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Knox, Whiteside County Sheriffs take stand against assault weapons ban, State's Attorney fires back

The sheriffs of Knox and Whiteside County have declared their stance in opposition of House Bill 5471, the assault weapons ban bill that was passed Tuesday night.

ILLINOIS, USA — Editors Note: The above video was published on Jan. 10, 2023.

The sheriffs of Henry, Knox and Whiteside counties have declared their stance in opposition to House Bill 5471, the assault weapons ban bill that passed with Gov. Pritzker's signature on Tuesday.

In separate statements, Henry County Sheriff Joshua Verscheure, Knox County Sheriff Jack Harlan and Whiteside County John Booker delivered the same news release, drafted with the Illinois Sheriffs' Association, in which they said: 

"As your Sheriff, I wanted to give citizens of (Knox, Whiteside) 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, in fact, to protect the citizens of (Knox, Whiteside) County. This is a job and responsibility that I take with the utmost seriousness. 

"Part of my duties that I accepted upon being sworn into office was to protect the rights provided to all of us, in the Constitution. One of those enumerated rights if the right of the people to keep and bear arms provided under the 2nd amendment.

"The right to keep and bear arms for defense of life, liberty and property is regarded as an inalienable right by the people. 

"I, among many others, believe that HB 5471 is a clear violation of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"Therefore, as the custodian of the jail and chief law enforcement official for Knox County, that neither myself nor my office will be checking to ensure that lawful gun owners register their weapons with the State, nor will we be arresting or housing law abiding individuals that have been arrested solely with non-compliance of this Act."

The bill was passed by the Illinois House on Friday, Jan. 6, and the Illinois Senate on Monday, Jan. 9.

Several hours later, Knox County State's Attorney Jeremy Karlin released a statement criticizing Sheriff Harlan's disregard for enforcement of the law:

"Illinois Courts have repeatedly declared the state’s attorney to be the chief law enforcement officer of the county because he or she decides whether charges are filed. Second, the Protect Illinois Communities Act is presumed constitutional and enforceable until Illinois courts state otherwise. Third, until a court issues such a ruling, a law enforcement officer has an obligation to investigate crimes and enforce the law."

"The Sheriff’s conviction regarding the Act should not be allowed to have the effect of law in Knox County. Personally, I agree that the statute has constitutional issues. These need to be decided in a courtroom and not in the back office of the Sheriff’s Department," Karlin added.

Here's Karlin's full statement:

The legislation bans the manufacture or possession of dozens of brands and types of rapid-fire rifles and pistols, .50-caliber guns and some attachments. The law will allow gun owners to keep the guns they own now, but requires them to be registered with the state. 

Illinois gun manufacturers can continue to make assault weapons, but can only sell them to suppliers in other states. Illinois manufacturers can not sell them to Illinois buyers under the bill.

For a list of all weapons that are banned under the bill, check here.

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