It was no accident Effingham County's resolution to protect the rights of gun owners stole an important word from the very people the resolution was intended to provoke: supporters of the country's sanctuary cities movement.
Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler last month told a raucous crowd the origin story behind the "Second Amendment sanctuary county" movement, which began in Effingham and now includes 64 of the state's 102 counties, counties in three other states, and nine more states in which counties are eyeing similar nonbinding measures. And as state legislators, emboldened by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, look at more gun-control measures, counties are looking at more ways to resist them.
Effingham County Board member David Campbell came to Kibler with a resolution passed by Iroquois County regarding gun rights, saying he wanted to do something similar, but questioned if they could make the language "a little more provocative," he said in remarks posted on YouTube. He hit on the idea of alluding to some cities' policies on cooperating with federal authorities on immigration enforcement.
"I said, well, they're creating sanctuary counties for illegals up in Chicago, why don't we just steal their word and make Effingham County a sanctuary county for firearms?" Kibler relayed to the crowd at a conservative gathering, to massive applause.
Effingham's 2018 resolution asserted that at least five pieces of proposed Illinois legislation dealing with gun ownership would be unconstitutional. The resolution targeted proposed laws including those that would raise the minimum age for gun ownership to 21, outlaw various types of weapons, and outlaw bump stocks or body armor. It also demanded "the Illinois General Assembly cease further actions restricting the right of the people to keep and bear arms" and demanded the governor veto any such bills.
When the measure passed in the county of about 35,000 last spring, it may have looked like a publicity stunt or a way to provoke Chicago officials who object to Trump administration immigration policies. But as the movement gained traction, it also has grown in substance. County sheriffs and state's attorneys have publicly backed the cause, saying they will use their discretion to leave new gun laws unenforced.
Close to Chicago, Ogle, Boone and LaSalle counties have passed such resolutions and are among the more than 50 percent of Illinois counties to do so in the past year. Campbell keeps a map in which counties that have passed resolutions are colored green and those where no action has taken place are marked red. There also are yellow and orange counties, for those that are voting soon and those where a movement is underway to introduce the resolution to the county board.
Only 12 counties are red, including Cook County, meaning the other 90 are either on board or entertaining the idea.
In Cook County, officials have generally supported more restrictions on gun ownership and the types of guns available, in an attempt to reduce violence involving guns. Cara Smith, chief of policy for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who has supported closing what he and others see as loopholes in firearm laws, including the firearm owner's identification card process, said she does not recall anyone reaching out to Dart's office to pitch a sanctuary county resolution.
"It's the age-old struggle with gun control efforts in Illinois. Historically, central and southern Illinois, fortunately for them, don't experience the kind of gun violence and trauma that Cook County and some of the collar counties do," Smith said. "There's always been this divide."
Effingham County recently upped the ante, adopting a resolution to ban state firearm owner's identification cards, Campbell said, mainly to send a signal, based on a White County case in which a rifle owner asserted Second Amendment rights after an arrest. Before Effingham even passed the resolution, 20 counties had contacted Campbell to ask for a copy, he said.
But Campbell said until the Illinois Supreme Court weighs in on the matter, gun owners need to keep a current FOID card.
"I still believe that people need to have a FOID card, although I think it's unconstitutional to require someone to pay a fee for a constitutionally protected right," he said.