Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush pushed back Saturday against calls from President Obama and other Democrats for stricter gun control laws in the wake of the mass shooting at a Charleston, S.C., church that left nine people dead.
Bush, who traveled to this Las Vegas suburb for a town hall event, said he does not believe tougher gun laws would prevent mass shootings.
“All of these tragic instances that have taken place in the last couple of years are heartbreaking. They really are,” said Bush in response a question from an attendee about his views on the 2nd Amendment. “Not a single one of them would have been stopped with any of the ideas proposed by Barack Obama. Not a single one of them.”
Bush, among the front-runners in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, said more emphasis should be placed on improving access to mental health services.
His comments come ahead of a Monday visit to Charleston, where Bush plans to meet with black ministers in a community ravaged by the shooting.
Obama again touched on gun control on Friday, in a eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, a pastor and state senator who was among the victims of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church.
“For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation,” he said. “The vast majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners want to do something about this. We see that now.”
In the wake of the December 2012 shooting of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Obama called for Congress to mandate universal background checks for buyers of guns. That measure faltered, though several states, such as Connecticut and Colorado, passed stricter reforms.
Meanwhile, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, in recent days has called for universal background checks, noting the “politics on the issue have been poisoned."
Several national surveys have shown wide support for universal background checks.
Bush has received strong support from the National Rifle Assn., and as governor he signed the controversial “stand your ground” law that received attention in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting.
On Saturday, Bush noted that gun laws should be a state issue.
“In Florida we had background checks, state by state I think these things get sorted out based on tradition, based on the differences in our states,” he said in remarks to reporters after the town hall.
Bush said he supported a Florida law that requires background checks on some gun sales.
“We’ve created a balance that’s focused on lowering gun violence, but protecting the 2nd Amendment,” he said of Florida.
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