Lawmakers call for DuPage Sheriff to retract assault weapons ban statement

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A group of lawmakers joined together at a press conference Monday morning to request that DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick retract his statement about not fully enforcing Illinois’ recent ban on assault weapons. U.S. Representative Sean Casten (IL-06) said if Mendrick did not do so, he should resign.

Casten was joined by U.S. Representatives Bill Foster (IL-11), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), and Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), along with state legislators, members of the Illinois congressional delegation, and DuPage County Board members at Danada House in Wheaton for the presser.

What Mendrick said in his statement

They were speaking out against a statement Mendrick released on Friday, January 13. 

In it, he called HB 5471 a “clear violation” of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, saying, “Therefore, as the custodian of the jail and chief law enforcement official for DuPage 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.”

What HB 5471 bans

HB 5471, also known as the Protect Illinois Communities Act, bans the distribution and sale of high-capacity magazines, assault weapons, and switches that allow handguns to fire rounds automatically. 

Those already in possession of the banned weapons are required to register them with the Illinois State Police.

Monday’s press conference

During Monday’s press conference, Casten decried the sheriff’s stance.

“The sheriff of DuPage is basically saying he has more in common with the people who are currently breaking the law, than with people who don’t want to get shot,” said Casten.

Congressman Bill Foster voiced concerns about the county being at a greater risk of gun violence after Mendrick’s comments.

“By indicating he will not enforce important provisions of the Protect Illinois Act due to his personal beliefs about their constitutionality, Sheriff Mendrick is threatening to deliberately violate his oath and duty to the citizens he serves,” said Foster.

Casten, Foster, Ramirez, Krishnamoorthi, Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-05), and Rep. Jesús G. “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04) wrote a letter to Sheriff Mendrick last week asking him not only to rescind his comment but inquiring about decisions he’s made as sheriff and if he had disregarded state laws he personally believed were unconstitutional.

“As Sheriff, you do not have the authority to set enforcement priorities based on your personal views of a law’s constitutionality,” wrote the legislators.

Mendrick’s Response

After the press conference, Sheriff Mendrick released a statement, saying the lawmakers held the press conference “to admonish and berate me, your DuPage County Sheriff, for questioning their authority of a very poorly written piece of legislation that has no clear direction on who will be enforcing new gun laws.”

He pointed out that though asked to enforce gun sale laws at gun shops, “we do not have any gun shops in unincorporated DuPage County.” He went on to say that he would “enforce any gun laws when it is tied to any other criminal activity,” and spoke of previous requests he’d made to increase penalties on “all existing gun crimes.”

Mendrick added, “There is absolutely nothing that we are doing or not doing that would make a mass shooting more accessible in DuPage County.”

DuPage County Board concerns

DuPage County Board representative for District 4 Mary FitzGerald Ozog spoke at Monday’s press conference about the “disturbing” atmosphere she expects at Tuesday’s board meeting. 

“The way this needs to work is it goes through the courts: the sheriff is not the courts,” said Mary FitzGerald Ozog. “I’m very concerned about creating this atmosphere for us elected officials.”

The DuPage County Board meeting starts at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

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