By Pat Pratt
Madison County Sheriff Jeff Conner will not enforce Illinois’ recent assault weapons ban, according to a joint news release with State’s Attorney Tom Haine issued Thursday which challenges the constitutionality of the new law.
“As with any statute passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, it is presumed constitutional,” Connor and Haine stated in the release. “But we are acutely aware that this statute touches on fundamental constitutional issues and is in obvious tension with recent and binding Supreme Court precedent on the Second Amendment.”
House Bill 5471, also known as the Protect Illinois Communities Act was signed into law Tuesday. It bans the sale and distribution of so-called “assault weapons,” as well as .50 caliber rifles and ammunition. High-capacity magazines – defined as more than 10 rounds for rifles and 15 for handguns – are also banned under the new law.
The new law lists specific firearms banned, more than 170 models in total. Residents who own firearms on the list can keep them, however, they are required to register the guns with Illinois State Police.
“Among other things, it bans many of the most popular firearms in America, firearms that are currently in common use for lawful purposes and which law-abiding citizens have legally owned for many years,” the release states.
The sheriff and state’s attorney in the release cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which overturned a New York State law requiring concealed-carry applicants show cause before a license is issued.
“Whatever the policy justification, such a ban is hard to square with the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Bruen, which stated simply: ‘the Second Amendment protects the possession and use of weapons that are ‘in common use at the time,” the release states.
Madison County deputies will not be arresting anyone for breaking the new law, according to the release.
“Therefore, pending further direction by the courts, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office will not expand its limited resources to check whether otherwise law-abiding gun owners have registered their weapons with the State, nor will the Madison County Sheriff’s Office be arresting or housing otherwise law-abiding individuals solely due to non-compliance with HB 5471,” the release states.
Conner joins a cadre of sheriffs across the state – some news outlets have reported as many as 30 counties, but an exact number was not immediately available – who have taken the same stance.
The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, following passage of the legislation, stated its opposition.
“The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association is extremely disappointed in the passage and enactment of HB 5471, that further regulates and limits the purchase of a variety of weapons for lawful gun owners,” the association stated.
In the joint release, Haine stopped short of saying he would not prosecute any case brought under the new law, saying he would apply prosecutorial discretion while upholding Second Amendment rights.
“As to possible prosecution, if the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office is brought cases relating to enforcement of HB 5471, it will exercise strict prosecutorial discretion in such circumstances, ensuring that the clearly-defined Second Amendment rights of our citizens remain undiminished,” the release states.
Conner and Haine stated in the release they are concerned with escalating violence and are supportive of tools, techniques and laws that hold criminals accountable.
“But in this process, the citizens of Madison County can remain confident that their local law enforcement will not turn the criminal justice system against those acting within their clearly-defined constitutional rights,” the release states. “At the same time, we will continue to ensure that crimes involving firearms are investigated and prosecuted according to the facts and circumstances of each case.”