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MARION — The Williamson County Board of Commissioners have decided it will leave it up to the voters of the county to join a movement by several other counties in the state to become a gun sanctuary county.

Jim Marlo, Williamson County Board of Commissioners chairman, said the board voted to place a question on the ballot about passing a resolution to become a gun sanctuary county. He said the question hasn’t been formulated and the board has until August to figure out exactly what the question should be.

He said the results of the election will determine the resolution outcome.

“Letting the residents of Williamson County decide is our goal,” he said. “Not just the opinion of three people on a board.”

Several counties in Illinois, especially the southern countries, have passed resolutions declaring themselves gun sanctuaries. The resolutions started by opposing several gun control bills in the Illinois Legislature. Two of those bills — House Bill 1468 and Senate Bill 1657 have been vetoed and are considered dead.

House Bill 1465 would make it illegal to sell .50 caliber rifles, cartridges or assault weapon attachments to anyone under the age of 21. House Bill 1467 would prohibit municipalities from regulating "the possession and ownership of assault weapons in a manner less restrictive than the regulation by the state,” according to the bill.

Brent Gentry, Williamson County commissioner, said there is a misconception that if the county passes a resolution that it is going to stop a law passed by the legislature from being law in Williamson County.

“Any law in Springfield will trump anything we do in Williamson County,” he said.

However, he said people’s voices need to be heard and putting the question on the ballot and letting 60,000 residents make the decision sends a better message than just three people on a board making a decision.

“It is the only way to get the voices of the people heard,” Gentry said. “We should probably do things like this with more issues in the future.”

Ron Ellis, Williamson County Board commissioner, believes the measure will pass “with flying colors.”

“It will hold much more weight when presented to our legislators,” he said.

Ellis said he knows Williamson County can’t mandate that the state do anything, but just jumping in line with other counties by passing a symbolic resolution wouldn’t achieve anything. However, by having the county vote and say this is something they want, he said it would send a bigger message.

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Dustin Duncan is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering Carbondale.

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