Chicago West Side teen testifies on impact of gun violence before Senate Judiciary Committee

CHICAGO (CBS) — A teenager from Chicago’s West Side is among those testifying before a Senate Judiciary Committee on the impact of gun violence on children.

Ernest Willingham, 19, grew up surrounded by gun violence.

Several of his family members have been shot and four years ago he lost a close friend to a fatal gun wound. He told lawmakers they need to step up.

“Ask any young person in Chicago how many weddings have you attended? Very few would have attended one. However, most have attended at least a dozen funerals,” Willingham said. 

“I have attended an eight-grade graduation this past week with kids ranging from 12 to 14 years of age. As I looked around I’ve seen parents bawling their eyes out. Not just because they were proud, but because they were not burying their children. I plead with you to pass common-sense gun legislation, so children and youth can grow up in safe communities.”

Willingham is a student at Northeastern University in Boston and a community leader.

He’s the youngest of 11 children and the first male in his family to attend high school.

He also talked about the importance of programs that support survivors of trauma — including one at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital. He says it changed his life.

Ernest is studying health sciences and wants to become a doctor.

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