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Williamson County Commissioner Jim Marlo

Marlo

MARION — Williamson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jim Marlo was ready to move forward with asking November voters their thoughts on gun control, but was stopped short in the board's meeting Thursday when the other two members declined to bring the matter to a vote.

The item on Thursday’s agenda stemmed from a previously tabled item — the board was drafting language to put on the November ballot about whether voters thought the board should take a stand against any proposed gun control legislation at the state level.

“Shall the Williamson County Board of Commissioners pass a resolution that opposes any gun control legislation in the Illinois General Assembly,” was the proposed language. Commissioners Brent Genrty and Ron Ellis were uncomfortable with the wording, specifically the word “any.”

“You bury yourself in that three-letter word,” Gentry said during the discussion about the proposed advisement question. He said he could not live with voting for something that could potentially mean the board stands against legislation that could do some good — however, in an interview Wednesday, Gentry said he was a firm supporter of the Second Amendment.

Brandon Zanotti

Zanotti

He wasn’t the only one who was leery of the wording. Williamson County State’s Attorney Brendan Zanotti urged the board to take caution with regard to the question.

“I believe there are a lot of issues with it,” he said to the board Thursday. His assistant state’s attorney, Wendy Cunningham, said the ballot item could create dangerous confusion among the county’s citizens. She said the general public does not generally have the understanding that resolutions passed by county boards do not trump state or federal laws.

Zanotti brought up another point: He said ultimately these advisory questions, at least on issues out of the board’s control like gun control legislation, mean nothing.

At most, the votes are tallied and a resolution is passed by the board and sent to congressional leaders in Springfield.

Williamson County Commissioner Brent Gentry

Gentry

“They are really going to listen to us as they put it in the shredder,” Gentry said of members of the Illinois General Assembly to the board and gathered community members.

Jim Dean came to address the topic with the board. Dean said he is a gun owner — he has four firearms at home, he said — but he thinks the advisory question and even a board resolution is a waste of time. He said measures like these are just “feel good” votes. Dean said it was ridiculous to vote on such a basis.

“I’d rather see my tax dollars go to better roads, jobs, things of that nature,” Dean said. “Let those who can make a difference have a backbone.”

Marlo then spoke, commenting that had they had this information about the language before their last vote to proceed to finalizing the question, which has to be approved by Aug. 20 to be put on the ballot, then things might have been different. But, he said it was his intention to move forward on what they had.

He made a motion to bring the item to a vote.

It was never seconded.

Gentry took issue with the notion that the question being presented for a vote was in the spirit of the initial discussion.

“That’s not where we started,” Gentry said, adding that the original idea was to oppose specific gun legislation that had been proposed by the General Assembly.

In closing, Marlo said the entire idea to him was to provide the people of Williamson County an opportunity to voice their opinion on gun control.

In an interview after the meeting, Marlo said that he felt that a public vote would have greater weight for legislators than the opinions of three elected county officials.

“Let’s get a shout from 67,000 people instead of three people,” Marlo said.

Marlo also said he felt like the board had already set in motion putting this issue on the November ballot and he intends on pushing forward.

“I followed through,” Marlo said.

isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Reporter

Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Franklin and Williamson counties.

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