Illinois sheriffs declare gun, magazine ban "clear violation" of 2nd Amendment

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

As Dan Eldridge of Maxon’s Shooter’s Supplies and I discussed on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, the opposition to Illinois’ new ban on so-called assault weapons and “large capacity” magazines isn’t likely to be limited to the courts. And in fact we’re already starting to see several county sheriffs announce that they have no plans to enforce the provisions of the new law in most circumstances.

More than a dozen sheriffs in the state have already released statements in the wake of the gun and magazine ban being signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker slamming the new law and vowing to use their own discretion in enforcement. In his press release, Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle declared that he believes HB 5471 is a “clear violation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” and that in his role as sheriff neither he nor deputies will be “checking to ensure that lawful gun owners register their weapons with the State,” nor will they “be arresting or housing individuals that have been charged solely with non-compliance of the Act.”

VanVickle isn’t alone in making that pledge.

LaSalle County Sheriff Adam C. Diss and Knox County Sheriff Jack C. Harlan, Jr. announced that they do not plan to enforce the newly enacted assault weapons ban, according to identical letters released Wednesday.

… Below is the text of the letters sent from their offices.

As your sheriff, I wanted to give citizens of [LaSalle/Knox] County an update on the recent passage of HB 5471, also known as the Protect Illinois Communities Act.

As your duly elected sheriff my job and my office are sworn, in fact, to protect the citizens of [LaSalle/Knox] County. This is a job and responsibility that I take with the utmost seriousness.

Part of my duties that I accepted upon being sworn into office was to protect the rights provided to all of us, in the Constitution. One of those enumerated rights is the right of the people to keep and bear arms provided under the 2nd amendment.

The right to keep and bear arms for defense of life, liberty and property is regarded as an inalienable right by the people.

I, among many others, believe that HB 5471 is a clear violation of the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution.

Therefore, as a Custodian of the Jail and Chief Law Enforcement Official for [LaSalle/Knox] County, that 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 arrested solely with non-compliance with this act.

So far, the sheriffs of Kankakee, Jo Daviess, Logan, Edwards, Winnebago, Stephenson, Iroquois, Richland, and Lee counties have also joined VanVickle, Diss, and Harlan in announcing that they will not be making any arrests based solely on violations of the new gun and magazine ban, and in both Wabash and Perry counties the state’s attorney has partnered with the local sheriff in announcing their plans going forward.

Sheriff [Chad] Howard stated: “A little more than a month ago I took my oath of office as Sheriff, and part of that oath was to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, including the Second Amendment.” “The provisions of HB 4571 are clearly in violation of the Second Amendment and I will not be enforcing this unconstitutional law against law-abiding citizens,” Howard added.

“Once again, we see that those in control in Springfield pass unconstitutional legislation in the waning hours of a legislative session, in a ‘back door’ method, just like they did with the SAFE-T Act. In this case it effects the Second Amendment rights of all citizens in Illinois, whether in Chicago or Perry County,” State’s Attorney [David] Searby said.

“This legislation basically bans objects and property that law-abiding citizens have lawfully owned for years, and in some cases, decades; while allowing them if you register them with the Illinois State Police. My Office will exercise prosecutorial discretion in these types of cases,” Searby further stated.

There are dozens of other counties in Illinois that have previously declared themselves to be Second Amendment sanctuaries, so my guess is that we’ll be seeing many more sheriffs make similar announcements over the next couple of days. Illinois Democrats may have been able to get their gun and magazine ban on the books, but actually enforcing it outside of Chicago and its deep-blue suburbs is going to be another story entirely… and that’s before the courts have a chance to weigh in.

You can expect the editorial pages of the Chicago papers to take some shots at these sheriffs for supposedly ignoring the law, but that’s not exactly what’s happening here. Just as we saw progressive prosecutors in places like Austin, Texas vow not to enforce state-level abortion restrictions in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, or prosecutors declare they would no longer enforce marijuana laws even in states where possession remains criminalized, these Illinois sheriffs and prosecutors are using the discretion afforded to their office to choose not to make enforcement of this particular statute a priority. There’s nothing illegal or unconstitutional about adopting this policy, though it should also be noted that their lack of enforcement doesn’t mean that any departments within these counties or the Illinois State Police won’t try to enforce the gun or magazine ban provisions whenever and wherever they can.

The sheriffs’ statements aren’t toothless even if they’re no substitute for a court throwing out the new bans as a violation of the Second Amendment rights of Illinois residents. Hopefully that day is imminent, but in the meantime its’ great to see so many sheriffs declaring their plans not to enforce the gun and magazine ban. Here’s hoping we have a few dozen more to add to the list in our next update.