SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. Pat Quinn drew on the support of families of victims of gun violence Wednesday to push for a ban on assault weapons during his re-election bid against Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.
Quinn appeared in Chicago with Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, who've campaigned against assault weapons since their 24-year-old daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was killed in the 2012 theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado. Illinois families also participated, including the mother of Chicago teen Blair Holt, who was killed aboard a public bus in 2007.
The event was held near a subway station where a gunman opened fire into a train last week. No one was injured and a suspect was arrested.
Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, supports a ban. Rauner, a Winnetka venture capitalist, has said owning an assault weapon is a constitutional right.
While the election has turned largely on the economy, Quinn's campaign introduced a recent television ad about military-style weapons' destructive power. It features a comment by Rauner last spring that gun owners might want to use assault-style weapons for "target practice or use on their property."
The Phillipses and some gun owners who regularly campaign for candidates supporting gun control have seized on that comment, calling it "insensitive."
"I'm a target shooter. I don't need a military-style weapon," Sandy Phillips told The Associated Press.
Quinn's previous attempts at an assault weapons ban have failed in Illinois. He told reporters Wednesday that a Nov. 4 Cook County ballot question on the issue would help.
"You have to build a majority. That's what we're here for. That's what all our families are here for. That's how we win legislation," he said. "I've had to fight hard for many bills that did take some time to get passed by the Legislature."
At a candidate debate Tuesday, Rauner wouldn't clearly answer if he opposed an assault weapons ban. But he reiterated his support for restrictions that keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. He said the real cause of crime problems is a lack of opportunities that can be fixed through better economic policies.
"Bruce recognizes that Illinois' violence problem requires a comprehensive solution," his spokesman, Mike Schrimpf, said.
The families appeared for a Quinn endorsement from the Gun Violence Prevention Political Action Committee and the Washington-based Brady Campaign.
Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen in Chicago contributed to this report.