- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ripples from the deadly shootings in Connecticut are already affecting political campaigns, including a special congressional election in Illinois where a gun rights supporter is calling for tighter gun controls as part of her agenda.

Illinois state Sen. Toi Hutchinson, who in the past has won support from the National Rifle Association, is now running for the Chicago seat left vacant by Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., and is supporting a ban on some semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines in the aftermath of the massacre of schoolchildren.

Another candidate, former Illinois state Rep. Robin Kelly, challenged others in the crowded Democratic field to support five gun-control measures, including to “never receive support from organizations that oppose reasonable gun safety legislation.”

The Illinois election is just one of the races looming on the horizon. There could also be special elections in Hawaii and Massachusetts, depending on upcoming personnel decisions by Hawaii’s governor and by President Obama.

Analysts said it’s not clear what role guns would play in those states, where the electorate is liberal and there may not be major differences between candidates on the gun-control issue.

The push for gun control comes a week after a gunman shot and killed 20 students, six adults and himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He also killed his mother at her home.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, an outspoken gun-control advocate, said that in the wake of the shootings, the issue’s resonance could carry over to races at the state legislative level, the 2013 governors’ races in Virginia and New Jersey, and beyond.

“I don’t think this is going away,” Mr. Rendell told The Washington Times. “But I also think there’s a real good chance that the Congress will pass” something.

In Chicago, it’s more than just the school shooting that’s driving the issue. Several weeks ago a federal appeals court struck down the state’s ban on concealed weapons, creating the opportunity — or necessity — for candidates to draw distinctions on their support for gun control in the heavily Democratic district.

Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson, who lost in a primary to Mr. Jackson earlier this year, has received support from the Illinois State Rifle Association and the NRA in the past — and she appears to be a chief target of Ms. Kelly’s challenge to reject the support of gun rights groups.

Ms. Halvorson defended her position, telling Roll Call that she “may” support an assault-weapons ban and that everything should be “on the table.”

“I’m not going to change just because this is a primary with a lot of candidates,” she said.

Ms. Kelly also appeared to take a swipe at Ms. Halverson and/or Ms. Hutchinson in condemning the ruling on the state’s concealed-weapon law.

“Unlike others in this race, I have been a consistent voice in standing up to the National Rifle Association and their shortsighted policies that put our families at risk,” she said.

Those three Democrats will likely be joined by at least four more: former Rep. Mel Reynolds, Alderman Anthony Beale, former NFL player Napoleon Harris, and state Sen. Donne Trotter, who says he forgot he had a gun with him when he tried to board a plane earlier this month and now faces a felony charge.

The Democratic primary is scheduled for Feb. 26, and a special election in the overwhelmingly Democratic district will take place April 9.

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