Gov. Bruce Rauner’s “silence is deafening” on licensing state gun retailers, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday, turning up the heat on his longtime friend to “stand with us” and sign the bill.
The governor has 60 days to decide whether to sign the bill, veto it, or do nothing and let it take effect. That means he can drag it out and avoid taking a stand that could further alienate conservative and downstate voters until after the March 20 primary.
Emanuel is well aware of the legislative clock that allows Rauner to freeze the ball. But politically, he’s trying not to let his old friend get away with it.
On Friday, the mayor fired off a letter signed by Chicago’s 50 aldermen urging Rauner to immediately sign the bill to take advantage of a sea change in public opinion that followed the Florida school massacre and the broad daylight murder in Chicago of beloved 18th District Cmdr. Paul Bauer.
“His silence is deafening – and it’s heard across the state of Illinois,” the mayor told reporters at an unrelated news conference in the South Shore neighborhood.
“It’s been debated for fifteen years. It doesn’t need fifteen minutes of debate any more or discussion. Where do you stand?…Be clear that you stand with the law enforcement community. Be clear that you stand with the residents who want to see greater public safety and…stronger gun control legislation.”
The governor’s spokesperson Rachel Bold ignored the mayor’s pressure tactic.
“This legislation just reached the Governor’s desk. We need to take a close look at it,” Bold wrote in an email.
Without tipping Rauner’s hand, she wrote, “We must do everything we can to protect our citizens and constitutional rights, and not burden our small businesses. Bi-partisan collaboration is our best hope of finding common sense solutions to gun violence, keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, ban bump stocks, and keep our children, families and schools safe.”
Emanuel said Rauner can’t dodge this one by claiming, as he did recently, that it’s House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who is really “in charge” of state government and that the governor was only “trying to get in charge.”
“I know he once said he wasn’t in charge. Well, the bill is on his desk. He can show that he’s in charge when it comes to public safety,” the mayor said.
“It’s time not just here, but across the state, that we speak with one voice to make sure our law enforcement community — our residents, our block club presidents, all of those who work in unison to make sure we have safe streets — [pressure] the governor [to] sign this legislation.”
All week long, Emanuel has been urging Chicagoans to watch what the Illinois General Assembly and the governor do on, what he calls “common sense gun laws” and to, “Vote the vote” in response to those actions.
Lawmakers responded to the national outcry by advancing legislation to: ban bump stocks; require a 72-hour “cooling-off” period before purchasing an assault weapon; raise from 18 to 21 the legal age to possess or purchase .50 caliber rifles or ammunition and allow police officers and family members to get a court order to keep a firearm away from someone believed to be a public safety risk.
All of those bills are still awaiting final approval. The bill to license gun dealers is the only one forwarded to the governor for final action. It passed the Senate last year and cleared the House Wednesday by a vote of 64-to-52. State Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, Rauner’s more conservative opponent in the Republican gubernatorial primary, voted no and urged the governor not to sign the bill.
That puts Rauner on the political hotseat with the March 20 primary less than three weeks away.