Pritzker's war of words with Illinois sheriffs isn't going well for him

AP Photo/Matt Marton

As the first Illinois sheriffs started issuing statements objecting to the state’s new ban on “assault weapons” and “large capacity” magazines and declaring their intent not to arrest or house anyone in their jail solely for violations of the law, Gov. J.B. Pritzker lashed out, telling reporters that if sheriffs didn’t do their jobs they’d lose their position. Pritzker’s threat is an idle one, given that he doesn’t have the power to remove sheriffs from their elected position, but the governor has continued to bash the sheriffs in the press, even as their numbers have grown.

Nine in 10 of the state’s sheriffs, joining with gun-rights advocates in declaring the prohibition unconstitutional, have sworn off zealous enforcement of the law. It prohibits the manufacture or possession of dozens of rapid-fire weapons and attachments and requires registration of those previously owned in response to the massacre at a July 4th parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park which killed seven and wounded 30.
“They took an oath of office to enforce the laws of the state of Illinois, and they will do so,” Pritzker said of the sheriffs Friday in Chicago after signing a law protecting abortion and gender-affirming care.
“These are folks who are entrusted by the public to enforce the law,” the governor continued. “They don’t get to choose which laws they enforce.”
Oh no? Tell that to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, who said back in 2020 that her office would no longer be prosecuting low-level drug offenses. Tell that to the liberal prosecutors in places like Austin, Texas who’ve said they won’t be enforcing the state’s anti-abortion laws.
With a finite amount of resources, virtually every law enforcement agency uses discretion and prioritizes which offenses to (depending on whether we’re talking about police or prosecutors) investigate, charge, and prosecute. Pritzker may have his king-sized panties in a bunch over the vociferous objections by the vast majority of sheriffs (and a growing number of State’s Attorneys as well), but there’s not much he can do about it.
Republican Sheriff Mark Landers of Logan County, just northeast of Springfield in central Illinois, was among the first of his peers to declare his stance, posting on social media Wednesday that “the right to keep and bear arms for defense of life, liberty and property is regarded as an inalienable right.”
Calling the law “a clear violation of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Landers said 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 who have been charged solely with non-compliance of this act.”
Jim Kaitschuk, executive director of the Illinois Sheriffs Association, said more than 90 sheriffs have issued similar statements based on a template he provided. Reaction has been overblown he said.
“All they are saying is, ‘We’re not going to knock on people’s doors to ask whether they have registered their firearms,’” Kaitschuk said. “And if they’re arrested solely on that charge, we will not house them in our jails until ordered to do so by a competent authority,” meaning a judge.
Rep. Bob Morgan, the Deerfield Democrat who sponsored the legislation after witnessing the carnage as a participant in the Highland Park parade, said sheriffs are putting their front-line deputies at risk.
“It’s disappointing to hear this from law enforcement officials whose own deputies’ lives are at risk,” Morgan said. “Standard-issue bulletproof vests cannot stop a semiautomatic weapon round.”
It’s always good to see the sponsor of a gun ban reveal that he doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about, isn’t it? A semi-automatic firearm doesn’t inherently have more muzzle velocity than a revolver or a lever action. Instead, center-fire rifles, whether semi-automatic or not, have a greater velocity than handguns. Level II and Level IIIA vests are are soft-armor vests designed to stop handgun rounds, while Level III and Level IV vests are hard armor that are designed to withstand the higher velocity of a rifle round.
If Morgan’s really concerned about officer safety, he could have sponsored a bill to equip every law enforcement officer in the state with Level IV vests, but instead he authored a measure turning commonly-owned firearms and magazines into forbidden items; and those who own them into criminals unless they scrap their magazines and register their “assault weapons” with the State.
I’d also encourage Morgan to head to one of the 90 or-so counties in Illinois where sheriffs and other elected officials have said enforcement of the new ban will not be a priority and talk to those deputies he brought up. I bet he’d find that the vast majority of them are in full support of their sheriff, and have no desire to enforce this unconstitutional law either.
Pritzker and his legislative allies like Morgan can bloviate all they like, but nothing they say will change the fact that across most of the state, neither police nor prosecutors see much use for this new law or any benefit in strictly enforcing it. And once the courts get ahold of the gun and magazine ban, there’s a very good chance that no law enforcement agency in the state will be allowed to enforce it thanks to a restraining order and injunction. When I spoke to Maxon’s Shooter’s Supplies owner Dan Eldridge about the new ban on Cam & Co a few days ago, he predicted that the signing of the bill would be the high-water mark for the gun ban, and it would be all downhill for gun control activists from here on out. So far that’s very much been the case. Let’s hope it continues when the first lawsuits are filed this week.

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