Senate Judiciary Hearing on Gun Violence Begins After Boulder Mass Shooting

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The Day After Colorado Massacre, Senate Judiciary Hears Testimony on Curbing Gun Violence

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) convenes a hearing devoted to curbing gun violence on March 23, 2021.

Less than a week after a man in Georgia was arrested for a killing spree that left eight people dead—six of them Asian women—Colorado authorities said 10 people were killed in after another mass shooting at a supermarket in Boulder.

Authorities identified the Boulder victims on Tuesday morning. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told his colleagues that he had been putting the finishing touches on his opening remarks on Monday evening when the news broke.

“We have another epidemic in this country: It’s called guns,” Durbin said.

The second witness Durbin called noted that gun violence in the United States means more than the most horrific incidents that garner national headlines.

“When we think of gun violence, we often think of the horrific mass shooting events like the Chicago Park Manor shootings last Sunday that injured 15 and killed two people or the metro Atlanta shootings on Tuesday that killed eight people,” Dr. Selwyn Rogers, a trauma surgeon and public health expert at the University of Chicago Medicine, told the Senate on Tuesday. “These events dominate the national news cycle for a day or two but then are forgotten. However, there are over 100 gun-related homicides or suicides that are no less devastating, every day in this country.”

Durbin called Rogers to testify for a hearing titled “Constitutional and Common Sense Steps to Reduce Gun Violence,” as the two had worked together before on an endeavor called the Chicago HEAL Initiative, an acronym short for Hospital Engagement, Action, and Leadership.

Arguing that gun violence should be treated as a public health crisis on par with Covid-19, Rogers described suicides via firearms as a growing problem.

“In 11 districts across Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Tennessee, more than 100 residents each year use guns to end their lives—roughly double the national average. Men and boys comprise 86% of all gun suicides. 93% of gun suicides are white males,” Rogers testified in her opening statement. “Easy availability of a loaded weapon allows a split-second decision to produce an irrevocable loss.”

“Every day, we lose 109 American lives to gunfire,” Durbin said, noting that the events in Boulder, Colorado unfolded as he put the final touches on his opening remarks for Tuesday’s hearing.

Other witnesses called by the majority include Chief Fernando Spagnolo, the chief of police from Waterbury, Conn.; Robyn Thomas, the executive director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence; and Robin Brule, an Albuquerque, New Mexico-based advocate.

Brule testified that her journey as a gun-control advocate began after her mother, Ruth Schwed, was murdered in an Arizona retirement community in 2016. She says the home invader who killed Schwed bought a gun on the internet without a background check.

“If a strong background check law was in place, I could be having breakfast with my mother instead of appearing before your Committee,” Brule said in her prepared remarks, in which she describes herself as a gun owner and Second Amendment believer who also wants commonsense restrictions.

“Today, anyone with an internet connection can exploit the same loophole that killed her, and browse more than 1 million ads for guns in states that do not require background checks,” Brule added. “And, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, nearly 1 in 9 people who respond to those ads can’t pass a background check.”

Led by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Republican minority also called four witnesses: Amy Swearer, a legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation; Geneva Solomon, a California gun shop owner; Suzanna Gratia Hupp, a former Texas legislator; and Chris Cheng, the History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 Champion.

The hearing is ongoing.

(Screenshot from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s livestream)

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Law&Crime's senior investigative reporter and editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.