The Republican governor of Illinois just killed a major gun reform law for the worst reason

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In a state where gun violence is above the national average, Bruce Rauner, the Republican Governor of Illinois, today vetoed sensible gun control legislation with the lamest of excuses, by claiming it would be an “unnecessary, burdensome regulation” on gun shops. 

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Rauner, a hunter and a member of the National Rifle Association, has a history of opposing gun legislation, but because of two recent transformative events, there was hope he might change his views.

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On Feb. 13, Chicago Police Commander Paul Bauer was shot to death while pursuing a fleeing suspect who happened to cross his path while he was at an official event. A 31-year veteran of the Chicago police, he was the first officer killed in seven years and the highest ranking officer killed in decades. His funeral was a major civic event.

The second trigger was the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 were killed. Many of the surviving students have since become staunch, vocal proponents of new gun control legislation.

The Democratic-controlled legislature in Illinois passed several bills, most notably one to require state registration of each gun shop, with background checks for employees and mandatory training that includes how to spot those who should not be sold a deadly weapon.

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The bill had been sitting on the Rauner’s desk for several weeks, as the police chief and mayor of Chicago and many lawmakers urged him to sign the bill into law. Instead, Rauner killed the legislation, claiming that the federal government already regulates gun dealers.

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State Senator Don Harmon (D), who worked to get the gun bill passed for 16 years, said this bill was needed because “the federal system is broken.” With an election looming, Harmon also said it would have been good politics because 85 percent of Illinois residents want this bill signed into law.

However, others point out Rauner is more worried about facing an even more conservative anti-gun legislation opponent, Illinois House Rep Jeanne Ives (R), who he faces in the March 20 primary. Ives voted against the gun control bill in the state Assembly.

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“With one week left in his campaign,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat who supported the gun bill, “Gov. Rauner just put his primary election ahead of his primary responsibility to protect the safety of the people of Chicago and Illinois.”

“The Governor’s decision was cruel,” added Emanuel, “it was cold and it was calculated to benefit his own politics at the expense of public safety.”

Rauner’s decision will ultimately be tested in the general election where the millionaire Governor will face a billionaire Democrat from one of the state’s richest families, J.B. Pritzker, heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune.

Pritzker favors sensible gun control legislation which could play well in a state where the murder rate in Chicago is way above the national average, but statewide less than 27 percent of residents own any firearm at all.

Both Rauner, a former hedge fund manager, and Pritzker have pledged over $50 million each of their own money for their campaigns, in what is shaping up as one of the most costly elections in history.

This November could see Republicans called to account not just by Democrats but by all Americans, who are tired of the false promises and pretend populists who once in office give away the store to big business and the super wealthy.

Rauner’s decision to help him win the primary by vetoing this bill may well come back to haunt him when the entire state decides on which of the rich men should lead them.

Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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