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Illinois candidates for governor differ on 'common sense' regarding firearms, concealed carry

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CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and challenger Bruce Rauner both endorse what they call "common sense" in gun laws, but disagree over what that means.

Quinn, a Chicago Democrat running for re-election in November, has repeatedly called for a ban on assault weapons in Illinois and tried unsuccessfully to impose more safeguards in the state's law allowing concealed carry of firearms. Rauner, a Republican businessman from Winnetka, applauded Illinois becoming the last state in the nation to approve concealed carry, and warns that too many regulations on assault weapons and other firearms can run afoul of constitutional rights.

The two candidates sketched out those opposing views in an Associated Press campaign questionnaire, and Rauner reinforced his message Monday after being asked about assault weapons at an appearance on Chicago's West Side, where residents see guns contributing to a stubborn violence problem.

"Gun regulations are important," Rauner said at a news conference, where he was endorsed by a group of black Chicago ministers. "It's important that we keep guns away from criminals and the mentally ill, but going much beyond that creates constitutional issues."

Quinn, while noting that his administration is now working to implement the concealed carry law, told the AP in his questionnaire that the state needs to "take additional steps to combat violence in our streets." He proposes not only banning "military-style assault weapons," but also high capacity ammunition magazines and requiring stronger background checks.

The issue of guns and violence hasn't been prominent during the campaign season, which has been dominated by talk of the economy, Rauner's business record and Quinn's management of state government.

Each of the candidates has attended anti-violence rallies. But there have been lighter moments too, such as when Rauner, an avid hunter, offered any donor of $10,000 a chance to accompany him dove hunting. The offer ultimately was canceled.

Illinois has been in the national spotlight on the issue of gun control, after becoming the last state nationwide to allow the concealed carry of weapons at a time when city violence continues to make headlines.

In their campaign questionnaires, both Quinn and Rauner used the same phrase — "common sense" — when describing their stances.

PHOTO: Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner shakes a supporter's hand at an event where he was endorsed by a group of African American ministers Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, in Chicago. Rauner is running against Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in the November general election. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner shakes a supporter's hand at an event where he was endorsed by a group of African American ministers Monday, Sept. 22, 2014, in Chicago. Rauner is running against Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in the November general election. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Quinn wrote that he believes the new concealed-carry law could be improved; last year, he tried but failed to change the law before it was adopted, by prohibiting firearms in places that serve alcohol, limiting it to one gun at a time and boosting local control. He has tried to make the gun issue more personal, often mentioning violent incidents near his home.

"While I believe there is room for improvement, and will continue to fight for common sense gun reforms, the legislature has spoken, and my team is working diligently to implement the law," he wrote. "I will continue to advocate for common sense gun laws that improve public safety and reduce violence."

Rauner wrote that it was high time Illinois allowed concealed carry and did not propose any changes.

"I believe in common sense gun safety measures like background checks that keep guns away from criminals and people with mental illness," he wrote. "Going beyond that requires a very careful balance between promoting public safety and protecting constitutional rights."

During a GOP primary debate, Rauner said gun owners may want to use the weapons for target practice or other purposes on their own property — calling it a constitutional right "and we've got to respect that fact." Quinn's campaign on Monday repeated its criticisms of his stance, saying such weapons "belong on a battlefield — not in our schools and not in our communities."

The ministers who announced their support for Rauner on Monday said they thought his ideas would help empower their neighborhoods. But they had not heard details of Rauner's proposals on guns.

Over breakfast at the restaurant where the endorsement event was held, Titus Washington, 48, noted that none of the politicians have succeeded in controlling the violence.

"I sure would like (assault weapons) off the street," he said. "But neither one's going to do that."


Follow Sophia Tareen at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen and Kerry Lester at http://twitter.com/kerrylester .

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