By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- Pittsfield chiropractor Dan Mefford believes one issue will draw a larger-than-usual turnout for the March 20 primary.
Mefford spearheaded a ballot question asking if Pike County should adopt a constitutional carry of arms ordinance. The answer will come from voters and, ultimately, the courts.
"Hopefully we'll get the question in the courts, but we can't do anything until it gets passed," Mefford said. "When that step comes, we'll have to make a decision on how to proceed. Until that happens, it's anybody's guess."
Cases already wending their way through the courts could impact the ordinance.
"There's some things that could happen and break this whole thing open," Mefford said. "It's on the verge of doing something. We just don't know what yet."
Mefford said he's already heard widespread support for the ordinance focused on the right to bear arms. He argues that it's already law in the land with the Second Amendment and its promise that the right of the people to keep and bear arms should not be infringed.
"The purpose of government is not public safety, not writing tickets, but to secure fundamental rights," Mefford said. "One is the right to self-defense, to keep and bear arms, not just firearms but any kind of arm."
Pike County's proposal takes it a step further by saying the right cannot be infringed by any local, state or federal agents or government agents.
"Shall not be infringed is a pretty simple phrase," Mefford said.
If a judge writes an order saying one person shall now infringe upon the property of another, "that means he can't touch the property," Mefford said. "How can we have it mean one thing in current day language and take it to the big black robes and suddenly it means something different? What's good for one is good for the other."
Organizers gathered more than 1,300 signatures on the petition, well above the 528 required to put the issue on the ballot.
Mefford hopes to see the issue spread statewide, and he expects that will have to happen county by county.
"Many downstaters feel like their views on liberty and spending are not reflected by current state policy," Mefford said in August after filing the petition to put the question on the ballot.
The constitutional carry initiative follows a 2009 drive, spearheaded by then-Pike County Board member Mark Mountain, against new gun laws and for a conceal-carry law in Illinois. Dubbed Pro2A, it swept through the state, winning support from 90 of the state's 102 counties. In May, the County Board endorsed a Brown County push for a conceal-carry law in Illinois.
The effort taps into a growing frustration with what many consider encroachment on constitutional rights.
Forty-nine states have legal carry of some sort, and eight have constitutional carry allowing people to carry in any manner or method as long as they don't intimidate another person. Illinois is the only state to not allow conceal carry.