We’ve all heard of “sanctuary cities” for immigrants. Now several counties in rural Illinois are using the same concept to protect gun rights.
At least four counties have passed resolutions declaring themselves “sanctuary counties” for gun owners, meaning they would not enforce any gun control measures passed by state lawmakers.
Democrats control both branches of the Illinois legislature, which poses a challenge for pro-gun conservatives in the state. Support for gun control measures rose nationwide in the wake of February’s mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
In passing a resolution last month, Effingham County used the same “sanctuary” language dozens of cities have adopted to prevent local law enforcement from cooperating with federal authorities on immigration policies.
“We want to make a statement. We don’t want our Second Amendment rights to be stripped away from us,” David Campbell, vice chairman of the Effingham County Board, told CNN. “If we protect immigrants with sanctuary cities, why not use similar laws to protect our rights to own a gun?” he added.
According to Campbell, at least 30 of Illinois’s 102 counties have asked to see Effingham County’s resolution. So far, Iroquois, Jasper, Saline and Jefferson counties have adopted similar resolutions opposing state gun restrictions, although Iroquois County’s resolution didn’t use the “sanctuary county” language.
“Sometimes laws are passed or introduced when people don’t understand guns. For example the semi auto AR-15 is like a lot of guns we have across the country to simply hunt with,” said Saline County Board Chairman Jay Williams.
“We feel like it’s hard to get the first gun bill passed, but after that it will be easier to pass bill after bill against our Second Amendment. So our goal is to do what we can to nip it in the bud before any legislation … would jeopardize our gun rights,” he said.
State lawmakers earlier this year passed a bill to create a new state licensing system for gun shops, but Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, vetoed it.
The measures that counties are trying to counteract with their resolutions include:
But would these resolutions really supersede state law? Illinois State Rep. Kathleen Willis, a Democrat, isn’t sure.
“The attorney general will have to look at these resolutions and determine whether the counties can implement them,” she told CNN.
“I think this puts our law enforcement in a sticky situation,” she added. “The laws regarding guns are there to protect the safety of our communities. They can’t be compared to immigration laws. They are two different subjects.”
CNN has reached out to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan for comment.