EDWARDSVILLE — Voters could get a chance to show their support for the Second Amendment at the polls in November, after the Government Relations Committee approved an advisory referendum making Madison County a “sanctuary county” for gun owners.
The proposal was met with opposition at the meeting, including a half-dozen speakers who were against the idea.
If approved by the full Madison County Board, the referendum would be on the November ballot. The question reads, “Shall Madison County become a sanctuary county for law-abiding gun owners to protect them from unconstitutional gun laws passed by the Illinois General Assembly?”
The committee voted 4-2 in favor of the resolution. Voting in favor were chairman Don Moore, R-Troy; Mick Madison, R-Bethalto; Judy Kuhn, R-Trenton and Erica Harriss, R-Edwardsville. Voting against the resolution were Nick Petrillo, D-Granite City; and Michael “Doc” Holliday, D-Alton.
Although the bill went through on party lines, both Petrillo and several other board members in the audience who said they opposed the bill noted that they supported the Second Amendment.
The issue first came up during the May County Board meeting, when County Board Member James Futrell, R-East Alton, briefly discussed the issue at the end of the meeting,
The concept is taken from the “sanctuary cities” movement regarding cases of illegal immigration — local officials opt to not take action against individuals in violation of the statute. A number of Downstate counties have declared themselves sanctuary counties for Second Amendment rights.
The Second Amendment protects the individual’s right “to keep and bear arms,” and is a controversial topic.
It was noted that the amendment was advisory and would not impact enforcement of gun laws, but is designed to send a message to state legislators and the governor on the issue of gun control.
At the start of the meeting several people spoke against it, including Matt Petrocelli and his 13-year-old son, Nick.
“We are a nation of laws and it is not in our purview,” Petrocelli, a professor in SIUE’s Criminal Justice Studies program.
His son added, “I would not like to be the next one to be killed,” in reference to recent school shootings.
Others spoke about specific points ranging from the potential legal liability and financial risk the county and/or law enforcement agencies could face, the impact on domestic violence victims, and that such an effort might bring “white extremists” to the area.
Madison emphasized it would be a non-binding referendum.
“We’re going to give the taxpayers a chance to voice their opinions to the state legislature and the governor,” he said.
Holliday countered by saying the person who came up with the idea was mocking the “sanctuary cities” designation.
“I don’t think we have the authority,” he said, adding that it is not an issue the county board should be involved in.
Kuhn said the voters in her area have said they wanted to support this issue.
“I’m representing the people where I live, and this is what they think,” she added.
Petrillo said that although he would vote against it, he could “debate either side of this,” noting that recent municipal “assault weapons” bans in Highland Park and Deerfield, both northern Illinois cities, bothered him.
After some additional discussion by the committee members, with several other county board members also voicing opinions, the committee then voted in favor of the referendum.
Reach reporter Scott Cousins at 618-208-6447.