More than 90 percent of Americans support expanding background checks on gun purchases. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is one of those supporters — but only when it comes to his own state.
On Tuesday, Bush admitted that gun violence has decreased in Florida since implementing background checks on gun purchases, but said he still wouldn’t advocate for the policy to be expanded nationwide.
“In Florida, where I was governor, we have a requirement of background checks, a 72-hour waiting period,” Bush said in an unaired clip from the inaugural episode of “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert. “We’re not violating any Second Amendment rights. In fact, Florida would be considered a Second Amendment, pro-gun state. Gun violence is way down. But we have simple checks to make sure that people that aren’t criminals are not accessing guns.”
In response to a viewer question about gun control, Bush went even farther, saying he would advocate for expanding background checks to block mentally ill people from accessing guns. Florida currently lags behind other states when it comes to submitting mental illness records to a federal database used in gun background checks, according to a report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
“I think the next step is to figure out ways to make sure that we know if people have mental health issues, which is really the common denominator of a lot of these violent, tragic cases where people aren’t getting access to mental health and we don’t even know if they have real issues,” he said.
For a minute, the former Florida governor almost sounded like he supported expanding background checks to more gun purchases, agreeing with Colbert that the National Rifle Association’s opposition to mental health checks can be defeated.
“Why would you want to impose national gun laws on top of every circumstance of this country?” he asked. When Colbert pointed out that the Second Amendment is applied nationally, so gun control should also be a national issue, Bush disagreed, saying that Florida is different from New York or Vermont.
“The Bill of Rights has a Tenth Amendment, which is that powers are given to the states to create policy, and the federal government is not the end-all and be-all,” he said.
Watch the “Jeb! Bonus! Clip!”:
Studies show that effective background check laws reduce gun violence. States that require background checks for all handgun sales have lower levels of gun violence compared with states that do not require background checks, according to a Center for American Progress report. Those states have 46 percent fewer women shot and killed by their intimate partners, 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers shot and killed with handguns, and 48 percent fewer gun suicides committed.
The ten states with the weakest gun laws collectively have a level of gun violence that is more than twice as high as the ten states with the strongest gun laws, according to the report.