QUINCY -- Adams County could soon be declared a sanctuary for gun owners, directly contradicting proposed changes to state gun laws.
The Adams County Board's Legislative and Judicial Committee voted Tuesday night to bring before the full County Board a resolution declaring that Adams County might not enforce changes made to gun laws. First passed by Effingham County last month, similar measures have been adopted in at least four other Illinois counties. Adams County is crafting a resolution that will mirror Effingham's. The County Board will vote on the resolution at next week's meeting.
"This is purely symbolic," said Legislative and Judicial Committee Chairman Ryan Niekamp, R-2. "Many people in the community have been asking that we do something about this."
If approved, the resolution would not be legally binding, but it would still leave Adams County State's Attorney Gary Farha with a difficult decision: to adhere to the legislation or to the will of Adams County's large base of Second Amendment supporters.
"My office has the duty to be responsive to people, but I don't like the idea of being a sanctuary city that is not following the law," Farha said. "Ultimately, I don't know what our decision will be. I hope the people that elected me have faith in my judgment."
Farha said enforcement could potentially be determined case by case.
Such declarations are meant to send a message to Illinois' Democratic-controlled General Assembly that many residents south of Chicago oppose gun control legislation -- including banning bump stocks and setting the minimum age to own semi-automatic guns at 21 -- that was put forward after a recent mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla.
Other gun reform measures proposed in the Illinois Legislature would prohibit the possession of certain firearm parts or build components by non-Firearm Owners Identification card holders, impose a 72-hour waiting period on modern semi-automatic firearms, and require gun dealers to be licensed by the state.
"It is indicating that there are many local municipalities and governments that oppose this," Farha said, "but I don't think it will make a bit of difference."
INDIGENT DEATH POLICY
Also during Tuesday's committee meeting, Adams County Coroner Jim Keller discussed the county's indigent death policy.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza denounced the policy Tuesday. According to the Associated Press, Mendoza urged Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration to do more to notify local officials and funeral homes about restored state funding to handle indigent deaths, but there was no money available in the 2016 budget year for indigent burials.
A state Department of Human Services' letter in September 2017 extended claim filing time because the number of claims fell dramatically that year despite the restoration of funding.
Keller asked the committee to review the policy and to do "whatever you wish to do" in regard to the way the county handles indigent deaths. Keller said he spends at least 30 hours on each indigent death case and would prefer to stop handling them entirely.