DECATUR — Macon County will soon be sending a message to all members of the General Assembly: Don't pass stricter gun laws.
The county board on Thursday approved a resolution expressing its opposition to restrictions that could interfere with Second Amendment rights, though officials acknowledged the measure as more of a signal than anything enforceable. The move follows similar steps taken by dozens of downstate counties this year to signal support for gun rights.
The measure was approved 13-6, with a handful of Democrats joining all present Republicans in favor of it. Democrats Helena Buckner, Patricia Dawson, board Chairman Jay Dunn, Rachel Joy, Verzell Taylor and Laura Zimmerman voted against the proposal. Democrat Kevin Meachum and Republican Greg Mattingley were not present.
Per the resolution, the county would “hereby oppose the enactment of any legislation that would infringe upon the right of the people to keep and bear arms and consider such laws to be unconstitutional and beyond lawful legislative authority.”
It also asked state lawmakers not to approve any further actions that could infringe on those rights and the governor to veto any such legislation. It also says the county will send copies of the resolution to lawmakers and the governor’s office, something which Dunn said after the meeting should happen in the near future.
There was almost no discussion from the board about the plan, either for or against it. Bryan Smith, a Decatur Democrat who voted in favor of the plan, asked about the necessity of the resolution, specifically because the board approved a resolution with nearly the same verbiage in 2008.
“I pushed this through the operations committee at that time and supported it then,” Smith told the board. “I don’t see why we need to have it again, but since it is the same thing ... I will vote ‘yes.’”
Several residents spoke out in favor of the resolution before it was passed, including Dan Cooley, owner of Bullet Trap in Macon, who has written to board members through this year asking them to take it up for a vote.
While he is not opposed to all gun control legislation, Cooley said it is more important now than ever for the county and its residents to take a stand in support of the Second Amendment, as next year will see Illinois with a Democratic governor and a Democratic super-majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“Our new governor (J.B. Pritzker) is going to be very much anti-gun,” Cooley said.
Dozens of counties across Illinois have joined to call themselves “gun sanctuaries,” passing non-binding, symbolic measures to send a message to the statehouse about local opposition to any future legislation. Voters in Coles and Logan counties approved similar plans during Tuesday’s election.
The trend also comes after a session in Springfield where lawmakers considered a variety of stronger gun restrictions. The General Assembly approved legislation that allows police and family members to ask a court to take guns from people who pose a threat to themselves or others, as well as a law extending the waiting period for all guns to 72 hours.
The resolutions become popular after Effingham County passed a measure in April that directed employees to stop enforcing state laws that “unconstitutionally restrict the Second Amendment.”
Macon County’s resolution will not go that far. State's attorney Jay Scott confirmed during the meeting that the approved plan “doesn’t have much teeth to it" outside of sending a statement to state lawmakers.
In other business, the board unanimously approved a $75.3 million budget for fiscal year that begins Dec. 1. The overall budget is $2.9 million more than the current one, but that's because expenses include a number of grants and planned road projects. The general fund budget, which covers the day-to-day operations of most county departments, is at $26.4 million, a reduction of $169,000 from the current fiscal year.
Thursday also marked the last county board meeting with the existing 11-10 Democratic advantage. After the results of Tuesday’s election, Republicans will have a 12-9 advantage when the board meets again in December.