The new ban on “assault weapons” in Illinois has gone into effect, but Governor J.B. Pritzker has run into a bit of a problem. A number of sheriff’s departments and other law enforcement entities around the state have stated that they will not enforce it. The revolt is mostly coming from the more rural, conservative parts of the state, but it seems to be spreading. On Tuesday evening, Pritzker gave his response. If you don’t enforce the ban, you’re going to be fired. What’s not clear is how the Governor could legally go about firing a sheriff. But hey… don’t let a little thing like the state constitution stand in the way of an autocrat’s pronouncements, right? (Fox News)

After several Illinois law enforcement agencies said they won’t enforce the new gun ban, Gov. JB Pritzker had a strong response: Comply or hit the road.

“As are all law enforcement all across our state and they will in fact do their job or they won’t be in their job,” Pritzker said Tuesday during a press conference.

Locally, sheriff’s departments in Winnebago, Ogle, Stephenson, and Lee counties, among others, have said they will not enforce the new law, which makes more than 100 guns and magazines illegal because the state deems them “assault weapons.”

You can see a partial list of the Sheriffs and other officials who have refused to enforce the ban in this article from local news outlet WCIA. It includes several quotes explaining the reasons for their decisions. The chief sticking point is that they believe the ban to be unconstitutional and they all took an oath to uphold the Constitution and safeguard the rights assured to law-abiding citizens.

As I mentioned above, if Pritzker actually does attempt to “fire” any of the sheriffs, it’s unclear how he would go about it or where he would derive the power to do so. The Illinois state constitution specifically says that elected sheriffs are “accountable directly to the constitution of their state, the United States Constitution, statutes, and the citizens of their county.”

If the people of the county wish to remove their sheriff from office, they can do so at the ballot box during the next election. The Illinois state constitution does not address the question of recalling sheriffs or other local officials. It only contains a provision for recalling the Governor, and that provision was only added in 2010. But one Illinois jurisdiction has successfully recalled a City Council member, so I suppose it could be possible.

But none of those details suggest for a moment that J.B. Pritzker has the authority to simply remove a sheriff with the stroke of a pen. If he tried, he would likely find himself in a messy court case that he would very likely lose.

Of course, none of this may matter in the long run. As one of the recalcitrant sheriffs pointed out, the “assault weapons” ban has already been challenged in court and it may very likely be overturned. There is ample Supreme Court precedent for defeating such laws, so these sheriffs probably don’t have much to worry about.

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