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Illinois Sheriffs And Governor Face Off Over Assault Weapons Ban

The news that at least 74 Illinois sheriff’s departments have vowed to defy the recently-enacted state assault weapons ban, HB 5471, has been welcomed by gun owners in Springfield and throughout the state. The new ban, which was passed in the wake of a recent gun control bill signed by Governor JB Pritzker, prohibits the sale of new assault weapons and high capacity magazines in Illinois.

Local sheriffs and county sheriffs departments have said they will not comply with the new weapons ban or require gun owners to surrender their guns or magazines. This decision has been applauded by many gun owners, who know that local sheriffs are in a better position to understand their county’s needs than legislators in Springfield. 

The Illinois State Rifle Association has also indicated its support for these sheriffs, stating that it will challenge any attempt to enforce the provision of this law. The head of the association, Jim Kaitchuk, has said that he is confident they can prove it is unconstitutional for states to ban such guns as AR-15s and other semi-automatic rifles owned by many people across Illinois.

Kaitchuk also noted that the letters sent out by the sheriffs were not meant to challenge the ban, but to inform gun owners of their failure to comply with the provisions of the new assault weapons ban. 

According to Kaitchuk, the sheriffs’ association is not challenging any other provisions of the law, such as enforcing a registry portion or banning sales on Tuesday. 

The Illinois State Rifle Association announced its intention to challenge the ban in court and is currently planning its next steps. The new assault weapons ban was put into place last week and makes it a class A misdemeanor for anyone caught selling these weapons in Illinois, punishable by up to 364 days in prison.

Kaitchuk said that he believes this ban will be challenged by gun owners across Illinois. He believes that state police should be focusing on criminals rather than law abiding gun owners, and he plans on fighting back against this law. 

Madison County Sheriff Jeff Connor, and the Madison County State Attorney, Tom Haine, stated they would defy the new weapons ban. The sheriffs believe that the new law is unconstitutional and expect strong legal challenges in the coming days.

“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,” the statement from Connor and Haine said. “Overnight, thousands of otherwise legal gun owners fear their Second Amendment rights are in jeopardy.”

Both Sheriff Connor and Sheriff Hain said they would not seize legally owned weapons from gun owners nor would they require them to obtain an identification card or register their firearms. They are both pro-second amendment  and want to protect firearm owners in their counties. 

Sheriff Hain’s office posted a statement on Friday saying, “We will not be enforcing this law as it is blatantly unconstitutional.” He went on to say that he believes Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order was “a direct attack on our Second Amendment rights”. 

On Thursday afternoon newly-elected Jersey County Sheriff Nicholas Manns posted a letter on the department’s Facebook page detailing why he and Jersey County State’s Attorney Ben Goetten will not be participating in the enforcement of HB 5471.

“When it comes to law abiding citizens and lawful gun owners, we will not be checking for registration of your firearms with the state, nor will we be arresting otherwise law-abiding citizens solely with non-compliance of this Act or housing such citizens in our jail,” he said. “For those who would otherwise violate our laws or unlawfully possess firearms, we will continue to consider all applicable charges in order to protect Jersey County.”

The ban, which was part of an executive order by Governor Pritzker, was meant to further regulate firearm laws in Illinois. The ban restricts the sale, possession, and transportation of certain firearms and ammunition in the state. 

It also requires anyone wanting to obtain or carry a handgun or ammunition to obtain a license from the state and register their firearm with local law enforcement. Furthermore, it preempts local regulation of firearms ownership and possession by prohibiting cities from passing their own regulations for gun ownership and use. 

Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday called the the sheriffs acting political grandstanding. Attorney General Kwame Raoul said if Sheriffs don’t enforce the law, another agency will. 

“Sheriffs are entrusted by the public to enforce the law. They don’t get to choose which laws they enforce. They must enforce what we’ve written into the code – the General Assembly, signed by the governor,” Pritzker said. “And they will do so.”

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