Moms Demand Action Glenview/Northbrook held a Firearm Safety Town Hall Meeting at Glenview United Methodist Church before an audience of more than 100 last week, discussing gun violence prevention strategies within local communities.
The event featured eight panelists including state, county and township elected officials, a Glenview police representative, a mental health specialist, along with three audience members who also spoke, Glenview School Dist. 34 Supt. Dane Delli, Glenbrook High School Dist. 225 Supt. Charles Johns and West Northfield School Dist. 31 Supt. Erin Murphy.
The event focused on what local community members can do to ensure greater gun safety within their community and what is being done legislatively at the state and county levels, along with a discussion of efforts by Glenview police and Cook County Sheriff’s Police.
One solution was to press for federal legislation, including a federal ban on military-style “assault weapons,” typically semi- or fully automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines.
The event came amid a mass shooting incident in the state of Maine just days before, along with a shooting incident in Chicago and, unbeknownst to those at the church at the time, an incident in which a student allegedly brought a BB gun to Springman Middle School that Thursday and Friday. The student made no threats with the gun. It was discovered and police took possession of the weapon Friday. Police are contemplating charges.
Delli, speaking generally about safety preparedness, said the district is required not only to have safety plans in place, but to practice those plans through drills. He said additionally, district staff members conduct threat assessments when issues come up. He said the district has “a great relationship with Glenview police.”
Johns said, “Student safety is always top of mind.” He said student well-being and creating a sense of belonging for students is part of the district’s strategic plan. He said students struggling with mental health also affects their learning. Assessments are completed when there are signs of problems. Also, a student health center recently opened at Glenbrook South has a mental health clinician.
One point made by State Sen. Laura Fine (D-9th) at the event was that when she first went to Springfield 10 years ago, she met two Moms Demand Action activists. She said last year, 800 came to Springfield to lobby for common sense gun control legislation.
State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-29th) said her work to pass gun control measures in Springfield, “is hard because the gun lobby is handing out checks, and threatening legislators” causing legislators to “roll over” to the demands of the gun lobby.
“We need to put our t-shirts on, get on buses and come to Springfield,” said Morrison.
“I was at the Highland Park (July 4th) parade with my family,” Morrison said. “Until we have a state where we don’t have to fear going to school or a parade, I will continue my work.” Morrison was not injured at the Highland Park parade where a mass shooting occurred in 2022.
Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton (D-14th) said he was raised in a very rural central Illinois community where, “I had my first shotgun at the age of 13. This was a tool, but this has changed. There were 340 shootings (victims brought into) at Cook County Hospital alone so far this year.”
Britton said he championed 15 pieces of legislation to address mental health and gun control issues, including a tax on ammunition, which Britton said, “The NRA (National Rifle Association) hates.”
Britton also advocated for sending mental health professionals to respond to certain types of situations instead of police.
Acknowledging the powerful lobby, which would likely oppose their legislative efforts, Fine, Morrison, Britton, and State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D-17th) discussed their legislative efforts.
Gong-Gershowitz told a story about members of her family who were killed in a domestic situation in which a cousin’s husband shot and killed her cousin and their two children. She said she was working to increase accountability in her role as chair of the State House Civil Judiciary Committee working on domestic violence red flag laws, and strengthening protections for domestic violence victims.
Red flag laws allow law enforcement to remove weapons from a home where there are certain circumstances where someone in that home might be seen as a danger to themselves or others.
Gong-Gershowitz also said that while Illinois has some of the best gun control laws on the books, those laws must be effectively implemented.
Morrison said 25% of firearm identification cards are not turned in and said law enforcement does not have the manpower to go house to house to confiscate them.
Morrison said she would be filing legislation in January or February mandating that if someone owns multiple guns, they must register with state police as a gun collector.
“If you need an arsenal, maybe you need to register with the state police,” Morrison said.
Mental health issues were discussed. Fine serves on a state senate mental health committee. She said she is working with a state task force to make improvements to the new 988 emergency line for people experiencing a mental health crisis. She also stressed the need for safe gun storage and increased red flag laws.
Rene Dominguez of the Family Service Center said access to firearms is a huge contributor to effective suicides.
Moms Demand Action Glenview/Northbrook lead Dr. Halleh Akbarnia, who is an emergency room physician, said 60% of gun deaths are suicides. She said often, her emergency room is notified by first responders of a gun death looking for a time of death.
She said by contrast, the lives of 95% of suicide attempts by overdosing on some type of drug can be saved.