At least 94 of Illinois’ 102 county sheriffs expressed disapproval of the Protecting Illinois Communities Act (Act) signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Jan. 11. Calhoun County Sheriff William Heffington told The Epoch Times he isn’t concerned about Pritzker or the Illinois General Assembly’s views on firearms.

“I work for the people, not the government,” Heffington said.

According to Heffington, the Act is unconstitutional and unnecessary. Heffington said the Act addresses crime by clamping down on the law-abiding.

“I just don’t see anything in that bill that does anything to solve our problems,” Heffington said. “We need stiffer penalties on people that abuse the law.”

Jim Kaitschuk is the executive director of the Illinois Sheriff’s Association. He said the majority of Illinois sheriffs agree with Heffington. He pointed out that county sheriffs don’t answer to state officials as elected officials. So, they are generally freer to focus on the communities they serve.

A visitor prays at a memorial to the seven people killed and others injured in the Fourth of July shooting at the Highland Park War Memorial in Highland Park, Ill., on July 7, 2022. (Nam Y. Huh/AP Photo)

“A sheriff’s job (performance) is determined every four years,” Kaitschuk told The Epoch Times.
Kaitschuk took issue with the contention that Illinois’ sheriffs were refusing to enforce the law. While the sheriffs’ actions may seem a bit rebellious, Kaitschuk said there’s more to enforcing the law than arresting people.

“If a police officer stops someone speeding and gives them a warning, isn’t that enforcing the law?” he said.

He said that all law enforcement officers are granted a certain amount of discretion. In addition, they are sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution and their state’s Constitution. Kaitschuk said the sheriff—like anyone else in a similar situation—is expected to use his best judgment to do what is right when those appear to conflict.

“I don’t know why a sheriff should be different than anyone else,” Kaitschuk said. “Why shouldn’t they be able to say what they believe about any new law?”

Pritzker’s office and the office of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul did not respond to telephone messages and emails seeking comment before press time. According to published reports, Pritzker gave one reason for signing the bill into law.

“This legislation will stop the spread of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and switches, and make our state a safer place for all,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker in Washington in a July 14, 2021, file photograph. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

The Illinois House passed the Act on a final vote of 68 to 41. The new law bans so-called “assault weapons” and magazines that hold more than 12 rounds of ammunition.

The Act defines a so-called assault weapon as a semiautomatic rifle that accepts a detachable magazine and features a pistol grip or thumbhole stock, a flash suppressor, a grenade launcher, a barrel shroud, or other features.

A semiautomatic pistol that accepts a detachable magazine or may be modified to accept one has a threaded barrel, a second pistol grip, a flash suppressor, a barrel shroud, or other features also falls into this category, as do most AK and AR-style rifles. Also banned are .5-caliber firearms.

Banned firearms are grandfathered under the law if the owners register them and pay a fee.

Illinois State Rifle Association President Doug Mayhall previously told The Epoch Times that gun registration is one of the most objectionable aspects of the Act.

“Registration always turns into confiscation,” Mayhall said.

Under the Act, the term of an Illinois Firearms Restraining Order (FRO) law is extended from six months to one year. The list of persons who could ask the court for a FRO was expanded.

Epoch Times Photo
An AR-15 at FT3 tactical shooting range in Stanton, Calif., on May 3, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

The Act increases the age to obtain a Firearm Owner Identification Card (FOID) to 21. People younger than 21 can currently receive a FOID if a parent or guardian signs for them. The law would make exceptions for persons under 21 serving in the U.S. Military or Illinois National Guard. It would also permit guardian-supervised hunting or shooting sports.

On his webpage, State Rep. Bob Morgan (D-58th District) wrote that he was motivated to sponsor the Act after a mass shooting on July 4, 2022.

In that shooting, a 22-year-old man opened fire during a July 4 parade in Highland Park, Ill. He reportedly killed seven people and wounded dozens more. He is currently facing more than 117 felony charges, including 21 counts of murder. Morgan did not explain how his law would have prevented that shooting.

Heffington said he understands and shares Morgan’s desire to see things change. However, he said the Act focuses on the innocent and leaves the guilty alone.

“This new law is all about the honest people who obey the law. It’s almost like they’re guilty because they own a gun,” Heffington said.

Jack Phillips, a senior reporter for The Epoch Times, contributed to this report.

Michael Clements
Michael Clements has more than 30 years of experience in print journalism, having worked at newspapers in Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma. He focuses mainly on the Second Amendment and individual rights. He is based in Durant, Oklahoma.

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