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Gun enthusiasts back sanctuary

January 10, 2019

KANKAKEE — The Illinois State Rifle Association announced Monday the Kankakee County Board would hold a hearing the next day on a resolution designating the county a “gun sanctuary.”

Urged to attend, dozens of Second Amendment supporters packed the meeting room and the hallway outside for the board’s monthly session Tuesday. The association warned protesters might show up, “so please remember to be on your best behavior.”

The problem: The issue wasn’t on the agenda.

Despite the mix-up, county board members said they would take up the matter later.

According to the association, 57 of Illinois’ 102 counties have designated themselves gun sanctuaries.

Such resolutions are a statement to Springfield that counties oppose what they see as unconstitutional gun laws. The use of the word “sanctuary” is in reaction to “sanctuary cities,” which ban local police from enforcing immigration laws.

Most of the counties that have passed the resolution are in southern and central Illinois and typically vote Republican in presidential elections. Neighboring Iroquois County was the first to adopt it.

All but six of Kankakee County’s 28 board members are Republican.

During the public input portion of the board meeting, Bradley resident Bobbi Wheeler voiced support for a gun sanctuary resolution.

“Chicago and their draconian laws should have nothing to do with Kankakee,” Wheeler said. “When you reach my age, a senior citizen, which is considered elderly, we should be allowed to carry guns and have no restrictions on magazines and bullets.”

Most in the audience applauded.

County board chairman Andy Wheeler, R-Kankakee, told the audience that the rifle association’s announcement was “highly inaccurate” because the issue wasn’t on the agenda. He said he expected one of the board members to recommend the board’s executive committee consider the sanctuary resolution at its Jan. 22 meeting.

Member Colton Eckhoff, R-Grant Park, later made the request.

Asked about the mix-up, Richard Pearson, the association’s executive director, said, “That’s the information we were given.”

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