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Coles board OKs 2nd amendment advisory referendum

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CHARLESTON -- A divided Coles County Board on Tuesday approved an advisory referendum calling for support for the Second Amendment.

The board heard comments in opposition to the proposal, though from opposite ends of the issue, before voting to place the question on the Nov. 6 election ballot.

The board's vote was 7-4 with members Brian Marvin, Nancy Purdy, Rick Shook and Paul Stranz opposed; member Mike ZuHone didn't attend the meeting.

With the board's approval, the referendum question will read: "Should the Illinois General Assembly pass legislation protecting a citizen's right to bear arms as defined by the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution?"

The county Republican Party agreed to seek the referendum at the request of the state party. The issue will be advisory only with no binding effect to the outcome.

While there was no discussion from board members about the proposal, two people addressed the board and spoke against it.

County resident Charles Snodden questioned the state's authority to address what he called a "well-settled" matter concerning the U.S. Constitution.

"I see no point in our legislature talking about this," he said. "Are we proposing that the legislature debate our rights when it's already settled? They have no right to debate what we already have."

Also opposing the referendum was area congressional candidate Kevin Gaither, a Democrat opposing area U.S. Rep. John Shimkus.

Gaither called the proposal an attempt by the Republican Party to hide "their lack of an agenda" and said it was "meant to divide the people."

"It sounds like the county Republican Party is using you as a tool to do something in the mid-term elections," he said. "Is it really in your job description to do that?"

Gaither noted that some gun control opponents claim Democrats are "coming for your guns" but said that's not his position.

"I would never vote for banning weapons," he said.

In other votes Tuesday, the board:

  • Approved seeking proposals for energy efficient work in county buildings.

That followed a study by the SmartWatt Inc. that suggested areas for possible improvements. The company didn't charge the county for the study but is expected to submit a proposal to do the work.

  • Approved funding agreements for repairs to a bridge about 1 1/2 miles southwest of the unincorporated village of Etna and for a culvert replacement in Hutton Township.

  • Authorized a lease agreement with Coles County Memorial Airport to house a roll-in morgue and related equipment for the county Coroner's Office.

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