By Herb Meeker

News Report Staff

Effingham County Board experienced a news media feeding frenzy last week over its passage of an ordinance supporting the Second Amendment and calling for “sanctuary county” status for legal gun owners.

Effingham County Board member Dave Campbell and State’s Attorney Bryan Kibler were involved in interviews with Fox News “Fox and Friends,” Time, NRA-TV, Daily Wire and some nationally syndicated talk shows.

The intent of the ordinance was a symbolic protest to any Illinois lawmakers aiming to approve more restrictive gun control laws. The national news coverage after the April 16 passage of the ordinance provided a loud and clear message from Effingham County.

“The County Board does ordinances along this line every year, like ones against the Prevailing Wage statute. But this one took off. Sometimes, when you protest something you want to draw attention. And we did with this one,” Kibler said.

“I hoped it would be a regional thing and let the legislature know we were opposed to more restrictive gun laws. When it was picked up by Fox 32 in Chicago, I was really sure it might go further. It turned out a lot more effective than just sending an email to Springfield,” said Effingham County Board Chairman Jim Niemann.

In late March, Board Vice Chairman Dave Campbell proposed Effingham County adopt an ordinance supporting legal gun owners’ rights against a group of legislative bills drafted in reaction to the Parkland, Florida, school shooting deaths. Iroquois County Board had approved such an ordinance in support of the Second Amendment and Campbell consulted with Kibler to draft a measure for the board’s legislative committee.

That is when Kibler added the “sanctuary county” clause on the ordinance in an effort to turn the tables on American cities declaring themselves safe zones for immigrants at risk of deportation by federal authorities. The thinking behind the clause was if cities could stand up for the rights of immigrants, why couldn’t Effingham County speak up for the rights of its law-abiding residents owning guns?

“We were using a hot button word and it got caught up in the vortex of the national debate over gun control and gun owner rights,” said Kibler, explaining why national news media outlets picked up the story so quickly.

The county board received blowback that it was opening the county up to “paranoid gun lovers” wanting to break the gun laws. Kibler said the ordinance does not change anything on law enforcement in Effingham County.

“The idea that we’re going to turn the county into the Wild West is a total fallacy,” Kibler said. “It’s wrong to claim we won’t be enforcing any gun laws because of this ordinance.”

Effingham County Sheriff Dave Mahon seconded that point on enforcement.

“My stance on this is I’m a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I have been a National Rifle Association and Concealed Carry instructor. I am a life-long member of the NRA. But, the County Board does not run the operations of the Sheriff’s Department. We will support all gun laws in place,” Sheriff Mahon said. “The ordinance stated the county will welcome all law-abiding gun owners. That is part of the reason I didn’t get concerned with it.”

He added if the state legislature approves laws on gun control he considers unconstitutional, he will consult the State’s Attorney office and the legal counsel of the Illinois Sheriff’s Association for advice. But he has no intention of looking the other way or condoning deputies who ignore gun law enforcement.

“Court action is required on any question of constitutionality of a law,” said Niemann, who is a retired Effingham Police officer.

Kibler and Campbell emphasized the symbolic element of the ordinance during different interviews last week. They emphasized the ordinance was protesting the state’s bills on gun control.

“Most people who have firearms are responsible with them. The local people opposing the ordinance have been very respectful. We have received some mocking from some of the national news media, but the coverage has been very favorable all in all,” Kibler said.

Niemann said some other downstate county boards have or plan to approve similar ordinances in favor of gun owner rights. Many are opposed to lawmakers from Chicago trying to push gun control that isn’t working.

“Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the country and that doesn’t stop the gun violence,” Niemann said.

During the April 16 board meeting, Effingham County Board member Karen Luchtefeld argued against the ordinance, especially the sanctuary county provision, because it would send the wrong message across the state. She argued for reasonable regulation of firearms to prevent gun violence and promote public safety. Her protests came after several residents urged the board to not pass the measure. Luchtefeld voted against the ordinance, while the rest of the board members approved it.

Kibler said there is a reason few residential burglaries with a stranger breaking into homes occur in Effingham County.

“Most of our residential break-ins involve family members looking for money when no one is home. Random strangers showing up at houses are very rare here. That’s because if you break into a house in this county you don’t know what you’ll get. A lot of people here own guns and know how to use them,” Kibler said.

And the protest ordinance from the county board is intended to discourage the passage of new state laws don’t make it harder to own guns in Illinois.