MONROE COUNTY, IL - A new law in 2019 may affect some Illinois gun owners. The Firearms Restraining Order Act allows family members or police to ask a judge to temporarily remove guns from someone they think is a threat to themselves or others.
Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing says a complaining party will have to file a petition and go before a judge to make their case.
At the hearing, the petitioner shall have the burden of proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that the respondent poses a significant danger by having a firearm.
The court will consider whether the gun owner has been unlawful or reckless, history of use or attempted use, prior felony arrests, drug or alcohol use, and threats of violence against themselves or others including threats made via text messages, email, social media.
Rohlfing said domestic violence incidents are often heated and emotional. Under the new law, he warns people to be careful about what they say in a moment of anger.
"If you're making these comments, this law can and will be used against you," said Rohlfing.
Earlier this year, Monroe County declared itself a "sanctuary county" for gun owners. The sheriff's department said it would not enforce any law that it deemed unconstitutional, nor would it infringe on residents' Second Amendment right.
The American Journal of Public Health says the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.
"The majority of the last couple of homicides in Monroe County were domestic issues, so I really don't have a problem with this law," said Rohlfing.
John Stephenson, General Manager of Metro Shooting Supplies in Belleville, has been a gun advocate for more than 50 years. Stephenson said he understands how a law like this was passed.
"We've seen history has really shown us in recent years example after example of instances where people saw something going on that maybe they just didn't want to get involved with, didn't want to say anything," said Stephenson. "But we have lots of instances where people were saying things and begging for help. In the Parkland instance, the boy's mother had called the police dozens of times, and they did nothing."
Still, Stephenson said he worries the law will negatively impact more law-abiding gun owners than cases of legitimate concern. He wonders about the evidence needed to make a case against someone.
If the restraining order is granted, officials may seize a person's firearms for six months and prevent them from possessing or purchasing additional firearms during that time. In emergency situations, a court may grant the restraining order without the respondent in attendance.
Stephenson disagrees with this aspect of the law, saying everyone should have the right to defend themselves.
The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2019.