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Owning assault weapons a right, three GOP candidates say

Republican gubernatorial candidates from left State Sen. Kirk Dillard Bruce Rauner State Treasurer Dan Rutherford State Sen. Bill Brady get

Republican gubernatorial candidates from left, State Sen. Kirk Dillard, Bruce Rauner, State Treasurer Dan Rutherford and State Sen. Bill Brady get ready before a televised debate Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Updated: February 28, 2014 10:38AM

Three of the four Republicans competing in the gubernatorial primary say they believe all Illinois residents have the right to own assault weapons.

Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford of Chenoa, state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington and venture capitalist Bruce Rauner of Winnetka said Thursday night that they believe it’s a right.

Rutherford offered the caveat that an owner must be: “Background checked and trained,” before obtaining an assault weapon. He was the first to respond to the question posed at an ABC7/Univision televised debate put on with the League of Women Voters.

With less than three weeks left until the March 18 primary, the four GOP candidates answered a series of questions and took shots at one another.

Brady cast state Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale as unelectable because of a TV ad the Republican taped for then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. And then Brady likened Rauner to Obama — accusing Rauner of wanting to run Springfield by executive order.

For his part, Rauner directed his hits at Gov. Pat Quinn, turning down a chance to say why he believed Rutherford wouldn’t be able to beat Quinn. Instead, Rauner said all four had a chance of beating Quinn, calling him the worst governor in America.

At one point candidates were asked if they were in favor of all people in Illinois having the right to own an assault weapon.

“Yes, you need to have background checks, and you need to be trained,” Brady said, echoing Rutherford.

Only Dillard sidestepped the question — saying he believed it was better left up to the federal government to decide.

“The assault weapon ban is really an issue for the federal Congress,” he said. “I’m certainly sensitive to the issue. I have a 12-year-old and a 10-year-old. I worry about safety of children on our streets every day. But this is really an issue for the federal Congress.”

Rauner took the opportunity to take shots at Quinn, calling him a “massive failure” when it came to crime.

“We have to be aware that we have major crime problems in Illinois, and we make a mistake when politicians blame gun ownership for our crime problems. There are other issues, it’s not gun ownership,” Rauner said.

“Pat Quinn has been a massive failure on crime in Illinois. Crime under Pat Quinn has skyrocketed throughout Illinois — not just Chicago, but in Rockford and many other communities, and we’ve got to take action with restoring our budgets to balance so we properly staff and train our police departments.”

Rauner backed off a bit from those remarks when reporters pressed him, noting that crime is not on the rise in Illinois.

“Crime is a massive problem. It’s not just Chicago. It’s in Rockford, it’s in Decatur, it’s in Metro East, it’s in Lake County we have a significant crime problem,” Rauner told reporters after the debate. “Everywhere I go, people talk about it. It’s front and center. It’s a big problem.”

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