Illinois GOP gubernatorial hopefuls say guards, mental health keys to stop mass shootings

There was little difference among Republican candidates for governor in a televised debate Thursday when it came to questions of protecting schoolchildren from mass shootings, reversing some of the nation’s more liberal abortion-access laws and ensuring that parents, not bureaucrats, decide what children learn in the classroom.

Aside from a few potshots at the presumed front-runner, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, hopefuls for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in the June 28 primary stuck to the Republican script in an hourlong debate sponsored by WLS-TV, Univision and the League of Women Voters of Illinois.

On a day that marked a third mass shooting in little more than a week, none of the six candidates mentioned restrictions on firearms sales despite President Joe Biden’s plea for action.

"Democrats use every crisis to step in and try to say gun control is the answer," said financial manager Jesse Sullivan of Petersburg. "The real problem is the liberal agenda, the liberal agenda that has been taking God and faith values out of our society... I’m going to bring those values back into the government."

State Sen. Darren Bailey, a farmer from Xenia, said boosting mental health programs for young people who take up arms when troubled is "the only solution we have" but said in the case of school shootings, armed safety officers should be posted, something echoed by Max Solomon, a Chicago attorney and minister. Bull Valley business owner Gary Rabine said tougher sentences for gun crimes are necessary and former state Sen. Paul Schimpf of Waterloo said he would closely listen to schools and communities about needed improvements in mental health services.


The winner of the primary election will take on the winner of the Democratic primary, featuring incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker who is facing a challenge from Chicago activist and registered nurse Beverly Miles.

With conservative states pushing tougher laws on abortion after a leaked preliminary opinion showing the U.S. Supreme Court leaning toward overturning the Roe v. Wade, the candidates largely agreed on reinstituting parental notification, a law the Democratic-led Legislature repealed and Pritzker signed this week. They also agreed on ending publicly funded abortions.

"J.B. Pritzker signed legislation to allow a teenager to walk into an abortion clinic, 12, 13, 14, 15 years and get an abortion without their parents knowing about it," Irvin said. "I would reinstate that immediately."

None of the candidates believes public schools should include contributions of the LGBTQ community, with Irvin saying lessons should stay focused on the basics "to give our kids opportunities for the future." Schimpf promoted his Illinois Parents’ Bill of Rights to give parents the final say in their education and upbringing, including allowing girls to compete in sports without facing disadvantages because of their biological gender.

Even if a Republican wins the governor’s office, the Legislature very likely will remain solidly in Democratic hands. Each candidate vowed to work cooperatively with a Democratic Legislature. Solomon vowed to make it work with him by ensuring that no Democratic legislative candidate goes unchallenged on Election Day.

"There are many Democrats that think like we do around this circle, but unfortunately, they feel hindered that they won’t get re-elected if they subscribe to these policies of freedom and lower taxes and safe streets," Bailey said. "When I have the pulpit and when I’m able to express that message we’ll have many come along and we will be able to work together because we must."