I don’t think that was the intent behind Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s recent statement chastising the many sheriffs across the state who say they have no plans on enforcing the new ban on “assault weapons” and “large capacity” magazines, but he was vague enough that at least one media outlet in the state was left with that impression.
Raoul was speaking with reporters on Friday when one asked about the sheriffs’ vow of non-enforcement, which has come from about 9-in-10 of all elected sheriffs in the state. “As law enforcement agencies, there’s overlapping jurisdiction as well, so if they don’t do their jobs, there are other people there to do the job,” Raoul said.
Was that a threat to fire sheriffs? The folks at WTVO in Illinois believe so, headlining their story about Raoul’s remark as “echoing Pritzker’s threat to fire police.”
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has doubled down on the governor’s threat to fire police officers who don’t enforce the state’s new “assault weapons” ban.
“As law enforcement agencies, there’s overlapping jurisdiction as well, so if they don’t do their jobs, there are other people there to do the job,” Raoul said Friday.
Gov. JB Pritzker made as similar threat last Tuesday, saying cops who don’t enforce the ban “won’t be in their job.” Pritzker made the comment after dozens of sheriff throughout Illinois announced they would not arrest anyone for illegally possessing banned guns because the new law is unconstitutional.
While Pritzker’s comments were also somewhat vague, I did take them as a threat to remove sheriffs from their elected offices, which is a power not granted to him under the state constitution. I also assume that aides whispered something to that effect in his ear shortly afterward because he hasn’t repeated the threat since.
Raoul’s comments, on the other hand, seem less about threatening to use his office to force 90-or-so duly-elected sheriffs out of office and more of a threat/promise to use the Illinois State Police or, in some cases, municipal agencies to enforce the gun and magazine ban even if the vast majority of sheriffs say enforcement isn’t going to be a priority. And it’s true that the ISP can be expected to enforce the provisions of the new law, at least until a federal judge slaps a restraining order on it. But with about 1,800 officers statewide (about 1/10th the size of the Chicago PD), it’s ridiculous to believe that the agency is going to be able to effectively enforce the new prohibitions by themselves.
Which brings us to municipal police departments. Chicago and most of its suburbs will almost certainly enforce the new bans more vigorously than they normally treat low-level misdemeanor offenses, but once Raoul looks beyond Cook County’s sphere of influence, I think he’ll find that most local police departments are on the same page as the county sheriff’s office. For example, look at this recent post from Marion County Sheriff Kevin Cripps in south central Illinois.
Now, an Illinois State Trooper might be able to arrest someone for possessing a “large capacity” magazine in Marion County, but who exactly is going to handle the prosecution? State’s Attorney Timothy Hudspeth has made it clear that he will use “prosecutorial discretion and not make criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens choosing to exercise their Second Amendment rights solely due to non-compliance with what we believe is an unconstitutional law,” and while Raoul’s office does have the power to prosecute most state-level criminal offenses, it would be unheard of for the Attorney General to prosecute a low-level misdemeanor offense that was rejected by the local state’s attorney.
Which is not to say that Raoul won’t stoop to doing just that if given the opportunity. Even then, though, Raoul would have to contend with convincing a jury in a pro-Second Amendment jurisdiction like Marion County to go along with enforcing a ban many (if not all of them) believe to be unconstitutional. A hung jury sounds like the best Raoul could hope for in that environment, and he would run the very real risk of being embarrassed by an outright acquittal from a jury of the gun owner’s peers.
Could someone get arrested and charged with violating the state’s new gun and magazine ban, even in a place like Marion County? Sure. I don’t think any of the ban’s opponents have argued otherwise, whether we’re talking about sheriffs or the Second Amendment groups that will be suing over the new ban. Raoul is right that state-level enforcement mechanisms exist outside of municipal departments and the county sheriff’s office, but even if his office decides to prosecute downstate arrests made by the Illinois State Police, the AG can’t bus in jurors from Chicago to hear these cases in places like Marion County; where opposition to these new laws is running high not just among those charged with enforcing it, but with all those forced to live under its unconstitutional edicts as well. Thanks to the sheriff, state’s attorney, local police departments, and most importantly, the people of Marion County, I’d say the chances of someone actually being convicted solely for that “crime” are awfully slim, even if Raoul chooses to waste his office’s time and resources going after peaceable gun owners engaged in civil disobedience and not, say, violent criminals preying on their communities.