'I will not let laws strip ... citizens of their constitutional rights and not take a stance': Ill. sheriff won't arrest over banned firearms
Greene County Sheriff Rob McMillen expects the weapons ban to be challenged in court, but until then he says that he is going to follow his "morals and beliefs"
By David C.L. Bauer
GREENE COUNTY, Ill. — Illinois's ban of some assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines is drawing a strong rebuke from the sheriff of one west-central Illinois county, who says he will not "sit back and let laws strip ... citizens of their constitutional rights and not take a stance."
Greene County Sheriff Rob McMillen on Wednesday said in a letter to the community that his office will not conduct any investigations or arrests or assist any outside agencies in investigations or arrests of "lawful gun owners failing to register their weapons with the state or any other of the unconstitutional provisions contained in [the new law]."
He said Greene County Jail would not house anyone arrested solely for non-compliance of the regulations in the law, either.
McMillen said he expects the constitutionality of the law will be challenged in the courts. Until that happens "and the constitutionality issue is decided, I am going to follow my morals, beliefs and obligations concerning protecting the rights of Greene County's citizens."
He said he was taking a stance "supporting the citizens against a government that wants to trample on their rights."
Illinois on Tuesday became the ninth state to ban so-called assault weapons when Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law the Protect Illinois Communities Act.
The act, formally known as House Bill 5471, prohibits the sale, manufacturing, possession or purchase of assault-style weapons — including dozens of rapid-fire rifles and pistols — or attachments. It also bans high-capacity magazines.
Those who have any of the firearms can keep them but will be required to register them with the state.
"For the past four years, my administration and my colleagues in the state Capitol have been battling the powerful forces of the NRA to enshrine the strongest and most effective gun violence legislation that we possibly can," Pritzker said at the signing. "I couldn't be prouder to say that we got it done. And we will keep fighting — bill by bill, vote by vote, and protest by protest — to ensure that future generations only hear about massacres like Highland Park, Sandy Hook and Uvalde in their textbooks."
Critics, including most Republicans in the state Legislature, contend the ban violates the Second Amendment.
"These types of laws put law enforcement officers and prosecutors in a very precarious box, with us having to decide to not enforce laws that were passed by government bodies," McMillen said. "I believe that this stance will be the stance of many other sheriffs throughout the state of Illinois, so we are unified in this movement to protect the rights of our respective citizens."
The full text of McMillen's letter follows:
Citizens of Greene County,
As your sheriff, I wanted to give the citizens of Greene County an update on the recent passage of HB 5471, also known as the Protect Illinois Communities Act.
As your duly elected sheriff, my job and my office are sworn to protect the citizens of Greene County. This is a job and responsibility that I take with the utmost seriousness.
Part of my duties I accepted upon being sworn into office, was to protect the rights provided to all of us in the U.S. and Illinois constitutions. One of those enumerated rights found in the U.S. Constitution is the right of the people to keep and bear arms provided under the Second Amendment.
The right to keep and bear arms for defense of life, liberty and property is regarded as an inalienable right by the people of this country.
I, among many others, believe that HB 5471 is in clear violation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Therefore, as the custodian of the jail and as your chief law enforcement official of Greene County, neither myself, my deputies, nor my office will be conducting or participating in any investigations or arrests, or assisting any outside agency or agencies in any investigations or arrests, concerning lawful gun owners failing to register their weapons with the state; or any other of the unconstitutional provisions contained in HB 5471.
Furthermore, the Greene County Jail will not house any law-abiding individuals that have been arrested solely with non-compliance of the regulations found in HB 54 71.
Robert D. McMillen
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