Williamson County Board to meet about gun sanctuary referendum - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Williamson County Board to meet about gun sanctuary referendum

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WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Ill. — Friday morning the Williamson County Board will decide whether to put a referendum on November's ballot which would declare the county a sanctuary from state gun laws.

The highly contentious issue is expected to bring out hundreds of citizens. 

Williamson County Commissioner Ron Ellis says that the potential referendum isn’t the chance for voters to decide, as some initially believed it to be.  

Instead he says, it’s actually a way for state Republicans to attract more right-leaning voters to the polls in November. 

“Do I want the citizens of Williamson County to be included in this political football, as political folly,” he said, “No, I didn’t.”

A few months ago it seemed a done deal the question would be on the ballot, but Ellis said the potential wording changed, leading to a stalemate. 

Originally a resolution said the county opposed five specific bills, the wording later changed to say it opposed all gun legislation.

“You can’t say carte blanche that every bill that comes forward is a bad bill,” Ellis said. “It can’t be done.”

Still, Ellis says he’s feeling political pressure from the state Republican Party, and even Governor Rauner’s reelection effort. 

He showed News 3 a series of texts from State Representative Dave Severin. In the texts Severin says statewide Republicans are going to put out an ad campaign trying to rally Republican voters to turn out for the election. In another text, Severin said Williamson County voters are expecting the question on the ballot, adding there may be backlash if it isn’t. Ellis says the pressure from statewide Republicans was inappropriate and underhanded.

“All of the leadership that contacted me, I didn’t like the pressure that was put on,” he said. 

Severin says he wasn’t trying to intimidate Ellis, just voicing his support for the referendum.

“There wasn’t any pressure,” Severin said. “I just was encouraging him, 'Hey sure hope that you know, you’re for that because that’s I think something good going forward for people to participate in'”.

As one of two Republicans on the county board Ellis says he’s pro-gun, but says he won’t let Williamson County voters be turned into political pawns. 

The meeting will be Friday, August 17 at 9 a.m. at the Williamson County Administration building.

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