The “constitutional sheriff” movement — whose followers believe local sheriffs hold higher constitutional authority than federal and state governments — is picking up steam in Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reports. When Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a sweeping package of gun restrictions into law in January, an estimated 90 of the state’s 102 county sheriffs pushed back, issuing near-identical statements based on a letter by the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association. It said they believe the assault weapons ban violates the Second Amendment, and, “as the custodian of the jail and chief law enforcement officer” of their county, they would not enforce the law in their jurisdictions.
That message contradicts what the same group said a decade ago, when it wrote in a resolution opposing an assault weapons ban that “sheriffs do not possess the legal authority to interpret the constitutionality of any law.” And while most Illinois county sheriffs skipped out on a recent event by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, the national organization for this ideology, political scientist Emily Farris said a lack of attendance doesn’t signal a lack of support for the ideology. The movement “has really expanded” to “where we find sheriffs who are expressing these views who aren’t necessarily members of the CSPOA,” she told the Tribune. That expansion is perhaps most apparent with sheriffs’ roles in spreading the “Second Amendment sanctuary” movement.
Still, Illinois is one of few places where legislators have explicitly challenged sheriffs’ claims to constitutional supremacy — and it’s a challenge lawmakers could end up winning. “As political science professors and law professors will both tell you,” Farris said, “there’s no basis in fact to this idea that the county sheriff has ultimate authority.”
What to Know Today
The Michigan Senate passed an 11-bill gun violence prevention package, including legislation mandating universal background checks, requiring gun owners to safely store firearms, and allowing courts to disarm people deemed a danger to themselves or others. [Michigan Advance]
As Cleveland, Ohio’s police department enters its eighth year under federal oversight, residents appear to be losing hope for reform, and say city officials have kept them in the dark about the mandated overhaul process. [The Marshall Project]
A former GOP state senator in Virginia is trying to launch a political comeback in a conservative district, but his support for a 2019 red flag law may sink his chances. [Virginia Mercury]
A man whose mother was killed in the 2021 Boulder, Colorado, supermarket mass shooting filed a lawsuit against Ruger, alleging that the gunmaker’s marketing for its AR-style pistol was “reckless” and “immoral.” [Associated Press] Context: Lawsuits based on marketing statutes seem to be one of the few ways to hold gunmakers and distributors accountable for violence.
In Dallas, four people were wounded by gunfire during a vigil for victims of another shooting that took place at the same location the night before. [The Dallas Morning News]
New Jersey gun owners are frustrated with the state’s concealed carry application process. They cite lengthy wait times to get a permit, a large backlog of applications, a convoluted licensing system, a judicial vacancy crisis, and apathy from Democratic lawmakers. [New Jersey Monitor]
Trump supporters in the online forum “The Donald” — which played a central role in the Capitol insurrection — suggested that a civil war may be imminent and floated the idea of forming a “Patriot moat” to prevent the former president from being arrested. “Don[‘]t be afraid to use your constitutional rights,” wrote one user. “Remember 2a is there incase [sic] 1a fails.” [Rolling Stone]
The Vermont Legislature is considering a number of gun restrictions to curb the state’s rising suicide rate. Among the proposals: safe storage requirements, a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases, new red flag law provisions, and making “straw purchasing” a felony. [VTDigger] Context: Vermont has a history as a gun rights paradise — but that’s started to change.
20.3 — the suicide rate, per 100,000, in Vermont; the national average is 14 per 100,000. Almost 60 percent of suicides in Vermont were by gun in 2021. [VTDigger]
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