'We're not going to let this die': Push for DuPage sheriff to retract weapons ban statement grows

  • On Monday, U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat, called on DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick to retract a statement saying that he would not arrest or house people in the county jail charged solely with noncompliance of the state's new weapons ban.

      On Monday, U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat, called on DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick to retract a statement saying that he would not arrest or house people in the county jail charged solely with noncompliance of the state's new weapons ban. Alice Fabbre | Staff Photographer

  • James Mendrick, DuPage County sheriff

    James Mendrick, DuPage County sheriff

 
 
Updated 1/23/2023 4:03 PM

Flanked by fellow congressmen, state lawmakers and county board members, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten on Monday repeated calls for DuPage County Sheriff James Mendrick to retract a statement about the state's new gun ban or resign.

Earlier this month, Mendrick issued a statement that said he believed the state's new ban on high-powered guns and high-capacity magazines was unconstitutional.

 

"Therefore, as the custodian of the jail and chief law enforcement official for DuPage County, 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 noncompliance of this Act," Mendrick's statement reads.

Casten and other lawmakers Monday called Mendrick's statements irresponsible and reckless.

"His actions are going to make future mass shootings more likely," Casten said during a news conference.

Mendrick on Monday rebuked Casten's claim.

"There is absolutely nothing that we are doing or not doing that would make a mass shooting more accessible in DuPage County," Mendrick said in a written statement. "In fact, I have asked on multiple occasions to increase penalties on all existing gun crimes, but it does not appear that they want to have that conversation.

"They seem more concerned with lawful gun owners than people illegally possessing guns," he said.

Mendrick, who had previously suggested he believed compliance checks would be tied to the law, also took note that lawmakers on Monday said they would not be asking officers to go door to door to ensure weapons were legally registered.

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"That is a big win for our law-abiding citizens and for law enforcement," his statement read.

In clarifying that house-to-house inspections were not expected, state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, a Naperville Democrat, said the weapons ban would come into play if the person was involved with another crime. Using an example of a domestic violence call where guns are involved, Stava-Murray questioned if Mendrick would follow the new law.

"Is he going to enforce our automatic weapons ban if that's an unregistered weapon?" Stava-Murray said. "He said no, he's not going to. That seems very dangerous."

In his statement Monday, Mendrick, a Republican, said it was "disheartening" to hear Stava-Murray suggest he would not enforce the law when he has said he would enforce the weapons ban when it involves other illegal activity.

"When elected officials are blatantly untruthful, maybe they are the ones who should consider resignation," Mendrick said.

Criticism against Mendrick, however, has grown since Jan. 17, when Democratic members of the county board's judicial and public safety committee rebuked Mendrick's statement. Democratic state lawmakers quickly joined in the criticism calling on Mendrick to retract his statement.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On Thursday, Casten and five other Democratic congressmen who represent DuPage County signed a letter asking Mendrick if there are any other laws he views as unconstitutional and if he has directed his staff not to enforce any other laws because of his beliefs.

"We seek clarity right now," U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat, said during Monday's news conference. "We need to know exactly what we're dealing with, and we all uniformly demand that he enforce the law as written.

"I just want to say with one voice, we cannot wait another day, we cannot wait another hour, we can't wait another minute for the sheriff to do his duty, because lives depend on it," he said.

Democratic members of the DuPage County Board at Monday's news conference suggested they could censure Mendrick if he does not retract his statement. Casten indicated other steps could be taken, but he declined to elaborate.

"We're not going to let this die," Casten said after Monday's news conference.

While Mendrick and more than 90 sheriffs across Illinois have issued statements opposing the weapons ban, Casten said he has focused on Mendrick because his district includes DuPage County.

During a nearly hourlong interview over the weekend on AM-560's "Black and Right" radio program, Mendrick was critical of the weapons ban, claiming sheriffs were not consulted in drafting the new law. Mendrick also questioned what happens after Jan. 1, 2024, the deadline for gun owners to register weapons.

Though state lawmakers Monday said they would not seek door-to-door compliance checks, Mendrick said a Jan. 16 conversation with Casten suggested otherwise. The sheriff said Casten suggested that if police officers would go to the door of a home filled with Molotov cocktails, then Mendrick "should be fine going to the doors of people's homes for the new gun laws."

"That reinforced my belief that we were going to be saddled with a manpower challenge that would be insurmountable, to say the least," Mendrick said Monday.

Casten said he spoke with Mendrick last week before he issued the letter. He declined during Monday's news conference to elaborate on the conversation.

"If we go to doors to check for lawful gun owners, we won't be available to answer 911 calls anymore," Mendrick said during the radio program, adding that he would need to send three officers to a home to check for weapons. He also noted he is down 30 deputies and has gone from having 18 deputies on each shift to 11.

Casten on Monday said if manpower is an issue in enforcing the law, Mendrick could seek federal, state or county dollars to increase staffing levels.

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