If someone breaks the law and they’re not prosecuted, does the law even matter?
That’s a question we’ve asked regarding Pittsburgh, PA where the mayor is trying to push for local gun ordinances despite a state preemption law on the books. However, it’s a good question to ponder in general. After all, laws are nothing but words on a piece of paper if there’s no enforcement of those laws.
A local state’s attorney is standing his ground against a bill that would ban assault weapons.
During Monday night’s town hall meeting in Marion put on by Representatives Terry Bryant, R-Murphysboro, Dave Severin, R-Benton, and Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, Williamson County State’s Attorney Brandon Zanotti spoke up on how he feels on gun control legislation.
Zanotti stated he would not prosecute any citizen using their weapons to protect themselves or for leisure.
“If you’re not a felon and you’re not using it for criminal purposes we are not going to prosecute you for it,” Zanotti said. “I think we need to be careful before we starting passing all of these bills that start banning everything without again taking a common sense approach.”
Currently a bill that sits in the Illinois Senate involves banning the possession, delivery, sale and purchase of assault weapons.
“This is not a crime if that gets passed that I am going to prosecute,” Zanotti said.
I can’t say that I blame him.
If the law isn’t prosecuted, then it essentially doesn’t exist in Williamson County. Further, there’s little that can be done. State’s attorneys have discretionary power as to what cases they prosecute and what cases they don’t. While most enforce all the laws generally, they almost universally decline to prosecute some cases for a wide variety of reasons.
Zanotti’s refusal to prosecute gun cases may be unusual, but it’s unlikely that anyone at the state level will be able to force the issue. Trying to do so would likely spark outrage by all the other state’s attorneys who want to maintain that discretionary authority over which cases to prosecute.
The downside is that he’s an elected official and those who follow him may not be so inclined to ignore such laws, regardless of the stupidity of them.
Still, it’s good to see that there are a growing number of officials in Illinois that are refusing to go along with the Chicago crowds’ schemes to disarm ordinary, law-abiding people who have done nothing wrong and who haven’t misused their guns in any way. By making this statement, a signal is being sent that even if such a law passes, it won’t have the effect gun control lawmakers think it will. That’s a win for all of Illinois, even if some parties don’t see it yet.
Maybe all of this will be enough of a signal that this bill doesn’t get any further. I doubt it, but a guy can dream, right?