Two people were killed and 12 were injured by gunfire in Bloomington-Normal in 2019, as the number of shootings climbed to 50 for the year.
Those 50 shootings are a combination of shots-fired incidents or when someone was actually struck by a bullet. Bloomington saw 33 shootings in 2019, up from 15 in 2018. There were 17 shootings in Normal in 2019. (2018 data was not immediately available for Normal.)
Gun violence touched all corners of Bloomington-Normal in 2019—from the west side to the east side, near homes, apartments and businesses. Some blocks were traumatized by repeated incidents. Shots rang out in the 1000 block of Charlotte Drive in Normal at least three times. One person was shot and killed on Orchard Road on Bloomington’s east side; there were three other shootings within three blocks of there, including one in July that injured a juvenile.
“We have a crisis,” said Diane White, co-leader of McLean County’s Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America chapter. “And we are committed to fighting this gun violence in all its forms. Because Moms Demand Action knows it doesn’t have to be this way.”
The number of people who were shot but survived in 2019 increased to 12, up from seven in 2018, according to Bloomington and Normal police. The number of fatal shootings fell from nine in 2018—a modern record—to two in 2019.
“There’s always an ebb and flow to certain things,” said Bloomington Police Chief Dan Donath. “We try to look at some patterns that might exist for a little bit longer term, to see if there’s truly a pattern occurring. But otherwise, crime itself in various categories goes up and down over time.”
A “fair amount” of Bloomington’s 33 shootings traced back to hybrid gangs, Donath said.
“There’s actually quite a bit of randomness,” he said. “Some of those shootings are people who weren’t from our city, who were not on our radar. There isn’t a huge pattern in there, other than we have some regular people who we have regular contacts with who were involved in some of those.”
Another contributing factor is social media, Donath said. Social media has stoked a troubling glorification of guns and violence, he said, seen in the young people who post photos of themselves with weapons. It’s also hastened real-world confrontation that might not have happened otherwise. Social media, for example, was a “key component” in the April 2 shooting on Orchard Road that killed Juan Nash, he said.
“There’s a culture of gun violence,” Donath said.
Every year, over 36,000 Americans are killed in acts of gun violence, and approximately 100,000 more are shot and injured, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. The group cites a national poll that found 58% of adults reported that they or someone they care for have experienced gun violence in their lifetime.
“We are always struck with sadness and grief whenever one person is shot,” said White, with Moms Demand Action. “I don’t personally know these people who were shot or murdered by gun violence in Bloomington-Normal. But I’ve met some of their family members. I’ll tell you: Their stories are unique, but their pain and anguish is sadly similar.”
Moms Demand Action supports what it calls common-sense gun laws, such as “red flag” measures and those requiring responsible gun storage. White said her group plans to lobby state lawmakers this spring on closing loopholes in the background check system. Except at gun shows, unlicensed gun sellers are not required to conduct background checks in Illinois.
“If our legislators are not on board with the 87% of the population who do want stronger gun laws, then we need to vote them out,” White said.
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