Fox's Sean Hannity gave 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush a platform to claim that the gun policies he supported as governor of Florida helped create “a less violent society,” even though he signed the nation's first “Stand Your Ground” law, which studies show has actually contributed to more violence.
Bush appeared on the June 16 broadcast of Hannity for a wide-ranging interview in front of a studio audience. Hannity asked, “Should citizens, if they are law-abiding, no records, have the right to carry a weapon?”
Bush responded, “Absolutely, and in Florida, you know who leads the nation in concealed weapons permits by far? Over a million. It's Florida. It creates a ... less violent society and crime goes down when law-abiding citizens that don't commit crimes have guns.”
But experts say controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws, like the one the jury used to acquit George Zimmerman of killing unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012, make society more violent.
The proliferation of such laws can be traced to Bush's support for the first one ever proposed, while he was governor of Florida. The 2005 Florida law - which was based on a distorted account of a dubious self-defense shooting incident in the wake of Hurricane Ivan - was crafted by State Sen. Durell Peaden (R), with help from past National Rifle Association (NRA) president and longtime Florida NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer. According to Florida Today, the NRA “wrote the bill.”
After passing both chambers of Florida's legislature, Bush signed the bill into law with Hammer standing at his side. Hammer, who has expressed extremist and far-right views on gun regulation for decades while lobbying for the NRA in Florida, and who has compared banning assault weapons to racial discrimination, is deeply intertwined with Bush. A few months before he signed the nation's first “Stand Your Ground” law, Bush had inducted Hammer into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame. The June 2005 issue of the NRA's magazine, America's 1st Freedom featured a picture of Bush, Hammer, and the NRA's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre with a caption describing Bush and LaPierre as Hammer's “most ardent supporters.”
Following the enactment of “Stand Your Ground” in Florida, the NRA joined forces with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to lobby conservative legislators across the country on the idea that the bill was “model legislation” for all states.
At least 22 states have followed Florida's lead and passed their own 'Stand Your Ground" laws since 2005. But during the controversy surrounding 17-year-old Martin's death, ALEC disbanded the NRA-led Public Safety and Elections Task Force responsible for the legislation and several companies severed their ties with ALEC.
Bush has continued to strongly support “Stand Your Ground” laws and recently defended them in an appearance at the NRA's 2015 annual meeting.
Experts, however, have linked the increase in the number of states with such laws to an increase in homicides.
According to research conducted by Mark Hoesktra, an economics professor at Texas A&M University, “Stand Your Ground” laws are responsible for “an additional 500 to 700 homicides per year nationally across the states that adopted.” While “Stand Your Ground” proponents point to justifiable homicides, the study found that in states with such laws, “murder alone is increased by a statistically significant 6 to 11 percent. This is important because murder excludes non-negligent manslaughter classifications that one might think are used more frequently in self-defense cases.” Other researchers have reached similar conclusions.
According to research by the Urban Institute, “Stand Your Ground” laws are also applied differently within the judicial system depending on the race of the shooter and the victim.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that “justifiable homicides” in Florida tripled in the five years following the enactment of “Stand Your Ground.” Although Zimmerman's “Stand Your Ground” -aided acquittal has received the most attention, numerous other dubious claims of self-defense have been accepted under Stand Your Ground in Florida.
During his appearance on Hannity, Bush touted the advantages of concealed carry laws, bragging that Florida has more permits than any other state and claiming, “It creates a ... less violent society and crime goes down when law-abiding citizens who don't commit crimes have guns.”
Unsurprisingly - since the policies are intertwined - studies have also linked permissive concealed carry laws to increased violence. According to recent research by Stanford University, concealed carry laws are linked to increases in several categories of violent crime, most strongly, aggravated assault.
Under Bush, Florida did a poor job screening people who applied to carry concealed guns in public. According to the Orlando Sentinel, a 2006 investigation found “more than 1,400 people who pleaded guilty or no contest to felonies but qualified” for a concealed carry permit in Florida “because of a loophole in the law.” The paper reported that among those with valid concealed carry permits were several sex offenders, more than two dozen people under domestic violence injunctions, and “216 people with outstanding warrants, including a Tampa pizza deliveryman wanted since 2002 in the fatal shooting a 15-year-old boy over a stolen order of chicken wings.”