Former Gov. Quinn calls Rauner death penalty proposal ‘insincere’

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Gov. Pat Quinn and GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner attend an Illinois Education Association Representative Assembly at the Chicago Hilton in 2014. File Photo. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

A day after Gov. Bruce Rauner suggested the state should reinstate the death penalty for cop killers and mass murderers, former Gov. Pat Quinn said he has “no regrets” about signing the 2011 law that abolished the death penalty – while calling his former opponent’s actions “insincere.”

Rauner on Monday proposed reinstating the death penalty as part of an amendatory veto that included a sweeping package of public safety reforms. Rauner called his plan “comprehensive” and “thoughtful.”

And he said those who kill police officers “deserve to give up their life.”

Quinn, the Democrat who lost to Rauner by about 4 percentage points in 2014, signed the 2011 bill that abolished the death penalty in Illinois. Former Republican Gov. George Ryan stopped all executions in Illinois in 2003 over concerns about the wrongful convictions of Death Row inmates.

“I think it’s regrettable that Rauner has tied this issue to anything other than a straight up issue of the death penalty,” Quinn told the Sun-Times. “It deserves that kind of complete focus, to not be tied to anything else. It hurts democracy. I think his actions yesterday were completely insincere. And it’s the way he operates.”

Quinn called the inclusion of the death penalty in Rauner’s amendatory veto of a gun control bill “politically motivated.”

“When you’re governor, and I’ve been governor, it’s important on major issues like this to have a straight up debate on that issue and that issue alone,” Quinn said.

Quinn said he has “no regrets” in signing the law and noted the difficulties in Rauner’s proposal of “guilty beyond any doubt.”

“You can’t have one mistake. One mistake on killing somebody who is not guilty, their blood is on everyone’s hands,” Quinn said. “I too had that duty of addressing this issue, various issues, in 2011 and I feel that Rauner today is not exhibiting the proper approach to deal with the issue, to not be anything other than debate on the issue itself.”

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, took his  criticism a bit further, calling the inclusion of the death penalty in the Republican governor’s amendatory veto a form of “stupid games.” Raoul sponsored the 2011 measure to abolish the death penalty.

“It’s a distraction. It’s playing politics with policy. You suggest something that you know is not going to happen, something extreme, because you don’t want to take time to really think out how you can actually work with the Legislature to implement some common sense policy, to do something about the gun violence we are experiencing,” Raoul said.

Raoul narrowly beat Quinn in the March Democratic primary for attorney general, and he faces Rauner-backed Republican nominee Erika Harold in the November election.

Rauol said Rauner is trying to kill a gun bill that came with bipartisan support. The measure Rauner vetoed would have enacted a 72-hour holding period for the purchase of assault weapons. It passed 43-15 in the Illinois Senate and 79-37 in the Illinois House. Rauner in his veto said the waiting period should be enacted on all gun purchases. But in including six elements, the chances of the General Assembly accepting his amendatory veto is slim.

Democratic Attorney General Primary Candidate Kwame Raoul. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Democratic Attorney General Primary Candidate Kwame Raoul. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Legislators on Tuesday introduced a revived measure of a gun dealer licensing measure that would require gun dealers to be licensed by the Illinois State Police. Rauner in March vetoed a similar measure, saying it was too bureaucratic and would do little to improve public safety. The initial bill would have required the state’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to license dealers.

Raoul said Rauner should be paying attention to public safety bills that have support from both sides of the aisle.

“This is not the venture capital world where you’re just hiring and firing CEOs at will,” Raoul said. “The process of legislating in governing is one that involves compromise. In both bills, there was a bipartisan compromise, and that’s a good thing. We should be embracing that.”

The governor’s office on Tuesday declined to comment on criticisms of his veto, referring to public comments made a day earlier.

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