Downstate sheriffs continue opposition to assault weapon ban as three lawsuits loom

Crawford County Sheriff William Rutan, Jasper County Sheriff Brandon Francis and Lawrence...
Crawford County Sheriff William Rutan, Jasper County Sheriff Brandon Francis and Lawrence County Sheriff Trenton Masterson stand alongside State Rep. Adam Neimerg (R - Teutopolis).(WEEK)
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 12:33 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - While a circuit court, appellate court, and federal court battle loom for the constitutionality of the assault weapon ban, three sheriffs are saying they will continue not to enforce the ban.

Crawford County Sheriff William Rutan, Jasper County Sheriff Brandon Francis, and Lawrence County Sheriff Trenton Masterson held their disapproval of the ban alongside Rep. Adam Neimerg (R - Teutopolis). The three counties neighbor each other close to the Illinois-Indiana border, near Effingham.

The three sheriffs said because they swore to uphold the Constitution, they could not enforce the ban as they believed it infringed on those rights.

“You don’t get to choose which laws you comply with,” Pritzker said when signing the bill earlier this month. “The reality is the state police is responsible for enforcement as well as all law enforcement across the state. They will do their job or they won’t be in their job.”

However, Francis said to reporters Thursday he is not concerned about losing his job.

“With every law that... in this state we always have discretion on what is enforced and what is not... it’s as simple as that,” Francis said.

Police discretion is a real concept, but it is often used in less serious cases, such as not giving a ticket to a driver going one mile per hour over the speed limit. Swearing an oath to the Constitution is a common part of oaths for elected officials and does not grant sheriffs special powers or responsibilities.

It’s not clear what, if any, consequences they could face for not enforcing the ban. Right now, the state is still in a grace period where legal owners can register their weapons with the state.

As for the three lawsuits, the Illinois State Rifle Association is asking for a preliminary injunction for their suit filed Wednesday. One downstate case, filed by former Attorney General candidate and attorney Tom DeVore, resulted in a temporary restraining order for the 862 individuals and four gun shops listed as plaintiffs. That suit has been appealed by the state.

A second suit from DeVore has over 1,500 individual plaintiffs. An emergency hearing was held in White county Wednesday, and a ruling is expected within a few days.