GOP Illinois governor nominee held events with store where accused mass shooter got weapon

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Republican state Sen. Darren Bailey is running against incumbent Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Darren Bailey, the Republican nominee for governor of Illinois, has held multiple campaign events with the gun store at which the man accused of carrying out a mass shooting at an Independence Day parade in the state picked up the weapon he is accused of using in the shooting, which he'd bought online, Vice reported on Aug. 16.

Bailey held two events with Red Dot Arms, the gun store where Robert "Bobby" Crimo picked up the semiautomatic rifle he allegedly used to kill six people and injure dozens at a July 4 parade in Highland Park, north of Chicago.

Bailey, a Republican state senator who won the GOP primary in June to take on incumbent Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker in November, visited the store in January to meet with the owner, according to a post he made on Facebook.

"Cindy and I made some phenomenal stops in Lake County today," Bailey wrote, referring to his wife. "We met with Steve the owner of Red Dot Firearms in Lake Villa and then met with great friends and supporters at the American Legion in Wauconda."

In April, Bailey raffled off handguns and rifles at an event he held in partnership with the store, according to a flyer he posted to Twitter.

Both events took place before the shooting in Highland Park, about 30 miles south of Red Dot Arms' location in Lake Villa.

Crimo, who has been charged with 117 felony counts, including 21 counts of first-degree murder, legally picked up the Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle he allegedly used in the shooting from the store.

Red Dot Arms, which sells handguns, ammunition, and rifles, is not accused of wrongdoing. And its owner, Mike Rioux, defended the fact that his store sells semiautomatic rifles after Vice published its report.

"Although the product Red Dot Arms sells is very misunderstood by the media and certain politicians, it's just that, a product. A legal product. My company is not in the business of giving product away," Rioux told Vice. "We sell firearms to law-abiding citizens upon approval from the Illinois State police. Both customers came to us. I don't know how they found us."

Bailey opposes the regulation of firearms. He has campaigned against Illinois' Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) system of cards issued by the Illinois State Police as a prerequisite to the purchase of firearms and ammunition in the state. He introduced a bill in the state Senate in April 2021 to do away with the FOID program, which he said has turned into "a major roadblock for law-abiding gun owners."

What's more, after the Highland Park massacre, Bailey came under fire for calling on the state to quickly move on from the shooting. "The shooter is still at large, so let's pray for justice to prevail and then let's move on and let's celebrate the independence of this nation," Bailey said following the shooting — a comment he later apologized for.

Bailey, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, is among the right-wing election deniers Republican voters have nominated in gubernatorial races across the country. He has been criticized for his 2017 comment that "the attempted extermination of the Jews of World War II doesn't even compare on a shadow of the life that has been lost with abortion since its legalization."

While Illinois is a blue state in which Democrats have won presidential elections for the past three decades, Republicans have had success downballot in the state in recent midterm elections.

In 2010, Republican Mark Kirk won the U.S. Senate seat that had been held by former President Barack Obama. In 2014, Republican Bruce Rauner ousted incumbent Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

Republicans were hoping to put the gubernatorial election in the state in play in November, but even they think the race is more difficult with Bailey as the nominee.

"Bailey is not going to play in the suburbs," Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) told the New York Times.

Inside Elections, the nonpartisan political handicapping outlet, rates the race Solid Democratic.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.