County board postpones vote on anti-gun control law

Published: 2/17/2008 12:09 AM

A symbolic resolution opposing new gun control measures by the state legislature is off the McHenry County Board's agenda this week as a result of Thursday's tragedy at Northern Illinois University.

County Board Chairman Ken Koehler, an NIU alumnus and booster, exercised his power to remove the proposal from Tuesday night's board agenda, saying it would be inappropriate given the events in DeKalb.

"We would have been debating this before many of those kids were buried," Koehler said. "It wouldn't be respectful."

The resolution opposes "the enactment of any legislation that would infringing upon the right of the people to keep and bear arms." The county board's Law and Justice Committee approved the measure last week and the full county board was poised to do the same Tuesday night.

But after Thursday's shootings left six dead and another 16 injured at Northern Illinois, Koehler contacted County Administrator Peter Austin and had the item taken off the agenda.

The shootings hit home for Koehler. Not only is he an alumnus and supporter, but his children graduated and taught at the university, and many friends and associates have children attending classes there now.

That list includes the son of former county board Chairman Mike Tryon, now a state representative, and the daughter of current county board member Randy Donley.

"Both of my sons were teaching assistants in the same lecture hall where the tragedy took place, so it hit me pretty hard," Koehler said.

It is not clear when, or if, the anti-gun control resolution will come before the full board.

Sixty-six counties outside the collar counties and the Oswego Township board in Kendall County have approved the measure, according to Illinois Pro 2A, the umbrella organization promoting the effort.

Two county board members from Pike and Brown counties in west central Illinois started the movement and promoted it at last year's Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day in Springfield. Organizers see it as a way to speak out against a recent series of gun restrictions proposed by state lawmakers, such as proposals to ban private sales of handguns and imprint serial numbers on all ammunition.

One of the group's leaders, Pike County Board Chairman Mark Mountain, said Saturday he agrees with Koehler's decision.

"I think it's out of respect (to the victims)," he said. "There needs to be a time to grieving."

Elgin resident and self-described Second Amendment advocate Jack "Vince" Forbes of Elgin asked the Kane County Board last week to pass the resolution.

Forbes said the resolution is symbolic.

"Obviously it has no force of law as do most resolutions," said Forbes, a spokesman for, a group that advocates laws that allow citizens to carry concealed weapons. "A lot of county boards say it's not county business. But in essence it is. They've sworn an oath, too, to uphold the Constitution."

Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay referred the measure to the board's legislative committee, which meets later this month.