Gov. Bruce Rauner is not demanding reinstatement of the death penalty in exchange for Democratic-favored gun restrictions in an all-or-nothing package, an aide said after testimony before a House committee Wednesday.
David Risley, the Republican's director of criminal justice and public safety policy, said each of the other provisions Rauner added in an amendatory veto last week — including a 72-hour gun-delivery waiting period, a bump-stock ban and a court procedure for taking guns from dangerous people — would have the governor's support.
"Each one has been drafted as a stand-alone bill," Risley told The Associated Press after the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee took testimony on Rauner's veto. "Each component of his own amendatory veto, he would sign if it reaches his desk."
Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold issued a statement later Wednesday saying the governor is asking lawmakers "to consider his proposal in its entirety" to combat gun violence seen in school shootings this year and the fatal shooting of Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer.
When asked whether the statement precluded Risley's offer, Bold responded, "Let's take it one step at a time. The General Assembly has ample time to consider a comprehensive package."
Democrats who control the General Assembly had believed Rauner's most-publicized addition — a plan to reinstate the death penalty for mass murderers and those who kill police officers — is a "poison pill" that Democratic lawmakers had to approve in order to get the other gun restrictions.
"The way many of us interpreted his amendatory veto was tying all these components into one package and saying, 'We won't give you these very sensible gun-safety laws unless you give us these very controversial measures, particularly the death penalty,'" said Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat.
After speaking with the AP on the House floor, Guzzardi approached House Speaker Michael Madigan with the news. The fellow Chicago Democrat nodded and said, "The governor's flexible."
The amendatory veto came last week on legislation sent him to extend the waiting period for delivery of an assault-style weapon to 72 hours, up from 24 — the same waiting period for handguns. Rauner's change to that measure expanded the 72-hour wait to all guns.
Rep. Jonathon Carroll, the Northbrook Democrat who sponsored the original waiting-period plan, was surprised by Risley's comments and said, "I'm certainly willing to do whatever brings the best public safety to our state."
Carroll has made a motion in the House to accept the changes, but it's unlikely Democrats will pursue that course. The General Assembly can OK Rauner's alterations with a simple majority vote, override them and reinstate the original waiting period bill with a three-fifths majority, or do nothing, in which case all the provisions expire without taking effect.
The other provisions inserted are generally favored by Democrats — except for resurrecting capital punishment, which the state abolished in 2011. Democrats claimed Rauner's move was meant to strengthen his conservative bona fides as he campaigns for re-election this fall and, at the same time, allow him to blame Democrats when they reject the bill by claiming they were against the very "commonsense" gun restrictions they trumpet.
Rauner's opposition came to the hearing Wednesday with that in mind. The first person to testify, Delphine Cherry of Hazel Crest, saw her daughter, Tyese Abney, killed by a stray bullet in 1992 and her son, Tyler Randolph, killed by gun violence in 2012.
"As the mother of two children killed 20 years apart, I find the governor's political games in his amendatory veto shameful and heartless," Cherry said.
Other provisions in the amendatory veto include requiring judges who approve plea agreements to reduce sentences in gun-violence cases to publicly explain their rationale and to give local school districts funding flexibility to finance police officers or mental health professionals to stop campus violence or defuse it.