The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association isn’t filing a lawsuit of their own taking on the state’s new ban on “assault weapons” and “large capacity” magazines, but the group is throwing its weight behind the multiple challenges that have already been filed in federal court.
The association has submitted an amicus brief in opposition to HB 5471, with the ISA’s executive director Jim Kaitschuk telling the Center Square that most of the sheriffs across the state are deeply concerned that the new law is “infringing upon the rights of those legal gun owners across the state.”
“The ISA supports efforts to make Illinois and all of its citizens safe, but it also recognizes that those efforts must be within the bounds set by the Constitution. HB 5471 crosses those bounds, and in doing so, demands that sheriffs enforce a law that deprives the law-abiding citizens they serve of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, including sport and self-defense,” the filing said. “Because law enforcement should never be compelled to violate the constitutional rights of Illinois citizens, the ISA supports Plaintiffs’ action to enjoin the implementation of HB 5471 and to have the statute declared unconstitutional.”
Kaitschuk said there are several elements of the law they’re concerned about, including a requirement gun owners register with Illinois State Police that they are in possession of a gun defined as an “assault weapon.” The registry launches Oct. 1.
“Developing a registration program and limiting the type of weapons people could have in common use, so those were some of the concerns that they had,” he said. “Even though there was an exemption provided for law enforcement, many of the sheriffs felt like how was a sheriff different than a general citizen and that was some of their concern.”
It’s a legitimate beef, and there’s a strong argument that those carveouts violate the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution as well as treading all over the Second Amendment rights of those Illinois residents who weren’t included in the law’s exemptions.
While the amicus brief is a powerful statement on its own, many of the sheriffs who signed on to the filing are also opposing the new law in practice as well; refusing to enforce the new ban or to make arrests solely for possessing a now-illegal magazine.
On January 11th, Stephenson County Sheriff Steve Stovall said, “Let me be clear, this piece of legislation will do nothing to make our communities safer! Criminals don’t follow the laws, that is what makes them criminals. This unconstitutional legislation infringes on our 2nd Amendment Rights, which makes any enforcement of HB5471 contrary to my oath of office.”
“It’s not the intent of law enforcement to make law-abiding citizens criminals,” Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle said at the time. “They have a right to defend themselves, they have a right to own and possess firearms, and that’s upheld in the Constitution. And, as your Constitutional Sheriff, that is something we have planned to continue with.”
Stovall and VanVickle are among the dozens of sheriffs across the state who’ve taken a similar stand in support of the constitutional rights of their residents. We’ve even seen some state’s attorneys get involved in the fight to overturn the gun and magazine ban; an indication both of how fundamentally flawed and deeply unpopular HB 4571 is across most of Illinois.
We’re about six weeks away from oral arguments in federal court on a request for an injunction, and U.S. District Judge Stephen McGlynn will hopefully issue his ruling shortly after hearing from both sides. While we wait for the judge to weigh in, at least many gun owners in the state know that their sheriff has their back when it comes to the state’s ban…. both in and out of court.