SALINE COUNTY -- Saline County has become the third Illinois county to symbolically declare itself to be a "sanctuary county" for firearm owners.
In a unanimous vote, the Saline County board joined Effingham and Jefferson counties in protesting what they consider to be unconstitutional gun control reforms currently being considered by the Illinois legislature.
"We did it to send a message to the lawmakers in Springfield that gun owners exist outside of Cook County," said Saline County Board Chairman Jay Williams.
"We like our guns. We want our guns. The Second Amendment gives us those rights. They need to think before they start passing legislation."
On Thursday, board member Roger Craig proposed -- and the county board passed -- a resolution that would prohibit county employees from enforcing gun ownership restrictions that have been proposed at the state level.
HB1465, for example, would raise the age of legal ownership of what it terms an "assault weapon" in Illinois from 18 to 21. In the case of this bill, "assault weapon" refers to semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and pistols with the capability of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition and various cosmetic features like adjustable stocks and barrel shrouds.
It also includes rifles using belt-fed ammunition and .50 caliber centerfire rifles. There are exceptions for black powder rifles, antiques, non-firing guns and those used for training purposes under certain conditions.
Craig said he believes many regulations proposed at the state level infringe upon existing rights of legal gunowners. When he heard that Effingham County leaders had declared the county a "sanctuary," he wanted something similar for Saline.
He sent a copy of Effingham County's resolution to Saline County State's Attorney Jayson Clark. Clark made some revisions to make it applicable to Saline County and gave it the board.
"After some of these (mass) shootings, every liberal lawmaker in Illinois wrote up 10 different bills, and they used the AR-15 as a format, but it expands to almost all semi-automatic weapons," Craig said.
"It gets into handguns, other rifles and shotguns. They want to trade us a bag of rocks for our guns, you know?"
After Effingham County approved its "sanctuary county" status, Sheriff Dave Mahon told the Effingham Daily News that the board's decision would not dictate how his office enforces the law.
On Monday, Saline County Sheriff Keith Brown said the county board resolution would not change the way his deputies enforce the law.
"It's a resolution. It's something not requiring action," Brown said. "We will continue to enforce the law."