Daily Herald opinion: Clarity and common sense casualties of DuPage debate over new gun ban

The back and forth between Du­Page County Sheriff James Mendrick and county officials upset about his stance on Illinois' new high-powered weapons ban turned into quite the political soap opera this month, complete with press conferences, protests, TV appearances and, finally, some sort of consensus after Mendrick met with DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin and County Board Chair Deb Conroy Monday.

Come Tuesday morning, however, Mendrick had this to say:

"Don't listen to the media," his statement starts out. "I was not threatened to be censured or anything else during this meeting. The meeting that I had with State's Attorney Bob Berlin and County Board Chair ... Conroy yesterday was the first day three tiers of government came together in discussion on this topic."

First, a little context - and clarity.

"This topic," of course, is the sheriff's initial refusal to enforce a provision of the new law requiring current owners of high-powered weapons to register them with the state.

The meeting he refers to ended with an agreement that he would enforce the law after clarification that the ban does not mandate deputies go door to door checking on compliance.

And while Monday's meeting may not have mentioned censure, it was followed by a joint statement in which Conroy says she will not seek censure - an idea raised at an earlier public meeting and elsewhere.

Mendrick's statement then assures gun owners that sheriff's deputies would not be showing up at the homes of "law-abiding residents to harass them over gun registration."

"We will not be sending deputies out proactively to take your lawfully owned guns," he went on. "Please remove that stressor from your lives."

We would argue that Mendrick and others created "that stressor."

Officials have every right to question how they will be expected to enforce the law, but they jumped all too quickly to conclusions and, in some cases, distortions. While lawmakers have made clear that house-to-house inspections are not expected, opponents continue to stoke fears.

Earlier this month, Gov. J.B. Pritzker called the refusal of many Illinois sheriffs to enforce the law "political grandstanding at its worst."

We have come to agree. Just look to McHenry County, where the partisanship is so strong Republicans have called for the county to become a gun sanctuary.

In DuPage, Mendrick refused to answer calls from local reporters on his stance. He did not appear before the county board. But he was more than happy to share his concerns with like-minded listeners on AM 560's "Black and Right" radio program and on Fox News' "America Reports."

It's a big step forward that Mendrick has agreed to enforce the law. Other dissenting sheriffs should follow suit. But let's not forget: That was their job in the first place.

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