SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WMBD) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey is calling for a special legislative session to take action on violent crime and mental health issues in the wake of the Highland Park massacre.
Bailey held a press conference Thursday morning outside the Illinois State Capitol to discuss rising crime and mental health issues.
“The suffering, the loss, and the pain is absolutely nightmarish and ongoing, and it doesn’t have to be this way. I am calling for a special legislative session to take action to stop the mayhem in our streets,” he said.
During the special legislative session, Bailey said he would create a multi-stakeholder group consisting of doctors, first responders, churches, patients, home caregivers and teachers to “identify the gaps that these tormented people are falling through and find solutions.”
“We must do whatever it takes to address the breakdown in mental health, particularly among isolated young men, which was made immeasurably worse during Pritzker’s lockdowns,” he said.
Bailey also called to repeal the SAFE-T Act and renew focus on the Illinois Firearm Restraining Order Act of 2018, which he said could have prevented the Highland Park tragedy. The law is similar to red flags laws and ensures individuals who pose a clear and present danger cannot access a gun while they get help.
“The shooter could have been stopped, and would have been stopped, if Gov. Pritzker and the government were living up to their true duty to protect the innocent,” said Bailey.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D) immediately fired back and said Bailey had opposed strengthening the Firearm Restraining Order Act in 2021 to “to implement a program to educate the public and police officers about firearm restraining orders.”
Pritzker said Bailey was lying about his own history of opposing mental health funding, pointing to Bailey’s “no” votes on all four budgets during his administration.
“Bailey has voted against additional funding for mental health services over and over again. He voted against appropriating historic amounts of funding for critical gun violence prevention, public safety and mental health programs.”
Bailey also called attention to gun violence in Chicago that has received less coverage than the Highland Park shooting.
“The loss of life of these African American and minority communities matters just as much as the tragedy in Highland Park. But Governor Pritzker, you never talk about them and its time that you own it,” he said.
Bailey also apologized for his previous comments on the deadly Highland Park shooting, saying that people should “move on” and continue to celebrate Independence Day.
“The thought that my initial response could have caused more pain is certainly something that will keep me up at night, and I’m sorry,” he said.