When state lawmakers were considering a variety of bills last year to restrict gun ownership, several Illinois counties passed resolutions or other measures that declared themselves "sanctuaries" for gun owners.
Now, a state legislator is firing back - filing a bill that would prohibit counties from passing such resolutions and ordinances.
House Bill 3553, filed Friday by state Rep. Terra Costa Howard, states that counties and cities "may not pass an ordinance or resolution restricting enforcement of any state law or regulation concerning the ownership or use of firearms."
Howard, a Democrat from Glen Ellyn, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Valinda Rowe, a spokeswoman for IllinoisCarry.com, which is a gun-rights group, said more than 60 counties have approved some type of gun-sanctuary declaration in the past year. She said it's hypocritical for Chicago-area politicians to be opposed to sanctuary designations, after they spearheaded legislation that made Illinois a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants.
"It's kind of ironic that they're picking and choosing what types of sanctuaries are allowed in the state," she said.
Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, also called it ironic.
"Maybe the federal government should do the same thing when the state creates their sanctuaries?" Pearson said. "These county gun sanctuaries are a protest against the state of Illinois, for their high-handed approach to firearms."
Rowe questioned the need for Howard's bill. Rowe said all of the counties' gun-sanctuary declarations, as far as she knows, have been only non-binding resolutions or non-binding referendums - not official ordinances.
"The intent of these state legislators, I believe, is to ultimately disarm the public," Rowe said. "They see these county resolutions as impeding their efforts to remove firearms or to restrict access to firearms for law-abiding citizens."
In November, voters in Madison County approved a referendum that asked: "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?”
Voters approved the measure, but it doesn't really do anything. The County Board has taken no action in furtherance of the referendum. The backers of the referendum have said its purpose was simply to send a message to state lawmakers.
County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler said board members who pushed the referendum were worried about state legislators passing laws that were too restrictive.
"Our County Board decided to put the question on the November ballot and the vote was 2-to-1 in favor of Madison County being a sanctuary county to protect Second Amendment rights," Prenzler said Tuesday.
Rowe said the state legislature is going to be passing a lot of anti-gun measures, now that the House, the Senate and the governor's office are all Democrat-controlled.
"People really need to be talking with their legislators, and speaking out about this type of legislation," she said.