Is Jeb Bush Really Pro-gun?
Tom McHale 01.06.16
While Jeb Bush is taking a bullying from some of the other candidates (read Donald Trump), he’s hanging in there like a sweaty leather heavy bag. Even though his poll numbers are low, he seems to be sticking in this race, likely because his campaign appears to have an inexhaustible supply of Bitcoin to foot the TV ad bills. Since neither Bushes or Clintons never really go away, we’re going to cover him in our pro-gun series. Who knows? We just might have to deal with him down the road.
With that said, here’s what we’ve dug out of Jeb’s gun policy closet. Don’t forget to read our articles on Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson to get perspective on some of the others.
What he says
Let’s start with Jeb’s campaign website—I think there’s something telling here evidenced by the lack of digital ink on the entire subject of Second Amendment rights and gun control issues. If you look at Jeb’s list of campaign platforms by category, gun rights are noticeably absent.
Here’s are the main platform areas that Jeb has staked out a position on: Reform and Growth, Reforming Washington, Defeating ISIS, Border Security, Veterans, Regulatory Reform, Energy Policy, Health Care Plan, Cybersecurity, Defense, State’s Rights.
I’m not making a statement that gun rights should be one of his main platform divisions. However, I do find it interesting that the opposition party has made it a top issue and it’s front and center in the news, yet Jeb remains silent. I actually did read through all the politician-speak in each of the categories, and sure enough, it’s all crickets on guns.
However, Jeb does address the issue in a voter survey on the Jeb2016.com website. The question asks whether you think gun laws should be more restrictive or whether you support the Second Amendment.
Like most politicians, Jeb seems to amp up his message depending on who’s in the room. During a speech at the 2003 National Rifle Association, he certainly made a herculean effort to win the Crowd Pet award. “We are a peaceful people because we choose to be. However, we will fight for our freedom and liberty, and we will fight for others who yearn to be free. The sound of our guns is the sound of freedom!”
How he’s voted
As an executive branch guy, we can’t look to his specific voting record, although we can glean insight from initiatives passed during his two terms as Governor of the state of Florida from 1999 through 2007.
The biggest thing with Jeb’s name attached to it is Florida’s 10-20-Life law. Passed in early 1999, Jeb’s role in the process was making the issue a campaign promise and driving support. Once he took office in 1999, the Legislature passed the measure, and he signed it into law.
In short, the law imposed stiffer penalties on crimes committed with the use of a firearm. Do something bad while having a gun—10 years. Fire it? 20 years. Hit someone? You’re done for life. This sounds good on the surface, but do we really want to assign an extra-special bonus penalty because a criminal used a specific tool? If I commit armed robbery and stab someone with a knife, is that somehow less evil than the committing the same crime by shooting them in the leg? To me, that works directly against the idea of assigning blame to the perpetrator and not the tool. Am I supportive of harsh penalties for violent crimes? Yes. But not if a crime committed with a gun is deemed worse than an equally violent crime using some other deadly weapon. I call this out because, to me, it’s a big red flag that shows a lack of understanding of the underlying responsibility of the criminal and undue emphasis on their choice of tools. You can make your own call on that.
Other notable brushes with Second Amendment issues include his signing of the Florida 2005 stand your ground (SYG) law. While legally SYG offers no “new rights” to shoot someone, it certainly caused an uproar, especially when the term was bandied about during the Trayvon Martin fiasco. For any uninitiated, SYG simply removes the obligation to retreat when attacked. All existing deadly force and self-defense requirements still apply. As an opposite example, consider cases in which victims are prosecuted and jailed for harming an attacker because the resident could not find a way to safely run away. As the first governor to sign such legislation into law, we probably have to give Jeb some points for whatever level of support he provided to the effort.
Our best guess
Although he’ll make the claim when the audience is right, it’s hard to find much evidence of his support for gun rights. Most of his visible support really takes the form of anti-crime initiatives. Some of those, like the 10-20-Life bill, can be construed as potential detriments to the cause of gun rights. On the other hand, his early support of stand your ground legislation helped launch a cascade of similar measures in other states.
The bottom line? Of the candidates we’ve reviewed so far, Jeb is notably silent on the issue, refusing (or at the very least ducking opportunities) to promote bold positions on Second Amendment issues.
Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.