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Must-See Moments from the Senate Judiciary Hearing on Gun Violence

Less than 24 hours after a deadly mass shooting in Boulder, days after a mass shooting in Philadelphia, and one week after an anti-Asian mass murder in Atlanta, Giffords Law Center Executive Director Robyn Thomas testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to demand urgent action on a gun safety agenda.

As an audience member at the hearing, I watched proudly as Robyn and other witnesses debunked gun lobby myths and emphasized the importance of lifesaving proposals such as universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders.

It took courage for these witnesses to advocate for a safer future before Republican committee members who were unfazed and unwavering in their commitment to doing nothing to stop the gun violence epidemic. Senator Ted Cruz went as far as to call the hearing “political theatre.”

Yet many committee members were eager to engage with the compelling evidence laid out by Robyn and a number of the other witnesses. Here are a few of the many memorable moments from the hearing that you might’ve missed:

Senator Cory Booker on the toll of gun violence

In addition to the human cost, researchers estimate that gun violence costs the American economy at least $229 billion every year, including $8.6 billion in direct expenses. 

“Every gunshot wound in America costs us hundreds of thousands of dollars but that’s nothing compared to what it’s doing to our nation’s soul,” Senator Booker said. Investing millions of federal dollars in evidence-based programs proven to reduce community violence, as Senator Booker has long proposed, would help to save lives and reduce the tremendous financial cost of gun violence.

Senator Booker via @GiffordsCourage Twitter

Robyn Thomas: Lifesaving gun laws are constitutional

“Despite what the gun lobby may argue, there is no constitutional impediment to passing lifesaving gun laws. Courts across the country have ruled, repeatedly, that the Second Amendment does not stand in the way of passing stronger gun laws,” Robyn said. We know that commonsense gun laws do not infringe on the right of Americans to own a gun or turn law-abiding citizens into criminals—and responsible gun owners agree. 

Courts from the lower courts all the way up to the Supreme Court are in agreement: background checks and commonsense measures won’t stand in the way of responsible gun ownership.

Robyn Thomas via @GiffordsCourage Twitter

Senator Dick Durbin on treating gun violence as a public health issue

Forty-thousand Americans lose their lives to gun violence each and every year. Gun violence is undoubtedly a public health crisis, and must be treated as such. “If there’s one thing we should have learned from Covid-19, it’s that when we face a public health crisis, we can reduce the total harm with commonsense, science-based solutions,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Durbin said during yesterday’s hearing. 

Senator Durbin via @GiffordsCourage Twitter

At the hearing, Senator John Kennedy mentioned the lives lost due to drunk drivers each year, noting that “the answer is not to get rid of all sober drivers.” Between 2009 and 2018, an average of more than 10,000 people died each year in drunk-driving crashes. This number used to be much higher, but thanks to the advocacy work of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, laws passed by the government, and safety advances required of car manufacturer, car deaths have been reduced by almost 80% in the past 50 years. 

How did we do this? We treated car deaths like a public health crisis. We must do the same for gun violence.

Senator Blumenthal urging the Senate to address armed hate 

Last week, Giffords Law Center released a report highlighting how dozens of states allow individuals convicted of violently injuring someone in a hate crime to purchase and possess guns. Tragically, as Senator Blumenthal pointed out at the hearing, “the hate-motivated shootings that tore through Atlanta last week are just the latest example. They won’t be the last.”

Senator Blumenthal via @GiffordsCourage Twitter

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were an average of 223,000 hate crimes per year between 2013 and 2017. That’s one hate crime every two minutes and twenty seconds.

We must make it harder for hate-fueled individuals to access guns and prevent tragedies like the one that took eight lives in Atlanta last week, nine lives in Charleston, 49 in Orlando, and 23 in El Paso. We must disarm hate by passing legislation to close these deadly loopholes or these tragedies will keep happening.

Senator Klobuchar championing the Violence Against Women Act

The House of Representatives recently passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which would close dangerous loopholes that allow individuals convicted of stalking and domestic violence against dating partners to obtain guns. Research shows that domestic violence and firearms are an extremely deadly combination. 

At yesterday’s hearing, Senator Klobuchar asked Robyn Thomas about the importance of VAWA, a bill that the senator has long championed. “More than half of intimate partner homicides [are committed] by a current or former dating partner,” Robyn Thomas said, “…and more than 70% of victims of intimate partner homicides are previously the victims of stalking.” 

Amy Klobuchar via Twitter

Closing these loopholes will go a long way toward protecting women from intimate partner violence, and we urge the Senate to pass VAWA and do so immediately.

This is urgent

In the aftermath of the Boulder, Atlanta, and Philadelphia shootings, it couldn’t be more imperative for our lawmakers to act. Earlier this month the House passed legislation to enact universal background checks, address the Charleston Loophole, and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Now the Senate must follow suit. 

Americans are far too accustomed to the anguish of gun violence. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can pass a gun safety agenda that will save lives—the Senate just needs to take action. If you’re with us, text UNIVERSAL to 34131.