PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — At least 30 county sheriffs are refusing to enforce the newly-passed assault weapons ban because they contend it violates the Second Amendment.
The Protect Illinois Communities Act (HB 5471) bans the sale of all assault weapons and magazines in the state. It also requires owners to register existing guns, among other provisions. Gov. Pritzker signed the bill into law on Tuesday night.
LaSalle County Sheriff Adam Diss, Fulton County Sheriff Jon Webb, Knox Country Sheriff Jack Harlan, and Woodford County Sheriff Matt Smith released identical statements deeming the law unconstitutional and say they will not enforce it.
“The right to keep and bear arms for defense of life, liberty and property is regarded as an inalienable right. I, among many others, believe that HB 5471 is a clear violation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Therefore… neither myself nor my office will be checking to ensure that lawful gun owners register their weapons with the State, nor will we be arresting or housing law abiding individuals that have been solely arrested with non-compliance of this Act.”
Peoria County Sheriff Chris Watkins released a statement opposing the legislation and said it will only hurt law-abiding citizens.
“This is another example of Chicago policy being pushed downstate on responsible gun owners. This bill does not solve the root cause of the problem. The real focus should be on the Mental Health Crisis that’s plaguing our communities that I see increasing every day in Peoria County.”
Tazewell County Sheriff Jeff Lower also released a statement expressing his dissatisfaction with the Act and his commitment to upholding the Constitution.
“I am extremely disappointed with the passage of HB 5471 that further erodes our Constitutional freedoms…as your elected Sheriff, I pledge to do everything within my power to steadfastly protect the Second Amendment and all other individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution. I understand the destructive influences currently existing within our state and our country will only relent when we all vigorously defend and preserve the Constitution and the freedoms it preserves.”
The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association released a statement opposing the legislation.
“The ISA is extremely disappointed in the passage and enactment of HB 5471, that further regulates and limits the purchase of a wide variety of weapons for lawful gun owners…We are always supportive of new tools, techniques and laws that assist us in preventing and holding accountable those that wage efforts of harm and violence on others. However, this law does not do that. We will continue to advocate on behalf of Sheriffs, all of law enforcement and the law-abiding citizens throughout Illinois.”
Knox County State’s Attorney Jeremy Karlin released a statement that the constitutionality of the law is a matter for the courts and the Sheriffs must enforce the law unless otherwise indicated by the legislature.
“The sheriff’s unilateral approach creates a problematic patchwork of enforcement. Apparently, no arrests or investigations regarding violations of the Act will occur in the county, but can still occur within municipalities like Galesburg, Abingdon, or Knoxville. Further, the Sheriff has pledged not to take into the jail those who are arrested in Galesburg or other cities for violation of this Act. Will those people be then housed in different counties at Knox County’s expense or will they just be released in the community? Furthermore, agree with the statute or not, it does give law enforcement another tool to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals whom we all agree ought not have them. It makes little sense to say that tool will not be used in any circumstance…The Sheriff’s conviction regarding the Act should not be allowed to have the effect of law in Knox County. Personally, I agree that the statue has constitutional issues. These need to be decided in a courtroom and not in the back office of the Sheriff’s Department.”
Gov. JB Pritzker (D-Ill.) preemptively threatened to fire sheriffs who do not comply with the new law, which went into effect immediately.
Counties refusing to enforce the law include: Clay, Edwards, Dekalb, Dewitt, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Grundy, Iroquois, Jefferson, Jo Daviess, Kankakee, Knox, LaSalle, Lee, Logan, Massac, McLean, McDonough, Ogle, Perry, Piatt, Pike, Randolph, Richland, Stephenson, Tazewell, Washington, Wayne, White, Winnebago, and Woodford.