County Sheriffs Balk at Enforcing Illinois Assault Weapons Ban

They say they won't arrest legal owners for not registering weapons
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2023 2:54 PM CST
County Sheriffs Balk at Enforcing Illinois Assault Weapons Ban
Assault weapons are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply on Jan. 16, 2013 in Springfield, Ill.   (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

Last week, Illinois became the ninth state to bring in an assault weapons ban, but things aren't going entirely smoothly. The law is facing multiple legal challenges, and dozens of county sheriffs say they won't enforce it. The law bans the sale of certain firearms and high-capacity magazines—and requires owners to register their assault rifles, WLS-TV reports. Sheriffs say they have been getting a lot of calls from worried citizens. They say they have no intention of checking to see whether people have registered their guns and will not arrest otherwise law-abiding citizens for not complying with the law, reports CBS. Some sheriffs say enforcing the law would violate their oath to uphold the constitutions of the US and Illinois.

Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, who signed the ban into law last week, described pledges not to enforce the law as "political grandstanding." "They took an oath of office, though, to enforce the law,” he told CNN Wednesday. "Elected sheriffs are just one level of law enforcement. We have local state police, we have state police. Lots of folks who will hold people accountable. But these sheriffs know better. They know that their voters won’t stand for it if they’re not enforcing the law." The governor said he is confident that the law will survive court challenges. "We’re simply copying, frankly, what’s done in other states," he said. "In fact, ours is one of the most stringent but fits within the confines of what is constitutional and acceptable."

A lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday argues that the ban violates the constitution's Equal Protection Clause because some groups of people, including law enforcement officers, are exempt, the AP reports. Another lawsuit filed in a state court Wednesday argues that it is unconstitutional because it bans "commonly used weapons." Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain says he won't go after legal gun owners, but the law will be used against criminals. "What we will be doing is using this law as another mechanism to charge people with additional crimes who are committing an act of violence or just simply illegally possessing guns," he says. (More assault weapons stories.)

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