues exacerbated by COVID-19,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., during the hearing.
The list of cities where homicide records were set in the past year include Tucson, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Louisville, Kentucky and Austin, Texas.
Durbin said that in the past year there were over 4,000 homicides in Chicago, with 1,000 of those homicides occurring in Cook County, in part he said because of fewer cops on the streets due to retirement and the COVID-19 pandemic.
To curb the rise in violence, the Biden administration established the Firearms Trafficking Strike Force in Chicago and four other cities in June, which brings federal, state, and local prosecutors and law enforcement agencies together to investigate and dismantle firearms trafficking schemes.
“If we want to reduce shootings, we need to reduce the flow of illegal guns into this city and state,” said Durbin.
Durbin has also introduced three bills aimed at stopping illegal trafficking of firearms, preventing safer storage by gun dealers, and addressing the trauma-informed care for communities most at-risk of violence.
The first bill, re-introduced in March, along with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is known as the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act, which would create harsh penalties for anyone transferring a firearm while reasonably believing that it will be used in a crime or act of terrorism.
Durbin also advised that a new trend in homicides is growing involving the use of ghost guns, which he explained are untraceable guns assembled from parts with no serial numbers.
According to data from the Chicago Police Department, two ghost guns were recovered in Chicago in 2016 compared to 139 ghost guns recovered in 2020.
Firearms are also being stolen from gun dealers at higher rates and in 2020, a total of 5,961 firearms were reported stolen from gun dealers in burglaries in Chicago. Many of those stolen guns were later used to commit violent crimes.
To prevent stolen firearms, the SECURE Firearm Storage Act, bicameral legislation introduced by Durbin and Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., would require gun dealers to secure their inventory after business hours and seeks to decrease incidents of theft.
Durbin also introduced legislation, RISE from Trauma Act, to try to increase funding for community-based efforts to prevent and mitigate the impact of trauma.
According to a press release, Durbin recently questioned Debra Houry, the acting principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an attempt to better understand the adverse childhood experiences of things like witnessing traumatic events and how that can harm brain development and contribute to mental illness.
“You also said that violence is preventable. The question I want to ask is, is trauma treatable?”
Houry responded that trauma is not only treatable, but that it is also preventable. She mentioned the important use of trauma-informed care in schools and community organizations, and the benefits of a public health approach to create environments that help children cope with the emotional scars of trauma.
“Thoughts and prayers are not enough…we need to prevent these shootings from happening in the first place,” said Durbin.
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This article has been updated to reflect the proper title for Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill.