Illinois county voters to decide on gun sanctuary status

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MARION, Ill. — Officials in southern Illinois will be letting voters decide whether Williamson County will join a movement by several other counties in the state to become a gun sanctuary.

County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jim Marlo told The Southern Illinoisan that the board has voted to let residents have input on the resolution to become a sanctuary county for gun owners, a reference to so-called sanctuary cities that don’t cooperate with aspects of federal immigration enforcement.

“It’s a buzzword, a word that really gets attention. With all these sanctuary cities, we just decided to turn it around to protect our Second Amendment rights,” said David Campbell, vice chairman of the Effingham County Board.

Such resolutions are meant to put the Democratic-controlled Legislature on notice that if it passes a host of gun bills, counties might bar their employees from enforcing the new laws. The bills include new age restrictions for certain weapons, a bump stock ban and a size limit for gun magazines.

Co-opting the sanctuary title is also a way of drawing attention to the rural-urban political divide that was so stark in the last general election, when “downstate” areas of Illinois backed Donald Trump, who remains popular with those voters, while the Chicago backed Hillary Clinton, who grew up in the suburbs.

“Letting the residents of Williamson County decide is our goal,” Marlo said. “Not just the opinion of three people on a board.”

Commissioner Ron Ellis said he believes the measure will pass with “with flying colors.”

“It will hold much more weight when presented to our legislators,” he said.

Marlo said the board has until August to formulate the question.

Several rural Illinois counties have declared themselves gun sanctuaries.

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