Protecting rights or ignoring the law? McHenry County residents weigh in on possible gun sanctuary

Nearly 20 people spoke on a possible resolution to make McHenry County a gun sanctuary Tuesday

Woodstock resident Bob Lesser speaks in favor of the McHenry County Board passing a gun sanctuary resolution on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, at its regular meeting in Woodstock.

Kathleen Larimer of Crystal Lake held up a picture of her son, killed during the 2012 shooting at a Colorado movie theater, calling him “the face of gun violence,” while Carl Swanson of Algonquin said the new gun bill passed by Illinois is “a continuing creep of a loss of our constitutional rights.”

Both these McHenry County residents, as well as others, were part of a divided room at the McHenry County Board meeting Tuesday evening, where nearly 20 people spoke for or against making McHenry County a gun sanctuary county.

Parents, teachers, volunteers, and voters fell on both sides of the issue, while the two County Board members who gave comments – Terri Greeno, R-Crystal Lake, and Carl Kamienski, R-Johnsburg, – both spoke about the importance of upholding constitutional rights.

The McHenry County Board was not set to consider gun sanctuary status Tuesday evening, but a potential item addressing that possibility is expected to go in front of the county’s Law and Government Committee on Jan. 31, McHenry County Board Chairman Mike Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, said at the meeting.

The meeting comes one week after Gov. JB Pritzker signed a law banning a variety of semi-automatic weapons from being sold in Illinois and required current firearm owners to register several different types of firearms. But residents began weighing in on a possible gun sanctuary in December, when the bill was first proposed.

In the hours and days after the bill was signed, many sheriffs and other law enforcement officials from around the state – including McHenry County Sheriff Robb Tadelman – came out against the bill, saying they would not enforce certain provisions from it.

Tadelman’s stance was praised by several on Tuesday, including Buehler, who thanked Tadelman for standing “in support of our constituents’ constitutional rights.”

Others, such as Abby Brosio, a teacher at Hannah Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake, did not agree.

Brosio was at the Highland Park Fourth of July Parade last year when a gunman opened fire and killed seven people and injured nearly 50 others. While holding her 1-year-old child, she was grazed in the arm.

“Dealing with the aftermath of what happened to my family is incredibly lonely,” she said. “I think this is a very small sacrifice that we can make to protect our children.”

Sharon Fetting said she supports making the county a gun sanctuary, adding that she wants to protect her children’s rights to own a gun.

“For you to try and infringe on that makes me furious,” she said.

The question of constitutionality came up on both sides.

While Bob Lesser of Woodstock said the new state law violates the Second Amendment by turning law abiding owners of weapons into felons, former teacher and principal Rick Carlstedt said it’s not the county’s job to pick and choose what laws to enforce.

Resident Tara Neilson said safety comes at the expense of liberties and as a result, has led the government to overregulate and overprotect. She asked the board to make McHenry County a gun sanctuary.

“There will no longer be a land of the free, if it is not home of the brave,” Neilson said.

Resident Katherine Rosch, who has a firearm owners identification card and is a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, pointed to the Second Amendment’s text, which uses the term “regulated,” and cited several statistics showing how severe gun violence is in the U.S. compared to other similar countries.

“Gun laws don’t curtail freedom any more than speed limits or seat belts,” she said. “There is no one solution to end the epidemic of gun violence. But it’s extremely apparent now more than ever that we demand a culture of responsible gun ownership.”