In today’s polarized political world, there is an increasing disconnect between the people in states with large, metropolitan cities who are keen to pass more restrictive gun laws and the rest of the state. This trend is on display in Illinois as more and more counties outside of Chicago pass gun sanctuary ordinances.
As a response to new, restrictive gun legislation from the liberal-majority state government, county officials are working hard to ensure they can defend themselves in the event of a crisis. County leaders have taken the matter into their own hands, working to provide themselves with protection regardless of what the state government does.
This new trend of Second Amendment protection is already gaining interest from other gun-restrictive states and could be an important symbolic step for local and personal rights advocates.
What are gun sanctuaries?
Illinois is experiencing a wave of backlash to recently passed and proposed bills currently going through the state government which would restrict firearm freedoms even more. Laws such as restricting the legal purchase of a firearm to those 21 and older, as opposed to 18, have caused several counties in Illinois to create their own resolutions to become “gun sanctuaries” and stave off the influence of the state.
As a play on the phrase “sanctuary city” in which local governments pass resolutions to create less cooperation with the federal government surrounding illegal immigration and other criminal issues, a gun sanctuary is a municipality, or county, in which gun rights are upheld. These counties feel that the state is overreaching their bounds in trying to take away constitutionally protected rights.
So far, 26 Illinois counties have voted to become gun sanctuaries: Effingham, Douglas, Cumberland, Clay, Clark, Christian, Brown, Fayette, Greene, Ford, Hamilton, Hardin, Henry, Jasper, Iroquois, Jefferson, Perry, Monroe, Lawrence, Saline, Pope, Shelby, Washington, Woodford, White, and Wayne. At the time of this writing, more than ten other Illinois counties were considering or about to vote on similar resolutions.
How do the resolutions protect Second Amendment rights?
The protections of the gun sanctuary resolutions have to do with preventing county employees from enacting what they claim to be unconstitutional prohibition of Second Amendment rights surrounding gun ownership. In Clark County, for instance, a resolution is in the works to stop five proposed bills from having an effect on the county. The idea is to protect ordinary citizens from having their rights stripped by ill-advised laws from the state at large. In practice, it means the local law enforcement would not enforce gun control measures within their county boundaries.
In Illinois, the Democrat-controlled state legislature is the entity pushing for further gun restrictions. Conversely, local county boards are standing up to prevent their citizens from losing constitutionally granted rights. In some cases, the measures the counties are taking do not go so far as to say that law enforcement won’t enforce state laws. In these counties, the gun sanctuary resolutions are first and foremost meant to send a message to the state that the counties will not stand for the state taking away their Second Amendment rights.
How does this work with current State laws?
The gun sanctuary movement puts more power into the hands of the people. It also puts more power in the hands of local government, which better understands its constituents as opposed to the far-removed state government. However, there are constitutional issues with gun sanctuaries.
Most gun regulations are actually done at the state level instead of federal or local. Due to the preemption clause, higher levels of government can overrule the state, city, or county resolutions. This new movement seeks to put the power back into the hands of the people at the community level, but the state may be able to overrule it.
The issue comes in the fact that certain local gun sanctuary laws can conflict with the state’s laws. In a legislature dominated by Democrats at the moment, it could lead to a slippery slope where local communities choose not to enforce state mandates. However, the laws are up for interpretation and this is why the resolutions could turn the tide for gun rights. Additional issues or challenges could result from state officials attempting to hold leverage over communities by restricting resources or passing other resolutions in retribution.
Could this be a model for other States?
As a movement created out of frustration and fear of losing constitutional rights, other states could definitely look at the 26 Illinois counties named above as an example to emulate. Effingham and Iroquois, both rural Illinois counties where the movement began, wanted to flip the script on larger cities who they felt were pushing them around with state policies. In addition, immigration sanctuary city measures that have been passed are allowing people to live and act illegally while the law officially must turn a blind eye. This creates inequality in the way that laws are applied to ordinary people versus people who are in a special class. So long as the state chooses not to enact policies that serve all constituents, we can expect more movements like this.
Counties all over the nation, especially rural ones, are now joining the movements. Not only are many Illinois counties getting in on the action, but even counties in Oregon have tried similar efforts in the past. Herndon, Kansas passed a 2nd Amendment preservation ordinance in 2013 similar to what happened in Effingham County.
This shows signs of a new age in American democracy where local communities will band together to protect their God-granted rights as the state increasingly looks to restrict them in unconstitutional ways. While state law may precede a number of the ordinances, these measures are an important symbolic step for individual rights advocates and a needed check against the State.