Local lawmakers weigh in on sheriffs ‘not enforcing’ assault weapons ban

Published: Jan. 13, 2023 at 5:54 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PEORIA (25 News Now) - A few days after the assault weapon ban was signed into law, some county sheriffs are still saying they won’t enforce the measure, with more joining on each day.

Mason County Sheriff was the most recent addition to the list, joining counties like Woodford, Knox, and others. The three most populated counties in the 25news viewing area: Tazewell, McLean, and Peoria have expressed disapproval of the law, but have not said if they will enforce it.

State Senator Dave Koehler (D - Peoria) did not vote when the measure passed out of the Senate earlier this month. He called the decision by sheriffs a “bad move.” He did suggest there may need to be tweaked down the road.

“I’m not totally comfortable with it,” Koehler said. “I think we spend a lot of time and money going after folks that are not the problem.”

Newly sworn-in State Representative Travis Weaver (R - Edwards) was not able to vote on the legislation, as it passed during the previous General Assembly.

“I’m proud of them for being courageous,” Weaver said of the sheriff’s actions. “I’ve always held the sheriff is the last line of defense for our democracy.”

Sheriffs and opponents of the ban say it infringes on the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, but sheriffs don’t technically have the power to declare things unconstitutional. While the Constitution includes rights for citizens, it also mandates the separation of powers between branches, leaving constitutionality at the discretion of the judicial branch.

Having lone law enforcement officers declaring whether or not something is constitutional can throw a wrench in the governing process.

“Their job is to enforce the law, it’s not to interpret the Constitution,” Director of Communication and Public Policy at Illinois ACLU Ed Yohnka said. “We leave that up to the courts.”

The law is already receiving legal challenges. The Illinois Rifle Association also pledged to submit a lawsuit in federal court over the constitutionality of the ban, saying it ties the hands of legal gun owners.

The new law prohibits the sale, manufacture, purchase, and delivery of a long list of assault weapons. The Illinois State Police are required the post the list of newly banned weapons on their website. Anyone who legally owns one of those weapons must register it with ISP within the next 300 days. So far, there is no clearly visible form or link on their website for owners to register.

It also limits the number of bullets in a magazine depending on the type of weapon. Long rifles are limited to ten rounds, handguns are limited to 15, and shotguns are limited to five rounds.

However, it’s not clear what -- if anything -- will happen to sheriffs if they chose not to enforce the law. Yohnka said other agencies like city or state police departments may have to pick up the slack.

“There are ways of working around a local agency who says they aren’t going to enforce a particular law,” he said.

The controversy and political pageantry are likely to continue as the issue takes its place on the national stage. Governor JB Pritzker appeared on CNN and MSNBC Friday morning to talk about the new ban. Some congressmen are also weighing in on the ban.

“Listen, if I was still in the Illinois State Senate I would not have supported that,” Rep. Darin LaHood (R - Dunlap) said. He served as a state senator from 2011 to 2016.