MARION -- In a town hall meeting on Monday evening hosted by Republican representatives Terry Bryant (R-Murphysboro), Dave Severin (R-Benton), and Patrick Windhorst (R-Metropolis), it was Democrat Brandon Zanotti who brought the crowd to its feet.
Around 450 people packed the Midwest Event Center just north of Marion for a gathering that was billed as a "legislative town hall and listening session" slated to discuss issues, including abortion, gun control, taxes, medical/recreational marijuana, and job creation.
Zanotti, the Williamson County State's Attorney, inspired the group with his comment on the proposed SB 107.
That bill, sponsored by Sen. Julie Morrison, a Democrat from the 29th District, would ban assault weapons not registered with the Illinois State Police.
"What I can tell you," said Zanotti, commenting from the floor, "at least in Williamson County, if you're a law-abiding citizen, a FOID card holder, not a felon, and not using that weapon in the course of a crime, that is not a crime I'm going to prosecute."
Zanotti's comment was well received.
Speaking after the meeting, Zanotti said he doesn't believe the bill, if passed into law in Illinois, will stand up in federal court.
"I think there will be major issues with the wording," he said. "I don't believe it will pass Constitutional muster. It will be in violation of the Second Amendment."
Zanotti pointed out that Southern Illinois has a large number of sportsmen and collectors.
"These are law-abiding citizens that aren't using guns for nefarious purposes," he said. "Prosecuting people like that and branding them as felons is overreaching."
Bryant also drew cheers from the standing-room-only crowd.
"The three of us are opposing any bill that takes away your Second Amendment rights," she said, "not only for recreational use for hunting, fishing or competition use, but for your own personal protection."
Bryant also voiced her concern that many of the proposed bills favoring gun control would also inhibit other Constitutional rights.
The gun control issue ate up the majority of the meeting time and drew several comments and questions from the audience, including David Batts of West Frankfort.
Batts said he is the president of GPSA Tactical Pistol Shooters Association.
"We are competition shooters that train people to protect themselves," said Batts. "Every one of the legislations that's coming through will put us out of business."
"We have no idea what's going on in those people's heads up north and we can't fix it," Batts said. "If I didn't have grandkids here, I would move to Nashville tomorrow, Tennessee, not Illinois."
An exodus from Illinois was brought up by several audience members as a reaction to legislation on gun control, as well as the proposed minimum-wage hike.
All three legislators chimed in on that issue.
"I think many of the Chicago legislators have siloed themselves to think what they believe is right for the city of Chicago is right for the rest of the state and that's just not true," Bryant said.
"Is it really best for the state of Illinois, or the best for society or is it just one of those things that we have gotten emotional about and all fired up about?" Severin asked.
"My personal concern," said Windhorst, "is businesses will either close or move to Indiana, Kentucky or Missouri where they don't have to pay as high wages."
Jason Powell, a management employee for Pepsi MidAmerica, who is also a candidate for Marion City Council, voiced his concern that a minimum-wage hike to $15 an hour could raise prices, forcing companies to purchase goods out of state.
Others also chimed in from the floor, including Richard Parrish, a resident of Union.
"I'm just going to cut to the chase," he said. "How can you, as the minority party, how are you going to stop or delay or mitigate some of this crazy legislation, or are we going to have to do it short of civil disobedience? People are just going to move out of the state."
Bryant said that there is a hard push to pass controversial legislation before May 31.
"Right now, a bill needs 60 votes to pass," she said. "After May 31, it will need 71 votes and there are 74 Democrats."
All three legislators urged the audience to visit il.ga.gov and file witness slips to show their support or disapproval of proposed legislation.
The meeting ran about 30 minutes beyond the expected hour with about 100 audience members exiting when the discussion turned to the legalization of marijuana, both for medicinal and recreational purposes.
The Illinois legislators were expected to be in session in Springfield by noon Tuesday.