Governor talks anti-violence at Chicago churches

CHICAGO – Gov. Pat Quinn spent his second consecutive Sunday at Chicago houses of worship calling for more anti-violence efforts on city streets and the need for an assault weapons ban – pointing specifically to the recent shooting death of a 6-month-old girl.

The Chicago Democrat stopped at two churches and a Chicago synagogue to help launch an anti-gun violence campaign with religious and community leaders. Quinn, who likely faces a tough re-election next year, also used the chance to tout his budget proposal, playing up how he's retained money for early education.

He cited the slaying last week of Jonylah Watkins, who was shot as her father was changing her diaper. Police believe Jonathan Watkins, a suspected gang member, was the target; he was wounded in the shooting.

"That little baby did not have a chance for early childhood education," Quinn told congregants of United Baptist Church on the city's West Side. "She's teaching us in heaven right now that we here on earth have some work to do."

Quinn is pushing for an assault weapons ban in the state. His attempt last year to ban them failed, but the matter has recently seen some movement in Springfield with House lawmakers voting in favor of bans on semi-automatic assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines. However, the issue still faces several legislative hurdles.

The governor also wants Attorney General Lisa Madigan to appeal a federal court's ruling that Illinois' last-in-the-nation concealed carry ban is unconstitutional; an appeal would take the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court. A panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has given lawmakers until early June to legalize the concealed carry of firearms. Madigan, a potential political rival in the 2014 gubernatorial race, has said she disagrees with Quinn and will wait to see what lawmakers do.

Quinn told The Associated Press on Sunday that he wouldn't order Madigan to appeal the ruling, but that he believes it only makes sense to do so.

"I think it's important not just accept that decision (when) we think it isn't the correct decision and if there's one more appeal to be made," he said.

Quinn began speaking on the church circuit days after he released his tough budget outline earlier this month. He did not mention to congregants that his proposal also calls for $400 million in cuts to education, something Quinn has said he had to do because of the strain the state's worst-in-the-nation pension problem has on other spending. Education officials predict the cuts could lead to teacher layoffs and bigger class sizes, among other things.

On Sunday afternoon, at Chicago Sinai Congregation, Quinn, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, State Senate President John Cullerton and others voiced their support for a group of some 400 people who announced they would launch a campaign to put pressure on gun manufacturers to do help curb gun violence. They all agreed to set up at least one meeting with an organization or a company that might be elicited in the effort to help persuade the manufacturers to do things such as cooperate with authorities to prevent guns from getting into the hands of criminals and others who should not have them.

"Folks here know how to organize and I think that is the key to winning," he said after the meeting.

Quinn's stump speech-style addresses also come as he is likely to face a difficult re-election, particularly if Madigan decides to challenge him in a Democratic primary. Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley says he's also considering run. Republicans who've expressed interest include Treasurer Dan Rutherford, U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock and state Sen. Bill Brady.

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Sophia Tareen can be reached at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen

Associated Press Reporter Don Babwin contributed to this report.