May Sheriffs Disobey Illinois’ Assault Weapons Ban?
 
May Sheriffs Disobey Illinois’ Assault Weapons Ban?
Written By Jonathan Alban   |   02.03.23
Reading Time: 3 minutes
The next generation of culture warriors hope to make a difference and they are an answer to our prayers. We hope to encourage and mentor these young contributors so they can take the baton from us in the future. God’s gift of liberty and self-government must be fought for and protected. The fundamental principles of faith, virtue, marriage and family must be upheld and taught. Please pray for these bold young culture warriors and extend to them some grace as they hone their skills.

Illinois’s recent assault weapons ban has provoked more than a little consternation across the state—as it should. The ban, signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker on January 10th of this year, immediately banned the sale of “assault weapons” and magazines with a capacity greater than ten rounds. The ban also requires current firearm owners to register their now-illegal weapons with the Illinois State Police. There’s only one problem for Pritzker: The vast majority of Sheriffs in are not on board.

The next generation of culture warriors hope to make a difference and they are an answer to our prayers. We hope to encourage and mentor these young contributors so they can take the baton from us in the future. God’s gift of liberty and self-government must be fought for and protected. The fundamental principles of faith, virtue, marriage and family must be upheld and taught. Please pray for these bold young culture warriors and extend to them some grace as they hone their skills.
The next generation of culture warriors hope to make a difference and they are an answer to our prayers. We hope to encourage and mentor these young contributors so they can take the baton from us in the future. God’s gift of liberty and self-government must be fought for and protected. The fundamental principles of faith, virtue, marriage and family must be upheld and taught. Please pray for these bold young culture warriors and extend to them some grace as they hone their skills.

So far, 90 out of 102 Illinois counties’ sheriffs have stated that they will not be enforcing the ban and will not require residents to register their weapons and magazines. It’s certainly gratifying to see that Illinois might just have some Constitutional spirit left, but as Christians, we ought to consider the legitimacy of such resistance. May sheriffs (and citizens) disobey Pritzker’s assault weapons ban? The relevant passage of Scripture here is, of course, Romans 13:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.  (Rom. 13:1-3)

The Apostle Paul’s reasoning is clear: the ruling authorities are divinely appointed by God; therefore, to resist the ruling authorities is to resist God.

It appears that Illinois sheriffs who are defying the assault weapons ban are disobeying Scripture, does it not? Not so fast. Who is really resisting the higher powers here, the sheriffs or J.B. Pritzker? The highest law of the land—the United States Constitution—states that the people’s right to keep and bear arms may not be infringed. Governor Pritzker, by signing the assault weapons ban into law, is himself in high-handed disobedience against the Constitution. In other words, Pritzker is the one who’s actually disobeying Paul’s injunction in Romans 13. Those sheriffs defying the governor’s mandate are, in fact, upholding the law; the sheriffs are the ones truly acting in subjection to the higher powers.

What about citizens, then? Must owners of “assault weapons” and “high-capacity magazines” register their banned firearms anyway? The same logic applies: obey the Constitution. There is, however, an additional assurance—citizens are obeying their sheriffs. Local authorities who rightly defy Pritzker’s unlawful bill give the residents of their county an avenue to submit themselves to the higher powers (the sheriffs) so they don’t have to comply with unlawful injunctions from the state government. In other words, rejection of Pritzker’s unlawful legislation does not result in anarchy—citizens may (and should) still in good conscience obey their local authorities.

Historically, this was known as the doctrine of the lesser magistrate. When a ruler overreaches his divinely-appointed sphere of authority, lesser magistrates (like sheriffs and mayors) may interpose themselves between the citizen and the ruler, both protecting the citizens and giving them a lawful authority who may be obeyed. John Calvin puts it thus:

[P]opular magistrates have been appointed to curb the tyranny of kings . . . So far am I from forbidding these officially to check the undue license of kings, that if they connive at kings when they tyrannize and insult over the humbler of the people, I affirm that their dissimulation is not free from nefarious perfidy, because they fraudulently betray the liberty of the people, while knowing that, by the ordinance of God, they are its appointed guardians. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk. IV.31)

Illinois citizens and law enforcement officers ought to take comfort in this doctrine. Law enforcement officers are no less appointed by God than Gov. Pritzker and, as Calvin says, perform an important role as the appointed guardians of the liberty of the people. They must courageously defend that liberty, interposing themselves between the state government and Illinois citizens. Citizens likewise may rest assured that they are not agents of anarchy when they disobey the assault weapons ban. On the contrary, they are simply obeying their God-appointed lesser magistrates—law enforcement officers.


Jonathan Alban
Jonathan and his two siblings grew up in the Chicago suburbs, and were homeschooled through high school. Jonathan then attended the Cleveland Institute of Music for two years, pursuing a B.M. in Timpani and Percussion Performance. He is now at New Saint Andrew’s college pursuing a B.A. in Liberal Arts and Culture....
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