Republican party insiders, including Gov. Bruce Rauner and his primary challenger, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, gathered at a gala Saturday ahead of a week when lawmakers will consider gun-control measures in Springfield.
The issue of how to prevent mass shootings continues to ripple in statehouses across the nation after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and House Democrats plan to bring a package of gun-control legislation to lawmakers this week, the speaker announced in a news release Friday.
Ives, a Republican from Wheaton, said Saturday that she believes Illinois has fundamentally good gun regulations already in place. She said lawmakers need to ensure those regulations are working before exploring new restrictions.
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Ives is facing off against incumbent Rauner in the March 20 primary election for governor. On the Democratic side, the primary candidates are Chicago billionaire investor J.B. Pritzker; Bob Daiber, the Madison County Regional Office of Education superintendent; Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy; state Sen. Daniel Biss, of Evanston; Burr Ridge physician Robert Marshall and Chicago activist Tio Hardiman. The winners will go on to the Nov. 6 general election.
At least four gun-control issues are expected to be debated in the House this week: preventing people under 21 from buying military-style assault rifles, allowing for the temporary removal of guns from individuals deemed a threat, putting further restrictions in place to prevent people with a history of mental illness from buying guns, and implementing licensing for gun dealers.
Rauner spoke to attendees at the St. Clair County Republican Lincoln Gala, but he declined to speak with reporters.
A spokesman for Rauner later provided a statement by email.
"The Governor believes we need to respect the constitution, but we also need a bipartisan conversation to ensure we keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those with mental illness," spokesman Will Allison said.
Ives said multiple levels of government failed in the Florida shooting, including a failure by the FBI to investigate a tip about the shooter, a failure by the school to recognize mental illness in him and a failure by a sheriff's deputy to enter the school when the shooting began.
Ives pointed to the Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) Mental Health Reporting System through the Illinois Department of Human Services. The department maintains a database of individuals who present a "clear and present danger," a database that can be cross-checked against Illinois State Police's database of FOID card holders. ISP has the authority to investigate, revoke or reject a FOID card.
"In Illinois, we do have very strong measures, I feel," Ives said. "We need to make sure our government is complying with our rules first before we go into some of these measures."
She said previous gun dealer licensing legislation would have negatively affected small businesses and favored "big box stores." That legislation did not pass.
Teachers who want to be armed should be allowed to come to school with a gun, Ives said. Teachers who do not want to be armed "absolutely should not," she added.
"Look, you only carry if you want to," Ives said. "If you're not comfortable using it or you don't regularly go for practice, then you shouldn't carry it. If there are certain teachers who maybe have a law enforcement background, maybe have a military background, know that carrying and practicing on a regular basis could prevent a tragedy in the future, I'm willing to do that."
Rauner said teachers should not be armed.
"No, teachers should be focused on education. We need armed school resource officers, emergency training for students, and we need to get guns out of the hands of criminals and those with mental illnesses," Rauner said in the emailed statement.
Rauner, a hunter and a fisherman, had been sparse in his response to the gun control debate so far. He spoke recently in Champaign, however, saying Illinois already has strict gun laws and that any changes need to be made at the federal level, according to the Chicago Tribune.
BND reporter Joseph Bustos contributed to this article.