Dozens of Sheriffs in Illinois to Defy State Assault Weapons Ban
On Tuesday, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed the “Protect Illinois Communities Act” banning the sale and manufacture of assault weapons in the state.
The law bans assault weapons, including some semiautomatic firearms, as well as high-capacity magazines and rapid-firing devices.
In a statement, Pritzker said, “For a long time now, I and many other leaders in the Illinois General Assembly have prioritized getting the most dangerous weapons off our state’s streets. Today, honoring the commitment we made, we passed one of the strongest assault weapons bans in the nation, one I will be proud to sign.”
Starting next year, failure to provide state police with the serial numbers for assault-style rifles will be a Class A misdemeanor. The charge is punishable by up to a year in prison.
Dozens of county sheriffs in Illinois, however, suggest they will refuse that provision of the bill.
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Capital News Illinois reports:
But Kaitschuck contended it would be impossible for local sheriffs to know who in their county owns assault weapons if those gun owners don’t voluntarily comply with the law, suggesting it would be ridiculous to go door-to-door to find out.
“We have no inventory of guns bought and sold that are available to local sheriffs,” Kaitschuck said of information partially available to the Illinois State Police. “We don’t have access to it — and I’m not asking for it either, by the way.”
Several gun rights organizations say they are planning to challenge the law in federal court, buoyed by a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision which Second Amendment proponents believe could mean friendlier opinions on firearms-related claims moving forward.
Democrats and advocates who pushed for Illinois to pass the nation’s ninth statewide ban on assault weapons had expected litigation, but on Thursday maintained that unless the law gets struck down, sheriffs’ refusal to enforce any part of it is a dereliction of duty.
“They took an oath of office to uphold the law,” Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference. “As law enforcement, that’s their job. And I expect them to do that job. You can have all the resolutions and declarations that you want (but) the reality is that the laws that are on the books, you don’t get to choose which ones people are going to follow.”
But Kaitschuck countered with the common example of police declining to write a ticket to a driver pulled over for driving 10 miles over the speed limit.
“If I pull somebody over for speeding going 65 in a 55, and I don’t write them a ticket, does that mean I’m not enforcing (the law)?” he aked. “And I know we’re talking apples to oranges here, but…my point on this is that officers have discretion. We don’t arrest everybody we could or else our jails would be totally overrun.”
A joint statement Madison County ‘s Sheriff State’s Attorney reads:
Like many of you, we are very concerned by the passage of HB 5471, which bans certain commonly-used firearms and firearm components in the State of Illinois. Overnight, thousands of otherwise legal gun owners fear their Second Amendment rights are in jeopardy. We feel the duty to clarify for our citizens the policy their Madison County law enforcement leaders will adopt with regard to this new situation.
As with any statute passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, it is presumed constitutional.
But we are acutely aware that this statute touches on fundamental constitutional issues and is in obvious tension with recent and binding Supreme Court precedent on the Second Amendment. Among other things, it bans many of the most popular firearms in America, firearms that are currently in common use for lawful purposes and which law-abiding citizens have legally owned for many years.
Whatever the policy justification, such a ban is hard to square with the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Bruen, which stated simply: “the Second Amendment protects the possession and use of weapons that are ‘in common use at the time.’” Based on the analysis above, we expect a strong court challenge to HB 5471 in short order. We trust that this legislative overreach will not stand. In the meantime, we remain focused on reducing violent crime.
Therefore, pending further direction by the courts, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office will not expend its limited resources to check whether otherwise law-abiding gun owners have registered their weapons with the state, nor will the Madison County Sheriff’s Office be arresting or housing otherwise law-abiding individuals solely due to non-compliance with HB 5471. As to possible prosecution, if the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office is brought cases relating to enforcement of HB 5471, it will exercise strict prosecutorial discretion in such circumstances, ensuring that the clearly-defined Second Amendment rights of our citizens remain undiminished.
We are very concerned and disturbed by the ongoing and escalating violence throughout our state and country. We have fantastic staffs that put forth a strong effort to deter any criminal behavior. We are always supportive of new tools, techniques, and laws that assist us in preventing and holding accountable the people that choose to do harm and violence on others.
But in this process, the citizens of Madison County can remain confident that their local law enforcement will not turn the criminal justice system against those acting within their clearly-defined constitutional rights. At the same time, we will continue to ensure that crimes involving firearms are investigated and prosecuted according to the facts and circumstances of each case.