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Gun safety group, U.S. Senate architects of 2022 law call for stricter measures

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Gun safety group, U.S. Senate architects of 2022 law call for stricter measures

May 21, 2024 | 4:02 pm ET
By Ariana Figueroa
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Gun safety group, U.S. Senate architects of 2022 law call for stricter measures
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Law enforcement officers speak together outside of Robb Elementary School following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. As the two-year anniversary of the shooting approaches, gun control advocates are pushing for stricter laws. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin and a coalition of medical officers advocated Tuesday for Congress to pass stronger gun safety laws.

Congress should build on the 2022 gun control law following high-profile mass shootings, Durbin, Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy and about 80 members of OnCall4Kids, a group of doctors and health care professionals that advocates for stricter gun laws, said at a Tuesday press conference.

“There is a constant in America, and one that I’m very embarrassed to say we have allowed to transpire and to exist for too long a period of time, and that is gun violence,” Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said.

Speakers included Emily and Elliot Lieberman of Illinois and Ashlee Jaffe of Pennsylvania who survived the July 4, 2022, mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, where seven people were killed.

“It is unlikely that I’ll ever be able to do my job again as a result of my injuries,” Jaffe, a pediatric physiatrist, who was shot in the hand and sustained nerve damage, said.

The speakers pushed for Congress to pass an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, legislation to regulate the storage of firearms and restrictions on the sale, transfer and receipt of gas-operated semi-automatic firearms and high capacity magazines.

But in a divided Congress, with Democrats controlling the Senate and Republicans holding a majority in the House, any gun safety legislation is unlikely to pass.

Durbin called for voters to elect candidates who would enact gun-safety legislation.

“What we need to do and say as American voters: ‘We’re going to the polls to elect women and men who have a sense of responsibility to change this once and for all, to take away these gun threats,’” Durbin said.

The press conference came ahead of Friday’s two-year anniversary of the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school shooting where 19 children and two teachers were killed.

“We are losing a generation of children in this country to the trauma of gun violence,” Murphy said.

That mass shooting, coupled with another in Buffalo, New York, where a white supremacist targeted a predominantly Black neighborhood and killed 10 Black people, led to the passage of gun safety legislation in 2022. 

Murphy led the coalition of 20 bipartisan senators to pass the legislation.

That law led to the creation of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, allocated $750 million for states to enact “red flag laws,” provided $11 billion in mental health services for schools and families and aimed to curb the illegal trafficking of guns known as straw purchases, in which a buyer can acquire a gun for someone else.

‘Incremental progress’

While the legislation was historic – it was the first time in 30 years Congress passed a comprehensive gun safety bill – many Democrats noted that it did not ban assault weapons, a term that generally refers to semiautomatic rifles, or high-capacity magazines.

Shooters used those weapons in seven of the most deadly mass shootings in the last decade, according to the Giffords Law Center, an organization that conducts research on gun violence and advocates to end it.

“Let us not judge the legislation for what it does not do, but for what it does,” then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said at the time of the bill’s passage in the House.

Several of the speakers from OnCall4Kids mentioned they were grateful for the gun safety legislation that Congress passed nearly two years ago, but that more needed to be done.

“Incremental progress is still progress,” Emily Lieberman said. “However, death rates from firearms continue to climb.”

Elliot Lieberman said the leading cause of death for children is firearms.

“If your child dies in this country, the most likely reason will not be a drowning accident. It won’t be a car crash and not even cancer,” Elliot Lieberman said. “It’s a bullet.”

Sofia Chaudhary, a pediatric emergency physician in Atlanta, advocated for laws to require safe storage of firearms. She said those kinds of laws could have saved the lives of several of her patients – including a 1-month-old – who were unintentionally shot by other children

“These patients haunt me,” she said. “Their needless, senseless loss haunts me. The piercing cries of their parents haunt me.”