GALESBURG — Knox County State’s Attorney Jeremy Karlin issued a statement Wednesday explaining his disagreement with Knox County Sheriff Jack Harlan’s recent announcement that the sheriff’s office will not cooperate with the Protect Illinois Communities Act.

The law, also known as House Bill 5471, bans the manufacture, sale and purchase of assault-style, semi-automatic weapons in Illinois. Under the bill, people must register their weapons with Illinois State Police by Jan. 1, 2024, in order to keep them. It was signed into effect by Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday.

In a news release Wednesday, Harlan stated 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.”

Karlan disagreed with three positions put forth in Harlan’s letter: that Harlan is the chief law enforcement officer of Knox County, that HB 5471 is unconstitutional and that Harlan will not enforce the act.

Karlan stated that Illinois Courts have “repeated declared” that the state’s attorney is the chief law enforcement officer of a county; that HB5471 is “presumed constitutional and enforceable” until Illinois courts state otherwise; and “until a court issues such a ruling, a law enforcement officer has an obligation to investigate crimes and enforce the law.”

Karlin also wrote that Harlan’s “unilateral approach creates a problematic patchwork of enforcement,” as arrests regarding violations of the act could foreseeably still occur within municipalities like Galesburg or Abingdon. Karlin asked that if Harlan has pledged not to jail those arrested in Galesburg for violating the act, will “those people be then housed in different counties at Knox County’s expense or will they just be released in the community?”

“As law enforcement officers, our personal convictions regarding a particular act or statute are largely irrelevant,” Karlin wrote. “The legislature decides what the law is. The courts decide whether they are constitutional. Its up to the Sheriff and I to enforce the laws.”

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

Harlan’s news release states that one of his duties upon being sworn into office is to protect those “enumerated rights” found in the Constitution, including the right to bear arms provided under the Second Amendment.

“I, among many others, believe that HB 5471 is a clear violation of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S.,” Harlan wrote.

Nearly identical versions of the news release that Harlan signed have been posted on social media from other sheriff’s departments all across the state — including in nearby Henry, Fulton, Henderson County.

According to Capitol News Illinois, dozens of county sheriffs in Illinois — approximately “80-ish” per Illinois Sheriffs’ Association head Jim Kaitschuck — say they’ll refuse to enforce a provision of a new assault weapons ban that would require owners of such guns to register them with the state.

Harlan affirmed in a Jan. 12 email that the statements in the release “were drafted with the Illinois Sheriff’s Association.” Reached by phone, Harlan described the letter as a “joint statement” that Illinois sheriffs were able to “review” and use “if we agreed.”

“I’m in agreement with the Illinois Sheriffs Association and am supportive of new ideas and laws that will assist us in preventing and holding those accountable that wage efforts of harm and violence on others,” Harlan said in an email. “However, HB5471 does not do that.”

The Illinois Sheriffs Association website states that the group has been in place since 1928 and is “dedicated to supporting the time-honored Office of Sheriff in Illinois by upholding each Sheriff’s rights to perform their sworn duty to serve and protect Illinois citizens.” The group’s website also states that one of the group’s top priorities is to promote “Better Legislation.”

“The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association (ISA) is extremely disappointed in the passage and enactment of HB 5471, that further regulates and limits the purchase of a variety of weapons for lawful gun owners,” a statement from the group says.

This article originally appeared on Galesburg Register-Mail: Knox County DA clashes with sheriff over assault weapon bill

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