May 15–SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday proposed bringing back the death penalty for mass killers and people who gun down police officers, tying his plan to legislation that lengthens the waiting period for rifles and shotguns and adds other gun restrictions.
“Obviously this is something that requires more review, but some of the things I see, is quite a comprehensive public safety plan,” said Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington.
Brady was among the lawmakers who voted in favor of the original gun bill sent to the governor, which Rauner on Monday used his amendatory veto authority to alter. His changes added capital punishment and other provisions, including a ban on bump stocks, the rifle-firing speed accessory used in a mass shooting in Las Vegas last year. He also proposed giving the courts the authority to take guns from people deemed dangerous.
Under current law, the waiting period to purchase assault weapons including AR-15s is 24 hours. Rauner said the 72-hour rule, which already applies to handguns, should apply to all guns.
“If someone is perhaps on the verge of committing suicide, if someone is potentially a dangerous person and they have violent acts in mind, that extra two days could make the difference between life and death,” Rauner said Monday at a news conference in Chicago.
The governor’s action also introduced an optional sales tax increase for counties to pay for resource officers or counselors in local school districts.
Democrats pushed back. Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago said in a statement that “the death penalty should never be used as a political tool to advance one’s agenda.”
“Doing so is in large part why we had so many problems and overturned convictions,” Cullerton said.
From the governor’s own party, state Rep. Bill Mitchell of Forsyth called the action political.
“He’s trying to appease the conservatives and maybe the more moderates on gun control,” said Mitchell, who voted against the original legislation.
Mitchell, who has represented the 101st district since 1999 and announced his upcoming retirement last year, has been openly critical of the governor since then. Last year, he bucked his own party to help override Rauner’s veto on the state’s first budget package in more than two years.
“Without a doubt it’s a political (amendatory) veto, and it’s not going to see the light of day in my opinion,” Mitchell said.
The bill now goes back to the House. Lawmakers can turn Rauner’s changes into law through a simple majority vote. If they do not act, the whole package will expire without becoming law. The legislature could also vote to override Rauner’s changes and enact the original language with a two-thirds majority vote.
The original bill was one of several dealing with gun control that surfaced in the spring after a series of high-profile shootings, including the February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. The violence sparked demonstrations at schools across the nation as students called for tougher regulations amid pushback from gun owners who argue their Second Amendment rights are at risk.
In March, Rauner vetoed a separate measure that would have created a new state licensing system for gun shops. He argued it was duplicative since gun retailers are already licensed by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, saying it would force small businesses to close without making communities safer.
Monday was the last day the governor could act on the bill without it automatically becoming law. In his address Monday, the governor credited work by House Republicans on a public safety task force that included Brady, who indicated support for many of the governor’s proposals.
When asked why Rauner hadn’t laid out his policy goals when lawmakers were crafting legislation earlier this year, Brady said, “Well, that’s a better question for the governor. The task force that developed these lines in the amendatory veto … that’s come from our work in the House Republican caucus.”
Democratic state Rep. Sue Scherer of Decatur said she had to review the details of the governor’s action before taking a position. She voted in favor of the original bill to create the 72-hour waiting period for assault rifle purchases.
“I see that the constituents in my district are really on both sides of this issue, I think most people can agree something needs to be done on the waiting period of assault rifles,” Scherer said. “We have to protect everyone’s Second Amendment rights.”
Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, was not available for comment but released a statement: “I appreciate the Governor’s work to try to find a bipartisan consensus on legislation that is aimed at improving public safety. At this time, I am still reviewing the details of his amendatory veto. I remain committed to developing bipartisan solutions that improve public safety while protecting people’s rights.”
Republican Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, also released a statement in which he supported reinstating the death penalty for what he called “the most serious of violent crimes.”
“The governor’s action today recognizes the need for a multi-pronged approach to dealing with deadly assaults,” Bill Brady said. “As part of that, those who choose to murder innocent victims in mass attacks or kill law enforcement officers should know they face the severest of sentences.”
This article provided by NewsEdge.