Media should no longer allow Jeb Bush to promote his record on guns by claiming, “In Florida we have a background check.” This claim is a lie by omission that neglects the totality of so-called private gun transfers that happen in the state.
During CNN's September 16 Republican presidential debate, Bush gave a misleading answer about Florida's gun laws to advance his campaign talking point that the federal government “shouldn't be involved in gun laws.” Bush suggested that gun laws should be determined “state-by-state” and criticized Hillary Clinton and President Obama for advocating for federal gun laws, before adding, “That's not the right approach to do it. In Florida we have a background check”:
That is not accurate. The circumstances under which a gun buyer must undergo a background check in Florida are instead defined by the federal Brady Law, which requires that gun buyers undergo a background check only when they're buying from a federally licensed firearms dealer.
In Florida, background checks are not required for so-called private gun sales (although individual counties may impose universal background check requirements). By some estimates, up to 40 percent of the millions of gun transfers that occur nationwide each year are conducted without any background check because of this private transfer loophole.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted background check laws that go beyond the federal requirement for purchases from licensed dealers, but Florida is not one of those states.
Florida allows the sale of guns without a background check in many cases, and has higher rates of domestic violence-related gun murders, and gun murders of law enforcement officers compared to states that require universal background checks on handgun sales. Furthermore, gun murders have increased in Florida since 2005 when Bush signed the nation's first “Stand Your Ground” law, which was drafted by the National Rifle Association and became infamous as the centerpiece of George Zimmerman's criminal defense after he shot and killed unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
Between 2008 and 2012, Florida had one of the highest rates of gun violence against women in the nation. According to data compiled by Everytown for Gun Safety, women in Florida were more than twice as likely to be killed by an intimate partner using a gun than women in states that require background checks on handgun sales. Florida's rate of gun violence against women -- 5.74 homicides per million -- was far above the national average, and exceeded average gun violence even for many states with similarly lax gun laws. According to another data set compiled by Everytown, between 2000 and 2011, for every 100,000 active police officers in Florida, 65.4 were killed with guns, compared to an average rate of just 35.4 in states that require background checks on handgun sales.
Bush's claim about background checks appears to be a go-to talking point for the Republican presidential hopeful. When asked about background checks on gun sales during a September 8 interview with Stephen Colbert, Bush falsely claimed, “In Florida, where I was governor, we have a requirement of background checks.”
Bush's claim about background checks stands in stark contrast to his actual record on guns while governor of Florida between 1999 and 2007. According to an analysis of federal data by the Center for American Progress, gun murder rates have increased in Florida since Bush signed “Stand Your Ground”: