During his eight-year stretch as governor, Mr. Bush signed numerous bills extending new rights to gun owners, including those to expand protections for people permitted to carry concealed firearms. As a result, more than a million Floridians have permits to carry concealed weapons. He also approved a measure allowing Florida to extend its protections to residents of other states who visit the Sunshine State.And while it's hard to imagine that that's true -- more conservative on guns than Rick Perry? Ted Cruz? Rand Paul? -- Jeb does have this on his record:
“He’s probably more conservative on guns than anybody in that race,” said Bill Bunting, a prominent gun-rights activist and a GOP committeeman with the state party. “He’s got a perfect track record.”
Key to his appeal is the 2005 decision to sign a bill, among the most sweeping of its kind, that expanded protections for Floridians who use deadly force against home intruders or people who attack them in their cars, workplace or even on the street. The law has since become a touchstone in a broader debate about the use of deadly force, following the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.It would be nice to think that this would come back to haunt Jeb in a general election, but it probably won't. In a 2012 CNN poll, 55% of respondents said they support Stand Your Ground laws, while only 43% opposed them. (This was a poll in which 73% of respondents wanted George Zimmerman arrested, at a time when he hadn't been.) In a 2013 Quinnipiac poll, respondents supported Stand Your Ground 53%-40% -- and, yes, black respondents were opposed (57%-37%), but Jeb isn't going to try very hard to win black votes. Hispanics in the Quinnipiac poll were split on Stand Your Ground, 44%-43%, so Jeb assumes this isn't a risky position with that voter group.
Jeb does sync his position with that CNN poll -- Stand Your Ground is great, but it's just so regrettable that that Zimmerman fellow misused it:
In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting, Mr. Bush said the law shouldn’t have applied in those circumstances, in which the teen was shot by a self-appointed local neighborhood watchman. Mr. Bush also expressed sympathy for the victim’s family, telling reporters that “anytime an innocent life is taken, it’s a tragedy,” and he questioned the pace of the investigation.This is probably an excellent issue for him -- no, he doesn't defend Zimmerman, a guy right-wingers think was absolutely justified in what he did, but he was a Stand Your Ground pioneer; no one else in the race has broken that much new ground for the gun crowd. And apparently this won't hurt him at all in the general election, because Americans have largely given up on the idea of gun control. Yeah, Zimmerman might kill someone. But if so, Jeb will just tut-tut, as will all the other Republicans. Only dyed-in-the-wool gun control advocates will think less of Jeb, it seems, and he's already lost our votes.
But Mr. Bush didn’t waver in his support for the underlying legislation. “Applied properly, I support the law,” Mr. Bush said shortly after the incident.