On November 28, 2023, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing entitled, “The Gun Violence Epidemic: A Public Health Crisis.” Chairman Dick Durbin [D-IL] referred to gun violence as a public health epidemic and highlighted impact of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, passed in 2022, that implemented several changes to mental health systems, school safety programs, and gun control laws to work on making communities safer. Ranking Member, Senator Cornyn [R-TX] touched on the positive outcomes of the Safer Communities Act, such as increased prosecutions of firearm trafficking and enhanced juvenile records checks.
Franklin N. Cosey-Gay, PhD., MPH, the Director of the Violence Recovery Program with the Urban Health Initiative, Steven H. Cook, Retired Associate Deputy and Attorney General, Vaughn Bryant, the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Peace Initiative, Amy Swearer, a Senior Legal Fellow with the Heritage Foundation, and Megan L. Ranney MD, the Dean of Yale School of Public Health provided testimony for best methods and practices for addressing gun violence and improving the safety of the communities across the United States.
Chairman Durbin asked questions about the best methods to reach young people who have experienced trauma related to violence. Mr. Bryant responded with the importance of having trained experts and specialists in communities to connect with people who have experienced trauma and providing them with services. Senator Hirono [D-HI] touched on the impact of gun violence and domestic violence, and how the risk of homicide in domestic violence incidents increases by as much as 500% if there is presence of a gun. Implementing funding, training programs, social services, and community based-violence intervention programs was the primary solution presented by witnesses in addressing gun violence and creating safer communities.
The witnesses and Senators emphasized the importance of addressing systemic issues and environments that encourage the proliferation of violence, such as mental health services, access to education, addressing poverty, supporting people getting jobs, resources for families. Both Republican and Democratic Senators support these approaches, through different lenses.
By Harper Dilley, Policy Intern