Rooney defends gun votes after criticism from both sides

  • Democrat Ann Gillespie, left, and Republican incumbent State Sen. Tom Rooney are candidates for the 27th District state Senate.

    Democrat Ann Gillespie, left, and Republican incumbent State Sen. Tom Rooney are candidates for the 27th District state Senate.

Updated 10/9/2018 6:22 PM

Nearly a year into his appointment to the 27th District Illinois Senate seat, Republican incumbent Tom Rooney is defending his votes on gun control bills in the face of a series of critical mailers from Democratic opponent Ann Gillespie and criticism from those in his own party.

Rooney, who stepped down as Rolling Meadows mayor in November 2017 to fill the vacancy of Matt Murphy, voted no to banning bump stocks -- devices that attach to guns to allow rapid fire -- but was the lone Senate Republican to support state licensing of gun dealers.


It was the latter bill that got Rooney the endorsement of the Arlington Heights-based Gun Violence Prevention PAC, which lobbied for the bill's passage in the legislature before it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

"Is it actually a Second Amendment issue that really deals with the Second Amendment, or is it not?" Rooney said in a recent interview with the Daily Herald Editorial Board. "And if it's actually a Second Amendment issue, then the threshold is really high. To me, I had to sit with a lot of gun people and say this is not a Second Amendment issue. This is a business regulation."

While Rooney says he was originally opposed to the state licensing gun dealers, he became convinced after hearing from a number of constituents on the issue.

Rooney said he's gotten figurative "bumps and bruises" from fellow Republicans because of that vote, but says he was following the will of the district, an area that includes portions of Arlington Heights, Barrington, Des Plaines, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Prospect Heights and Rolling Meadows.

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Rooney said his vote not to ban bump stocks -- the subject of campaign mailers sent by Gillespie's campaign -- is because of a late amendment to the legislation that would've allowed each home rule municipality in Illinois to enact gun bans.

Rooney said he supports a ban on bump stocks, but the legislation he had to consider wasn't a "clean bill."

"It was game playing. It was shenanigans applied at the last minute for political reasons. And it's why that bill didn't pass," Rooney said.

Gillespie, of Arlington Heights, said she would have voted for both bills.

"You can hide behind the Second Amendment and say you can't do something that's politically unpopular, particularly within your party," Gillespie said. "But if you're really concerned about public safety and what your constituents want, I think it's pretty clear. I think they've made it pretty clear about what they want in terms of public safety."

Both Rooney and Gillespie have been endorsed by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

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