Kane, Kendall sheriffs sound off on Illinois assault weapons ban

The sheriffs of Kane and Kendall counties made their voices heard Thursday about a new law that prohibits the sale of a wide range of semi-automatic firearms in Illinois.

“As we have always done, we will investigate and charge those who illegally possess firearms or use firearms in the commission of a criminal act,” Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain said in a statement Thursday. “What we will not do is proactively investigate legal, FOID card holding, gun owners and seizing their firearms.”

Hain and Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird argued the new law will likely be challenged in court, similar to the now-put-on-hold Pretrial Fairness Act that was set to eliminate cash bail in 2023.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the assault weapons measure Tuesday in Springfield, making Illinois the ninth state to ban military-style firearms. The effort to achieve the ban accelerated following a deadly mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, where the alleged shooter used an AR-15 style of weapon.

The measure bans the delivery, sale or purchase of the weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds for long guns and 15 rounds for handguns. After Jan. 1, 2024, people who possess an unregistered firearm covered by the ban face a misdemeanor for a first offense and a felony for subsequent offenses.

“Obviously things will go through the courts and they’ll make their determinations, but I feel very confident,” Pritzker said after signing the legislation late Tuesday.

Baird said his office is actively working with the Kendall County State’s Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement partners to determine and address the full ramifications of the legislation.

“The constitutionality of HB 5471 will almost certainly be challenged in court and I look forward to a court ruling that resolves this matter,” Baird said in a statement.

Hain said the Kane County Sheriff’s Office will investigate and charge those who illegally possess firearms, but they will not proactively investigate gun owners who hold legal FOID cards in connection with the new law.

“We are not going to go knocking on doors to see if they have high-capacity magazines or assault rifles,” Hain said.

Instead, if they encounter a felon or someone committing a crime, they will use the ban as an enforcement mechanism to add charges, he said.

Hain argued the new law could cause an increase in black market trafficking of firearms. He said black market marijuana sales increased after recreational marijuana was legalized in 2020 in Illinois.

Hain said surrounding states have less strict regulations on weapons, so he believes the enhanced restrictions in Illinois will likely create an increase in the trafficking of weapons in the state.

This will make our citizens less safe and our cops less safe,” Hain told Kane County Board members Thursday, adding that he wishes state legislation concerning gun violence would focus on mental health care or supporting law enforcement agencies more. “Active shooters are still going to get their hands on firearms whether the legislation creates more laws or not.”

mejones@chicagotribune.com

Chicago Tribune reporters Rick Pearson and Jeremy Gorner contributed to this report.