The Illinois Sheriffs' Association wants the gun debate to focus on mental health problems, and not on banning assault weapons. The association has adopted a resolution opposing the assault weapon ban that the governor wants lawmakers to enact.
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“The ban is not going after what we believe, in the Sheriffs Association, is the primary issue,” said McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery. “The issue is we need mental health services upgrades. We need to do a better job.” Emery said the proposed ban is also a violation of Second Amendment rights. “The Second Amendment seems to be under attack daily now. I think the sheriffs are saying that we should go to the root of the problem, which is mental health illnesses,” he said.
The Sheriffs Association lists a number of ways to tackle gun violence besides expansion of mental health illness treatment, including law enforcement access to mental health records, addressing violent video games, and vigorous prosecution of those who violate existing gun laws.
Mental health problems have recently been a high priority at the McLean County Jail. An assessment of the jail’s handling of mentally ill inmates was recently completed, showing that the facility was one of the nation’s best county jails. However, Emery said some mentally ill inmates still fall through the cracks once they are released.
"What have we accomplished in the jail to help the mental health of this individual, if when we release him there’s nothing in place for that individual to follow up with? There’s a delay in services or no services available and then that person recycles back into our jail," Emery said.