In Thursday night’s GOP debate, Jeb Bush attacked Obama’s executive action on guns, saying the Charleston shooter was able to obtain a gun last year despite the current background check process. What Bush did not mention is that Obama’s action strengthens the background check process and includes steps toward ensuring that more mistakes do not occur.
Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo asked Bush what the harm would be in strengthening background checks, given that Dylann Roof was able to purchase a firearm despite a past felony charge. Roof killed nine churchgoers in Charleston, SC last year.
“In this particular case, the FBI made a mistake,” Bush responded. “The law itself requires a background check, but they didn’t fulfill their part of the bargain within the time that they were supposed to do. We don’t need to add new rules, we need to make sure the FBI does its job. That person should not have gotten a gun, would not have passed a background check.”
Under Obama’s executive action, the FBI will hire more than 230 more people to help run background checks — an increase of more than 50 percent to the current staff. The additional staff will speed up the process and ensure that fewer background checks take more than three business days to complete. Roof’s paperwork took more than three days, so he was free to purchase the weapon.
During the debate, Bush also repeated a common Republican talking point that Obama exploits tragic shootings to “take away” guns from “law-abiding citizens.”
“We need to focus on what the bigger issue is,” he said. “It isn’t law-abiding gun owners. I have an A+ rating in the NRA. In Florida if you commit a crime with a gun, you’re going away, going away for a long, long while. We should focus on the violence in our communities.”
Bush did not mention that the Charleston shooter was motivated by racism — a point that many of the candidates downplayed in the days and weeks following the shooting. And he did not mention that homicides increased in his state of Florida after he signed the Stand Your Ground law, which allows people to claim self-defense as an excuse for lethally shooting others.
And even though Obama’s executive action addresses mental health — it instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to finalize a rule regarding health record privacy laws to remove barriers to states providing mental health records to the background check system — Bush still attacked the president for acting on the issue.
“The other issue is mental health,” he said. “That’s a serious issue that we could work on. Republicans and Democrats alike believe this. The president’s impulse is do it by executive order, power he doesn’t have.”