Gun Control Debate in Illinois Prompts Some Counties to Declare “Sanctuary” Status for Gun Owners

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People browse guns for sale at the Houston Gun Show
Source: M&R Glasgow, “Gun Show,”, Mar. 24, 2007

At least five rural Illinois counties have declared themselves “sanctuary counties” for gun rights in opposition to the state legislature’s efforts to pass gun control laws.

State legislators in Illinois are considering gun control laws such as age restrictions, a bump stock ban, and gun magazine size limits. The sanctuary resolutions instruct the counties to ignore state gun control laws if passed. The Effingham County resolution, for example, reads: “If the Government of the State of Illinois shall infringe upon the inalienable rights granted by the Second Amendment, Effingham County shall become a ‘sanctuary county’ for all firearms unconstitutionally prohibited by the government of the State of Illinois.”

The phrase “sanctuary county” is meant to invoke the term “sanctuary city” used in immigration debates. David Campbell, Vice Chairman of the Effingham County Board, stated, “It’s a buzzword, a word that really gets attention. With all these sanctuary cities, we just decided to turn it around to protect our Second Amendment rights.” He added, “If our legislators can pass a sanctuary state bill for immigrants, why can’t we have a sanctuary county for firearms for Effingham County?”

Campbell stated copies of the Effingham County sanctuary resolution have been requested by at least 20 other Illinois counties, as well as local officials in Oregon and Washington.

Chicago is an immigration sanctuary city and lawmakers from in and around Chicago outnumber the lawmakers from rural areas. Chad McGinnis, Iroquois County Board Member, stated, “We’re tired of Springfield and Chicago forgetting about the rest of Illinois over here.” Iroquois County also passed a “sanctuary” resolution, though the final version dropped the word “sanctuary.”

Kathleen Willis, Democratic State Representative from suburban Chicago, stated: “I don’t think you can say, ‘I don’t agree with the law so I won’t enforce it.’ I think it sends the wrong message.” And, as Newsweek reporter Gillian Edevane noted, the resolutions are “largely symbolic,” with the goals to “irk progressives” and “reassure gun owners that county leaders have not been swayed by the recent surge in gun control activism,” but the resolutions do not technically change anything.


Don Babwin, “Illinois Counties Declare ‘Sanctuary’ Status for Gun Owners,”, May 6, 2018

Mary Cooley, “Board Declares Monroe County a ‘Sanctuary County’ for Gun Owners,”, May 7, 2018

Gillian Edevane, “What’s a ‘Sanctuary County’ for Gun Owners? Leaders Pass Resolutions to Irk Liberals and Block Gun Control,”, Apr. 20, 2018

Clark Mindock, “Illinois Republicans Push for ‘Sanctuary’ for Gun Owners as State Government Considers New Gun Control,”, May 8, 2018