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Bloomington gun safety commission reports on its progress, takes up domestic violence

A group of people sit around a conference table in a meeting room, with papers, laptops, and notebooks in front of them. They appear to be engaged in discussion. The room has blue office chairs, a clock, and screens on the walls. An American flag stands in the background.
Lauren Warnecke
/
WGLT
The Special Commission on Safe Communities, pictured at its June meeting, has two years to develop recommendations for addressing gun violence in Bloomington.

Six months in, the City of Bloomington’s committee on gun violence is still gathering information, but chair Scott Denton says he’s pleased with the pace.

“It’s going really fast,” said Denton, a forensic pathologist contracted by McLean County.

The Special Commission on Safe Communities has heard from community leaders and experts since its formation in December, identifying youth engagement, safe gun storage and funding for advocacy organizations as top priorities.

Tasked with developing strategies for reducing gun violence, the commission was conceived by Ward 7 council member Mollie Ward in 2022 after sharp spikes in gun deaths recorded in 2018 and 2021.

In its monthly meeting on Thursday, the commission prepared to present its progress during the next Bloomington City Council meeting.

“At the end of two years we have to give a report,” Denton said in an interview with WGLT. “We’re doing better, subjectively and objectively, than surrounding counties with homicides and gun violence. I think we need a really good report to come out of this commission and we’re ahead of the game.”

The Bloomington City Council was supportive of addressing gun violence, but council members were not universally on-board with the commission’s formation, noting potential redundancies with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and the Public Safety and Community Relations Board.

In a narrow 5-4 vote, the council gave the Special Commission for Safe Communities a two-year window to prove its worth.

“I’d like to see really solid recommendations,” Denton said of the commission’s overarching goal. “We’ve learned through [the Bloomington Police Department] that they do have good policies. They have good procedures for trying to handle and prevent gun violence. We can reinforce those recommendations. That would be the most important thing.”

Guns and domestic violence

Commission members include Denton, District 87 school board member and retired school psychologist Cathy Lust, Jay Shannon of Project Oz and pastor Timothy Harris of Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, among others. At Thursday’s meeting, Lust suggested they add domestic violence to their portfolio.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a law restricting subjects of restraining orders from obtaining or possessing a gun. Justice Clarence Thomas was the sole dissenter in an 8-1 decision by the conservative-leaning court.

In Illinois, the ruling has resulted in renewed enthusiasm for pushing state lawmakers to pass legislation ensuring firearms are confiscated from domestic abusers. A statewide report by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart showed that nearly 75% of people whose licenses have been revoked have not complied with giving their guns back.

Commissioner Ryan Bertrand questioned whether the killing of a Grove Elementary teacher could have been prevented. In the early hours of May 29, Normal Police say Matthew Moore of Bloomington fatally shot his ex-wife, Amy Moore, in her Normal home before turning the gun on himself.

“Both of these people were showing many flags along the way,” said Bertrand. “I wonder if there wasn’t an opportunity where the community couldn’t have said they were going to take action.”

Matthew Moore was the subject of a domestic violence order of protection at the time of the shooting, stemming from a contentious divorce finalized one week before the shooting.

Normal Police have declined multiple requests for information about where Matthew Moore obtained a gun; court records and redacted police reports obtained by WGLT suggest Amy Moore was fearful that Matthew Moore had both an untreated mental illness and access to a gun. Matthew Moore’s March 2024 felony conviction for criminal damage to property also prevented him from legally obtaining a gun in Illinois.

“We’re not going to be able to remove all the illegal guns, or prevent people from getting guns elsewhere,” Denton said. “Do you send a SWAT team out every time there’s a FOID card revocation? You can’t do that. It’s not practical. But how do you take guns away from people who shouldn’t have them and are a danger? That’s a big question.”

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.