Rauner primary rival Ives supports arming teachers with guns to ‘harden’ schools

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State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, speaks at WTTW’s Republican gubernatorial forum on Tuesday. | Screenshot from WTTW livestream

As she vies to unseat Gov. Bruce Rauner for the Republican nomination, state Rep. Jeanne Ives on Tuesday said she would support arming teachers with handguns in an effort to “harden” schools against the threat of a mass shooting.

Rauner’s far-right challenger also suggested “panic buttons” to communicate with first responders, and “smoke screens” to distract shooters.

“This should be a district-by-district decision. We can harden schools to some degree,” Ives said. “Southern Illinois folks have no problem with arming teachers. I think if they’re trained, if they regularly go and practice, and if they are comfortable doing it, I have no problem with that.”

The gun violence problem was just one issue Ives used to differentiate herself from Rauner during a candidate’s forum with WTTW’s Amanda Vinicky — a one-on-one affair after Rauner’s refusal to participate.

The Wheaton Republican kept the governor on the defensive during most of their only debate, which took place in late January, and she took advantage of the 20-minute interview on Tuesday to slam the governor on a swath of topics.

Ives said she supported Rauner’s decision on Tuesday to veto the gun dealer licensing bill, but she dismissed it as a calculated political maneuver.

“Only because we’re mounting a political challenge to him, and he’s got seven days from this primary where we are surging, did he find it politically expedient to actually [veto] that legislation,” she said.

Despite recent polls showing Rauner with a comfortable double-digit lead in the primary race, Ives said internal surveys put her “within 10 points” of the incumbent.

“We’re definitely within striking distance,” she said.

Ives hammered House Speaker Mike Madigan over his handing of sexual harassment allegations in Springfield, roping Rauner into her criticism.

“Rauner said nothing either. He knew all about this too, he never called for the [legislative inspector general] position to be filled. Madigan never called for it to be filled. They’re basically two sides of the same coin on that.”

Ives briefly hesitated when Vinicky asked if Rauner or Madigan was “worse for Illinois.”

“That’s a good question. Wow,” Ives said, thinking for a second before answering: “No, I mean Mike Madigan is worse for Illinois. There’s no doubt his power is enormous. But Bruce Rauner played right into it.”

Asked why she’d be better able to challenge the powerful House speaker, Ives said: “Because I’m willing to have the conversation with voters that can get to their legislators and force them to vote the right way.”

Ives caught flak from both sides of the aisle over a campaign ad last month that included, among other depictions, a man in a dress thanking Rauner for letting “me use the girls’ bathroom.” The televised ad was lambasted as offensive to the transgender community.

When asked how she would represent LGBTQ people, Ives made an economic argument.

“I’ll represent them every single day. I’ll represent them when I argue that their property taxes are too high,” Ives said. “When I argue that they’re not getting a really good benefit for their dollar when it comes to K-12 education. I’ll represent them completely. They have the same rights as everybody else and I recognize that.”

Representatives for Rauner’s campaign did not return messages seeking comment on Ives’ Tuesday comments. At a campaign stop earlier in the day, Rauner said he felt confident a week ahead of the March 20 primary.

“We’re going to win next week, and most importantly, we’re going to win in November. I’m the one person, the only person, who can beat [Democratic gubernatorial primary candidate J.B.] Pritzker and Madigan in November.”

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