An Illinois prosecutor is refusing to prosecute carriers of concealed weapons in his county, even though the governor is still weighing the bill that would allow concealed carry statewide. The attorney’s announcement puts him amongst a burgeoning crop of local officials nationwide who are "going rogue" in civil disobedience efforts against mounting calls for greater gun control.
In May the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill that would allow state residents to have guns in public, putting an end to Illinois’ status as the only state that does not allow its citizens to do so. Without the signature of Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, that bill is not yet law.
But Jeremy Walker, the State Attorney for Illinois’ Randolph County, said ahead of the governor’s pending decision on Tuesday that he would not prosecute public gun possession in his rural country, which touts the motto, “Where Illinois Began.” His statement comes just days after St. Louis' Madison County’s State Attorney made a similar announcement about his also mostly rural area.
Illinois has become a contested center in the gun control debate, as high rates of gun violence in roiling Chicago has focused national attention there. Governor Quinn has previously voiced opposition to a concealed carry law in his state.
"This legislation is wrong for Illinois," said Quinn said in a statement after the Illinois Assembly passed the concealed carry bill, Senate Bill 2193. "We need strong gun safety laws that protect the people of our state. Instead, this measure puts public safety at risk."
“I will not support this bill and I will work with members of the Illinois Senate to stop it in its tracks,” he said.
The two Illinois attorneys are not alone in their preemptive measures against gun control. In January, Sheriff Stacy Nicholson of Georgia's Gilmer County wrote on Facebook that he has no “intention of following any orders of the federal government to perform any act which would be considered to be unlawful” – meaning, any federal or state gun-control measure that curbed Second Amendment rights.
And one Texas-based law-enforcement group is campaigning to get more sheriffs on-board with such opposition, hoping to get least 1,200 out of the nation's 31,000 sheriffs to publicly oppose gun control laws.
At the time, President Barack Obama was proposing a package of gun-control laws that would meet rising demand for such measures after the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In Maine, a bill that would have allowed gun owners to carry a concealed weapon without a permit failed to pass the House of Representatives by one vote on Tuesday. Currently, Maine law allows people to carry a gun without a permit as long as the gun remains visible.
A professor of constitutional law at the University of Denver, Sam Kamin, told The Christian Science Monitor that the push-back from local officials on gun-control are an echo of Civil War politics, when southern authorities refused to enforce federal laws in their localities.
"It sounds like the pre-Reconstruction South, where they vowed to arrest federal officers coming down to enforce federal law – which is just inherently inconsistent with the federal system," he said.
Illinois’ bill would ban the carrying of concealed guns in a number of public spaces, including schools and parks, as well as in bars where more than 50 percent of sales are from liquor. Permits would be given to people who pass a background check and has a valid Firearm Owner's Identification Card, which requires 16 hours of training to obtain.
Under the previous law, the right to carry a concealed weapon had been restricted to police, security guards, hunters and members of target shooting clubs.