Sauk Valley leaders react to gun ban ruling

In fairly predictable responses in the conservative-leaning Sauk Valley, legislative representatives and others reacted Friday to news that the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a gun ban that paves the way for stricter laws governing semi-automatic weapons that have been used in mass shootings nationwide.

Illinois lawmakers approved the ban after last year’s mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, and Gov. JB Pritzker signed the measure into law in January.

A federal appellate court still is considering a challenge against the ban.

After years of seeing such decisions come and go, Ed Branch at Rigler’s Sports Supply, 1111 First St./Route 40 in Rock Falls, is taking a wait-and-see approach to the news.

“We’re not happy with it, of course,” Branch said. “It’s not constitutional, and we’ll just wait and see what happens in the federal court.”

Sales of semi-automatic rifles are not a huge part of his business, Branch said, and so the store will simply adjust to accommodate the law.

Whiteside County Sheriff John Booker, a Democrat, said his department will continue to follow the law, arresting those who violate it and checking local gun shops to make sure they’re in compliance.

He’s puzzled, however, by how effective the ban will be if semi-automatic weapons still are allowed to be manufactured in Illinois but sold in other states.

“It just doesn’t seem right,” Booker said.

He, too, questions whether the federal courts will uphold the ban in the end.

“I think maybe at the federal level it will get overturned,” Booker said.

In the meantime, “we’ll just keep on doing our jobs to keep the streets safe.”

Republican Sheriffs Clay Whelan of Lee County and Brian VanVickle of Ogle County were out Friday and unavailable for comment.

As expected, in a flurry of emails, local legislative leaders reacted along party lines:

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling comes as no surprise,” according to a statement from Rep. Bradley Fritts, a Republican representing the 74th Congressional District. “As elected officials, we take an oath to protect and defend our Constitution. It is disappointing to see some officials put political ideology ahead of that promise.

“Instead of ruling on the question of law at hand, the majority opinion is hiding behind a procedural ruling that does not address the constitutional violations present in this legislation. The Second Amendment is clear: The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. This legislation severely restricts the rights and freedoms we are granted as citizens of the United States in our Constitution.

“I am confident that the United States Supreme Court will ultimately overturn this law and protect law-abiding gun owners in our state.”

Tony McCombie, a Republican representing the 71st District, said: “The extremism of Illinois Democrats knows no bounds. More fraud, more federal investigations, higher energy costs and more rights infringed. Last week, state auditors revealed $5.2 billion of fraud within the unemployment system – some of which was collected by Gov. Pritzker’s Executive Branch employees.

“The same week, another federal corruption trial began, and Democrats are silent about the need for meaningful ethics reforms. Gov. Pritzker vetoed a pathway to inexpensive, clean energy, all because Illinois Democrats are dead-set on virtue-signaling instead of problem-solving. And today, constitutional rights were besieged by the Democratic Supreme Court that Gov. Pritzker spent millions to elect. When will enough be enough?”

Sen. Neil Anderson, a Republican representing the 47th District, wrote: “Today, Gov. Pritzker was protected by his hand-picked Illinois Supreme Court, which chose not to rule on the merits of the Second Amendment. It’s clear that Illinois’ gun ban law violates our right to bear arms, and Illinoisans will get a fair shake at getting their rights restored when this law is taken up at the federal level.

“As always, I stand firm behind law-abiding gun owners and will fight against any attempt to infringe on our constitutional rights.”

Sen. Andrew Chesney, a Republican representing the 45th District, said: “I am disappointed yet not surprised that the highly politicized Illinois Supreme Court has chosen to act yet again as a rubber stamp for the Illinois Democratic Party. As long as Democrat lawmakers continue to go after law-abiding citizens rather than the criminals who abuse their gun rights, crime in all forms will continue to rise.”

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.