Illinois sheriffs won't enforce assault-weapons ban

Mike Berry
Henry County Sheriff Josh Verscheure says he feel the state's new assault weapons ban is unconstitutional.Photo byHenry County Sheriff's Department

The Protect Illinois Communities Act is hailed by its supporters as an important step in reducing violent crime in the state.

But not everyone in Illinois is in favor of the law.

The law, signed Jan. 9 by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, bans the manufacture, sale or purchase of “assault-style” weapons in the state. It also limits the size of magazines to 10 rounds for long rifles and 15 rounds for handguns.

People who already own these weapons will be able to keep them. But they’ll be required to register their guns with the state by the end of this year.

Some people — including most of the state’s county sheriffs — say the law is unconstitutional. The sheriffs say they won’t enforce the law, and won’t even house anyone in their jails who is arrested for violating it.

The majority of the state’s sheriffs — including Henry County Sheriff Josh Verscheure and Stark County Sheriff Steven Sloan — issued identically-worded statements this week saying, “The right to keep and bear arms for defense of life, liberty and property is regarded as an inalienable right by the people.”

The statement says the Protect Illinois Communities Act is unconstitutional, and adds, “Therefore, as the custodian of the jail and chief law enforcement officer for (the 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 of this Act.”

Richland County Sheriff Andrew Hires, the president of the Illinois Sheriffs Association, said in an interview with a Chicago radio station that he expects the constitutionality of the new law will be challenged in court.

“I don’t think anybody’s said they’re not going to enforce this,” Hires said of the new law, adding that sheriff’s deputies in the counties that issued the statements won’t be going door to door looking for banned weapons.

In any event, Hires said, enforcement of the law isn’t the sheriff’s duty, but the job of the state police.

And that enforcement won’t begin until 2024, he added.

State Rep. Robert Morgan, one of the supporters of the new law, said, “I think these sheriffs are trying to take advantage of what they think is a political win for them.”

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I am retired after 45 years in the newspaper business. I am a 1972 graduate of the College of Communications at the University of Illinois.

Kewanee, IL

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