Republican Party of McHenry County pushes for gun sanctuary

County Chairman said any resolution considered has to come from committee member; ‘We wouldn’t normally take up a resolution that’s just sent to us’

McHenry County Board Chairman Michael Buehler listens to a speaker during a McHenry County Board Committee of the Whole meeting Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022, in the McHenry County Administration Building in Woodstock.

The Republican Party of McHenry County is asking the McHenry County Board to make the county a gun sanctuary in response to a recent state law banning certain types of firearms.

In a resolution passed by the McHenry County Republican Executive Committee last week and submitted to the GOP-led County Board for consideration, the party said it opposes the newest gun bill, House Bill 5471, passed by the Illinois General Assembly earlier this month.

The move comes amid a backlash by gun owners and Second Amendment advocates to the legislation, including a statement by McHenry County Sheriff Robb Tadelman vowing not to enforce the registration provision of the law.

The ban was prompted in large part by the July 4 mass shooting at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park that left seven people dead and dozens more injured or traumatized.

Shortly after its passage, county sheriffs across the state – more than 90 out of 102 – announced they did not intend to enforce the law against gun owners, solely because of the ban and its registration requirements. The new law also began fielding lawsuits from opponents seeking to block it both in federal and state court.

The new law “is a direct violation of the Second Amendment,” the local Republican Party said in a copy of the resolution shared with the Northwest Herald, which argues firearms allow for common defense and protection from a tyrannical government and also provides economic benefits to the area.

It calls on the County Board to not support the enforcement of the new bill – which also requires those who already own the newly banned guns to register them – through county funds, appropriations, personnel or property.

The resolution also “demands that the Illinois General Assembly cease further actions restricting the Right of the People to keep and bear arms” and the governor veto any further legislation.

“HB5471 … infringes upon the Right to Keep and Bear Arms of commonly owned firearms by the individual citizens of McHenry County, Illinois,” according to the resolution.

In a letter provided to the Northwest Herald, Party Chairman Jeff Thorsen said while he’s confident the new law will be struck down by the state’s courts, “the damage done to local McHenry County businesses will be devastating and possibly irreversible in the meantime.”

“We call upon the McHenry County Board to consider the kitchen tables of those small business owners and employees most directly affected,” Thorsen said in the letter.

The party passed the resolution just days before nearly 20 residents spoke about the law and the possibility of making McHenry County a gun sanctuary county at the County Board’s Jan. 17 meeting, with the room divided on the idea.

Members of the County Board are set to discuss a possible gun sanctuary at the board’s Law and Government Committee meeting on Jan. 31. However, any potential resolution would have to be drafted by a committee member, County Board Chairman Mike Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, said.

How the resolution sent by the Republican Party could affect the potential resolution is not known yet, Buehler said. Any resolution considered will have the chance to be changed or ultimately could fail to move forward.

“We have people present resolutions to us all the time,” Buehler said. “We wouldn’t normally take up a resolution that’s just sent to us.”

Though at this point, no draft of a resolution to make the county a gun sanctuary drawn up by a County Board member has been made public, and Buehler said he has not seen any draft.

Buehler said he’s seen the resolution submitted by the GOP but declined to comment on it.

Others, such as County Board member Gloria Van Hof, D-Crystal Lake, said if the resolution drafted by the Republicans were to make its way in front of the board, she would vote against it.

Van Hof said she supports the Second Amendment, but in an email, she bolded the section “well-regulated Militia.”

Growing up in Alabama, Van Hof said, “most of the people I knew owned a pickup truck with a gun rack as a standard feature,” but pointing to a number of recent mass shootings, she said it’s not about the Second Amendment.

“What we’re experiencing now is troubling,” she said in the email. “Law-abiding citizens who want a weapon for safety do not need a high-intensity weapon.”

McHenry County’s upcoming decision comes as several other counties across the state are considering or have already passed similar measures.

The resolution also follows Tadelman joining a chorus of Illinois sheriffs in announcing they will not enforce the registration provisions laid out in the new law.

Tadelman’s statement was met with support from Buehler, who thanked Tadelman publicly during the board’s Jan. 17 meeting for his stance. Some other boards have pushed back at their sheriff’s stance.

Any resolution approved at the committee meeting on Jan. 31 would then go before the McHenry County Board at its February meeting, Buehler said.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the number of counties in Illinois. There are 102.

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