With the primary election only a day away, and with growing national attention on the matter, candidates for Illinois governor have emphasized their stance on gun control.
The debate regained national attention after the shooting that killed 17 students Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Illinois gubernatorial candidates’ opinions vary on the matter.
Gov. Bruce Rauner is running for re-election, and he will face state Rep. Jeanne Ives in the Republican primary Tuesday. Three top Democratic candidates – J.B. Pritzker, state Sen. Daniel Biss and Chris Kennedy – are vying to face one of them in the November general election.
These five candidates spoke to the Northwest Herald Editorial Board in the past couple of months about gun control and other topics.
The Democratic candidates largely favor stricter gun control measures, such as bans on high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, which allow semiautomatic guns to fire more rapidly. The introduction of a gun dealer licensing act also has been a hot topic, although Rauner vetoed the measure March 13.
The bill would have made it illegal for someone to sell, transfer or lease firearms without a license from the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The creation of a Gun Dealer Licensing Board also was requested.
Biss, who co-sponsored the act, said if he is elected, he would work with governors in neighboring states such as Wisconsin and Indiana to draft legislation that would work for not only Illinois in order to combat illegal guns coming into the state.
“I am realistic about the fact that Illinois doesn’t have impermeable borders,” he said. “If we believe these changes are important, and if we believe these changes are critical in saving lives, then we need a governor who will sit down with the governors of neighboring states.”
Kennedy also said it is important to stem the flow of illegal guns coming into the state. He added that state officials need to combat mental illness to stop crime.
“If we don’t provide people with access to mental health in the United States, we are going to continue to see a wave of crime,” Kennedy said.
He said providing more local control also could be beneficial, because regulations that would be appropriate in the city of Chicago might not be appropriate in smaller communities.
Earlier this month, the Illinois Senate approved a ban on bump stocks, agreed to implement an age limit to own assault-style weapons and extended the waiting period for the delivery of high-capacity weapons.
Pritzker said he supports the bump-stock ban as well as similar proposals, such as a ban on high-capacity magazines.
“There is a lot we need to do to make sure our children are safe,” he said. “No one is trying to take guns away from people who are hunting or protecting themselves, but we need to be rational and reasonable about the kinds of horrific violence that can occur, and that we have seen recently.”
Rauner said Illinois has some of the strictest gun laws in the U.S., but he acknowledged that more needs to be done to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and people with mental illness.
“We also need to respect the Constitution,” he said. “We need to talk about what we need to do.”
He said he would like to see more proactive actions when it comes to the identification and treatment of mental illness.
“Mental illness and mental health challenges are a major driver of crime and are making our communities less safe,” Rauner said. “We can change and improve mental health treatment.”
Rauner has faced scrutiny in the past for budget cuts that affected mental health treatment providers. Many Illinois nonprofits that offer mental health, addiction and homeless services struggled during the two-year budget stalemate during his time as governor.
Ives said she wants to involve law enforcement in the evolving discussion on gun control.
“I will find out from them the best measures and go from there,” she said. “I don’t think metal detectors, an armed policeman in schools at a high school level – I don’t think that is unreasonable.”