Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday repeatedly refused to say whether he intends to sign a gun control bill that’s on his desk.
“I’ve been clear on this issue,” Rauner said after being accused of stalling on the politically sensitive legislation in the midst of an election.
“No, governor, you’re not clear. It’s clear as mud,” a reporter said. “Are you going to sign it or are you not?”
Rauner responded: “A comprehensive solution, that’s what I support.”
Asked if his ambiguous answer could be interpreted as a plan to wait for several in-the-works gun control bills to reach his desk before taking any action, Rauner again dodged.
“A comprehensive solution is what I’m advocating for,” he said.
The bill on Rauner’s desk would require gun dealers to be licensed by the state, and not just by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Why not just sign this one now and work out the details with the others later?” a reporter asked.
“A comprehensive solution is what I’m advocating for,” Rauner repeated a third time.
The bill landed on Rauner’s desk Feb. 28. He has 60 days to decide whether to sign the bill, veto it, or do nothing and let it take effect.
Other gun control bills yet to reach his desk would raise the minimum age from 18 to 21 to buy an assault rifle; ban the sale of bump stocks and other modifications and require a 72-hour “cooling off” period on purchasing assault rifle sales.
Another in-limbo bill named after recently-slain Chicago Police Comdr. Paul Bauer would ban the sale of body armor and high-capacity gun magazines to anyone other than police officers, licensed security guards and members of the armed forces.
On Monday, Rauner offered a vague pledge to work on a bipartisan basis to come up with legislation accomplishing four things: banning bump stocks, keeping schools safer, keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill and pass legislation to better support police officers.
Rauner’s stall tactics come at a time of increasing pressure for decisive gun control action in the wake of a school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead. Rauner made his comments after an unrelated news conference at the Thompson Center, where he trumpeted a health care bill. Around that time Rauner was continuing his political tap dance, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson were turning up the heat on the governor to sign the bill.
They held a news conference at police headquarters, flanked by the parents of children who have been killed on Chicago streets. Their ranks included Delphine Cherry, whose two children — Tyesa and Tyler — were gunned down 20 years apart.
“In the time in which we cannot get a straight answer [on] whether the governor will sign the legislation or not, Florida just passed gun control legislation. South Carolina [passed] a ban on bump stucks. Here in Illinois? Silence from the governor’s office,” the mayor said.
Emanuel argued that Rauner’s desire not to further alienate conservative Republicans before the March 20 primary should be trumped by his “primary responsibility” to guarantee public safety.
“This is not a time for hemming and hawing. It’s not a time to sleep on it. This has been in the works for 15 years. Yes or no. Licensing gun shops or not,” the mayor said, arguing that the bill on the governor’s desk would provide a “hermetic seal” across the state that’s the next best thing to a nationwide gun licensing bill.
State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) did not mince his words either, imploring Rauner to sign a bill Harmon has worked to pass for 16 years.
“If the public policy doesn’t convince him, I would hope that perhaps the politics would: 85 percent of Illinois residents want this bill signed into law. City, suburban, and rural. White, black, Latino Asian. Men, women, gun owners and those who don’t own guns,” Harmon said.
“And his mush-mouthed excuses as to why he might not sign it … that it’s overly burdensome regulation, that it’s redundant at the federal level — that’s exactly the reason [we need] this bill. Because the federal system is broken.”
Last week Emanuel delivered a letter to Rauner asking him to sign the legislation, which is on his desk.