Republican Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois has put forward an idea which used to be quite popular but was later frowned upon in some segments of society. He’s suggesting that it may be time to bring back capital punishment for criminals who murder uniformed law enforcement officers in the line of duty. The death penalty would also apply to those committing mass murder, defined here as killing more than one person. These measures are part of his proposed changes to a new gun control bill going through the legislature currently which would also ban bump stocks and trigger cranks. A 72 hour waiting period for firearm purchases would also be imposed. (The Hill)

Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed restating the state’s death penalty to apply for mass killers or those who kill law enforcement officers.

Rauner unveiled the proposal Monday as part of a larger rewrite on a gun control bill, The Chicago Tribune reports.

The provision would create a new category of homicide called “death penalty murder.” It would apply to adults who kill police officers or more than one person.

During a press conference in Chicago, Rauner said those people “deserve to have their life taken.”

We can leave the rest of the gun control measures on the shelf for another day and focus more on the capital punishment aspect of the proposal. The death penalty has been banned in Illinois since 2011 when Democratic Governor Patt Quinn did away with it. Rauner isn’t suggesting bringing it back in full force as it used to exist, but rather in more limited circumstances.

Being a supporter of the careful and limited use of the death penalty myself, there’s obvious appeal to this proposal for me. But it will still draw justifiable criticism in some quarters. The “mass murder” aspect being put forward is a bit dubious because of how difficult it is to define precisely what constitutes mass murder. Does two really fill the bill? I’ll leave that up to the people of Illinois.

When it comes to murdering police in the line of duty, however, there shouldn’t be too much of a debate. If you disagree with the death penalty in all circumstances for moral or religious reasons, I respect your opinion and we can agree to disagree. But if you ever find the practice acceptable then this surely should be one area where it can be employed. I’ve heard arguments which state that cops are human beings like any other citizen and shouldn’t be afforded any greater protection or redress under the law than anyone else. It’s a fair argument because as much as we may honor and respect our police, firemen, paramedics, soldiers and all others who rush into harm’s way to keep us safe, they are still indeed human beings like the rest of us.

But an attack on a police officer is more than the killing of one human being. The person in the uniform is no greater than any other citizen, but the uniform itself is a victim. When someone murders a police officer in the line of duty they are attacking the bedrock of our civil society. It’s an assault on the thin fabric which allows us to exist as peaceful, law-abiding citizens without descending into chaos and anarchy. Surely that merits the harshest punishment possible and the ability to deliver a deterrent message to others who would similarly promote destabilization.

This is an apt time for Rauner to bring this debate back into the public square, particularly when many states are moving in the opposite direction. There’s a need to be far more careful in meting out this punishment, but in some cases, it’s clearly justified. Murdering a cop is obviously one of them as far as I’m concerned. On a related subject, Orrin Hatch recently introduced the Protect and Serve act to increase penalties for attacks on law enforcement officers. Perhaps he and Rauner could get together.