Metro-East News

Number of ‘gun sanctuary’ counties has increased though new gun laws haven’t advanced

Amid a wave of proposed gun control legislation in the Illinois state capitol earlier this year, more than 25 counties passed resolutions opposing what some saw as an effort to curtail their Second Amendment rights.

Since the first wave of resolutions passed this summer, the total number of county boards that passed resolutions has reached at least 38 of Illinois’ 102 counties, with other counties taking similar measures.

A few of those counties, such as Effingham County and Monroe County, called themselves “gun sanctuaries,” saying their employees won’t enforce laws that “unconstitutionally restrict the Second Amendment.” In Effingham County, however, the state’s attorney told the Effingham Daily News the sheriff’s department won’t base enforcement on the resolution.

The Nov. 6 elections made a “gun sanctuary” out of Madison County, where voters cast ballots overwhelmingly in favor of the county becoming “a sanctuary county for law abiding gun owners to protect them from unconstitutional gun laws passed by the Illinois General Assembly.”

Other counties chose not to include the term “gun sanctuary,” opting instead for sending a symbolic message to Springfield.

Montgomery County voters expressed on election night their opposition to new gun restriction laws, with 79 percent voting “no” on the question, “Should the Illinois General Assembly pass any additional legislation that restricts a citizen’s ability to own and possess guns or firearms?”

But in Williamson County, an effort to get a Second Amendment question on the ballot failed after the state’s attorney and other board commissioners questioned the legality and necessity of the question, WSIU reported.

The 38 counties that have passed resolutions in one form or another are: Brown, Calhoun, Christian, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Greene, Hamilton, Hardin, Henderson, Henry, Iroquois, Jasper, Jefferson, Lawrence, Livingston, Madison, Marion, McDonough, Mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pope, Saline, Shelby, Stark, Tazewell, Washington, Wayne, White and Woodford.

None of the proposed legislation targeted in the resolutions has been signed into law:

  • House Bill 1465 (Passed House and Senate, stuck in House committee since July): Would raise the legal gun purchase age from 18 to 21;
  • HB 1467 (Stuck in House committee since July): Would prohibit municipalities from regulating “the possession and ownership of assault weapons in a manner less restrictive than the regulation by the State;
  • HB 1469 (Stuck in House committee since April): An amendment to the bill would make it illegal to deliver, sell, purchase or possess a “large capacity ammunition feeding device.”

Another House bill (HB 1468) that died in the legislature would have allowed a court to temporarily take guns away from people who are a danger to themselves or others and would have established a 72-hour waiting period for delivering a firearm after purchase. Yet another (Senate Bill 1657) would have made it illegal to sell firearms without a state-issued license, but Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed that bill.

Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker, who said he would have supported the gun dealer licensing bill, defeated Rauner in the elections.

“I think it’s important to have reasonable gun safety measures passed and have a governor who would sign those pieces of legislation rather than veto them,” Pritzker told the Belleville News-Democrat in an interview after he won the Democratic nomination for governor. “I proposed creating a regional compact and working with states to try to stem the tide of guns coming across the border of Illinois.”

A spokesman for Michael Madigan, Democratic speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, said the new General Assembly could take up new gun restriction laws again after being seated in the new year.

“I would assume they would based on the fact that there have been fresh ideas proposed every two years,” spokesman Steve Brown said. “There are a number of unfinished ideas where the governor decided to veto bills.”

But Philip Chapman, a Madison County Board member and supporter of the gun sanctuary resolution, said voters have sent a message to lawmakers about the Second Amendment, even if that message is symbolic.

“Symbolic for me means representative or emblematic,” Chapman said. “Passing the referendum symbolizes our citizens’ support of the Constitution and an awareness that governments may overreach their power by infringing on their ‘natural right’ to carry a gun. The people are reminding politicians there is a higher law than their personal opinion they as representatives of the people must not infringe upon.”

Kelsey Landis is a watchdog and local government reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat. She focuses on informing you about how public figures are using your tax dollars, and that includes keeping an eye out for wasteful spending.