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Gov. Rauner mum on gun bill action as opponents set him in their sights

Gov. Bruce Rauner | Sun-Times file photo

Gov. Bruce Rauner is not ready to pull the trigger on the gun dealer licensing bill that just landed on his desk — but political opponents already have the Republican governor in their sights on the volatile issue of gun control.

A day after the Legislature passed the licensing bill and advanced other gun measures, the governor’s office refused to say whether Rauner planned to sign or veto any of the measures, instead repeating his belief that “bipartisan collaboration offers the best hope to finding common sense solutions to gun violence.”

“We remain committed to working with the General Assembly to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those with mental illnesses, ban ‘bump stocks’ and keep our children safe in their schools,” a spokeswoman for Rauner said. “We look forward to working with them to get there and will review any legislation.”

Rauner has 60 days to act on the legislation or else the dealer licensing measure becomes law, and with less than three weeks before the March Primary, he’s in a tough spot. Signing any of the measures risks further alienating conservatives who already say he has betrayed them by signing bills last year protecting abortion rights and undocumented immigrants.And Democrats are already pouncing on the governor over the gun issue.

The Democratic Governors Association released an online ad attacking Rauner for his “failure to lead on gun safety,” with the 15-second video proclaiming that Illinois has “had enough of Gov. Rauner letting the [National Rifle Association] call the shots.”

The Republican Governors Association dismissed the criticism, saying the Democrats were trying to shift attention from their own failures.

“The DGA knows full well that Governor Rauner is working hard to ensure that guns stay out of the wrong hands,” said RGA spokesman Steven Yaffe. “This is the DGA desperately spending J.B. Pritzker’s cash to distract from shocking revelations that their favored candidate is a corrupt political insider with longtime ties to Mike Madigan and Rod Blagojevich.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was among the first on Wednesday to begin ramping up the pressure on Rauner to sign the licensing bill within hours of its passage.

“It’s essential that he signs it, and signs it immediately,” Emanuel said. “All eyes of Illinois are on the governor to step up and back up what all of us, in a bipartisan way, have been debating for 15 years, and he can make it the law of the land.”

The top three Democratic gubernatorial nominees have also urged Rauner to sign the legislation, and the governor is facing pressure from his side of the aisle as well.

State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), who is vying against Rauner for the Republican nomination in the March 20 primary, voted for the ban on bump stocks, but against all the other measures “because they will never solve the tragedy of gun violence in our society,” she said in a statement. Ives criticized Rauner for declining to answer NRA questionnaires in 2014 or this election cycle.

“Voters needs to know where candidates stand,” Ives’ campaign spokeswoman Kathleen Murphy said. “They know where Jeanne Ives stands.”

Richard Pearson, executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, has started a campaign aiming for constituents to call Rauner’s office to urge him to veto the gun measures. He dubbed the day of the licensing bill’s passage “Black Wednesday”

“I want to be perfectly clear: None of this was about good public policy,” Pearson said. “It was about politics, pure and simple. It was an out-and-out attack on the Second Amendment, period.”