The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

February 26, 2014

GOP candidates for governor differ on gun laws

SPRINGFIELD — As Illinois prepares to become the last state in the nation to issue concealed-carry gun permits, the four Republicans contending for Illinois governor express a range of differing views about additional gun issues facing the state, including a proposed ban on assault-style weapons and stricter gun-crime sentences.

In a campaign questionnaire for The Associated Press, the four candidates — state Sens. Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, state Treasurer Dan Rutherford and businessman Bruce Rauner — all said gun rights need to be protected but that some public safeguards should exist. The four differed over assault-style guns — high-capacity weapons that have been used in some of the deadliest mass shootings. They currently aren’t illegal statewide, and a proposed statewide ban backed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn was pulled from consideration last year in Springfield. About 20 communities voted last year to ban them as part of the concealed carry legislation process last spring.

Dillard, of Hinsdale, and Rauner, of Winnetka, both left open the possibility they would support a ban. Rutherford, of Chenoa, and Brady, of Bloomington, oppose such a ban.

In a slight turn from Republican platforms in support of expanded gun rights, Dillard indicated it’s possible he could support the ban depending on how the law was drafted.

“As a dad with young children, I’m concerned about high-capacity weapons and public safety,” Dillard wrote.

Rauner gave a more vague answer, saying he supports background checks that keep guns away from criminals and people with mental illness.

“Going beyond that requires a very careful balance between promoting public safety and protecting constitutional rights,” Rauner wrote.

Another gun issue facing lawmakers this year is minimum prison sentences for those carrying illegal guns.

So-called “mandatory minimum” legislation sponsored by state Rep. Michael Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside, establishes a three-year minimum prison sentence for many gun crimes and increased prison time for repeat offenders. The bill also would require prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences for gun crimes.

It is opposed by gun rights activists and black lawmakers who fear it would put a strain on the state’s already overcrowded prisons.

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