George W. Bush on Gun Control

President of the United States, Former Republican Governor (TX)


Shot a protected bird species; confessed and paid $130 fine

On opening day, Bush was east of Houston and there were birds. Unfortunately, they included some of the wrong kind. The hunting guide yelled "bird" and Bush took aim and pulled the trigger. A bird fell to the ground. Bush turned to reporters and asked, "Anybody say 'Nice shot?'" as the guide hustled over to pick it up. The guide immediately realized he'd called in fire on a killdeer, a protected nongame bird.

His instincts kicked in. On the way to the airport, he called every reporter who'd been wit him to fess up to his crime. Because a politician owning up to a mistake is novel, the reporters treated him more gently than they otherwise would have. Bush handed a young press assistant a signed blank check and told him to find the guide and go pay th fine. $130, court costs included.

The chattering class initially thought this blunder would hurt Bush badly, but in fact it humanized him. Here was a candidate admitting he screwed up and, besides, how many Texas hunters had shot at the wrong bird?

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p. 94-95 , Mar 9, 2010

Make America safer by prosecuting criminals with guns

Q: You said if Congress would vote to extend the ban on assault weapons, that you’d sign the legislation, but you did nothing to encourage Congress to extend it.

BUSH: I did think we ought to extend the assault weapons ban and was told the bill was never going to move. I believe law-abiding citizens ought to be able to own a gun. I believe in background checks. The best way to protect our citizens from guns is to prosecute those who commit crimes with guns.

KERRY: I am a hunter. I’m a gun owner. I’m also a former law enforcement officer. I ran one of the largest district attorney’s offices in America. I know something about prosecuting. Most of the law enforcement agencies wanted that assault weapons ban. They don’t want to go into a drug bust and be facing an AK-47. Because of the president’s decision today, law enforcement officers will walk into a place that will be more dangerous. Terrorists can now come to America, go to a gun show and, without a background check, buy an assault weapon.

Source: Third Bush-Kerry debate, in Tempe AZ , Oct 13, 2004

If gun laws are broken, hold people accountable

Q: Do you support the Brady Bill?

BUSH: Law-abiding citizens ought to be allowed to protect their families. We ought to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. That’s why I’m for instant background checks at gun shows. I’m for trigger locks. I think we ought to raise the age at which juveniles can have a gun. I also believe that the best way to make sure that we keep our society safe is to hold people accountable for breaking the law. If we catch somebody illegally selling a gun, there needs to be a consequence. The federal government can help.

GORE: All my proposals are focused on that problem: gun safety. None of my proposals would have any effect on hunters or sportsmen or people who use rifles. They’re aimed at the real problem. Let’s have a three-day waiting period, A cooling off, so we can have a background check to make sure that criminals and people who really shouldn’t have guns don’t get them.

Source: St. Louis debate , Oct 17, 2000

First, enforce the law; then keep guns from wrong people

It starts with enforcing the law. We need to say loud and clear to somebody, if you’re going to carry a gun illegally, we’re going to arrest you, if you’re going to sell a gun illegally you need to be arrested, and if you commit a crime with a gun there needs to be absolutely certainty in the law. The local law enforcement officials need help at the federal level. Need programs like Project Exile, where the federal government intensifies arresting people who illegally use guns. And we haven’t done a very good job of that at the federal level recently. And I’m going to make it a priority.

Secondly, I don’t think we ought to be selling guns to people who shouldn’t have them. That’s why I support instant background checks at gun shows. There’s a lot of talk about trigger locks being on guns sold in the future, I support that, and so we’re distributing them in our state of Texas for free. I think we ought to raise the age at which a juvenile can carry a handgun from 18 to 21.

Source: Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University , Oct 11, 2000

Restrict lawsuits against gun makers

Source: The Economist, “Issues 2000” special , Sep 30, 2000

Government should pay for voluntary trigger locks

Bush said Texas will spend about $1 million a year for five years to purchase trigger locks, which would be distributed to citizens who asked for them at police stations and fire departments. “It seems like to me one of the things we ought to do is be common-sensical about how we deal with gun safety,” Bush said. “And if I become the president, I’m going to ask Congress to appropriate money for a national program to do just the same thing, which is distribute trigger locks for people to use.” Bush proposed that the federal government make $325 million in matching funds available over five years for state and local governments that adopt programs similar to the Texas program. Until recently Bush had opposed mandatory trigger locks and ridiculed rival Sen. John McCain during the South Carolina primary for switching positions on the issue and voting for an amendment to the Senate’s juvenile justice bill that made trigger locks mandatory.
Source: NY Times, page A10, part of “Renewing America’s Purpose” , May 13, 2000

Project Sentry: juvenile gun laws & school accountability

Bush will establish “Project Sentry” to enforce federal juvenile gun laws; and impose a lifetime ban on gun possession for juvenile offenders. Bush will also hold states and districts accountable for improving school safety; require states and districts to provide students in persistently dangerous schools a transfer to a safe alternative; call for a uniform reporting system to allow parents to know which schools are safe.
Source: Press Release, Temple TX , Apr 20, 2000

Avoid Columbine via gun control, values & character ed

Saying America is “still wrestling with the lessons of Columbine,” Bush today called for tougher enforcement of gun laws and a greater emphasis on character education as the way to promote school safety. “Today is the sad anniversary of a terrible tragedy-a tragedy that shattered our sense of safety and security-a tragedy that hit home for every parent and every child and every school in America,” Bush said. “A year later, America is still wrestling with the lessons of Columbine,” Bush continued. “Strict enforcement of tough laws is important. But ultimately, the safety of our children depends on more than laws. It depends on the values we teach them and the kind of culture we create and condone.”
Source: Press Release, Temple TX , Apr 20, 2000

Would sign, but would not push, gun restrictions

Bush has said he would sign a law requiring trigger locks with handgun sales but wouldn’t push such legislation. Bush has endorsed outlawing the import of certain high-capacity ammunition clips. Bush also would raise the legal age for handgun purchases from 18 to 21.
Source: Judy Holland, Hearst Newspapers , Apr 14, 2000

Ban automatic weapons & high-capacity ammunition clips

Source: GeorgeWBush.com: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ , Apr 2, 2000

More laws & enforcement on juveniles with guns

Source: GeorgeWBush.com: ‘Issues: Policy Points Overview’ , Apr 2, 2000

Best gun control is more prosecution & certain jail

Q: You are in favor of some gun controls?
A: I’m in favor of keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them like felons & juveniles. I’m for enforcing the laws on the books. In Texas, we’ve armed D.A.’s with extra money to prosecute people who break the law. We need to send a signal to people, don’t be illegally selling guns and don’t be illegally using guns. The best accountability for somebody who breaks the law with a gun is called jail, certain jail.
Source: Des Moines Iowa GOP Debate , Dec 13, 1999

Supports gun ownership for protection and hunting

I believe law-abiding citizens should be allowed to own guns to hunt and to protect themselves. and that our government should aggressively pursue. people who illegally sell guns, illegally carry guns, or commit crimes with guns. I also believe that government should pass laws such as instant background checks to help keep guns out of the hands of felons and juveniles and others who should not have them.
Source: “A Charge to Keep”, p. 35-36. , Dec 9, 1999

Raise legal age for guns to 21; ban certain ammo

Bush said he supported efforts in the Republican-led Congress to raise the legal age for purchase of a handgun to 21 from 18 and to ban large ammunition clips.
Source: Reuters, “Bush favors raising.” , Aug 27, 1999

Cites Machiavelli and Madison as gun rights supporters

Niccolo Machiavelli once remarked of the Swiss that it was no accident that liberty and private arms coexisted in the same country. Former President James Madison, in refuting a European friend's pessimistic view of America, boasted that "unlike your governments, we are not afraid for our citizens to have arms." George W., a self-described student of history is fond of quoting both historical figures when debating whether private citizens have the right to keep and bear arms.

This was especially true during the 1994 gubernatorial race, when the Republican candidate endorsed a concealed handgun proposal. Then-Governor Richards vetoed the bill in a ceremony that included dozens of uniformed officers. Bush later stated, however, that he would have signed it into law had he been the state's chief executive at the time and promised to strongly support another similar bill even "without the referendum" if elected, which outraged many Texas police officers.

Source: Fortunate Son, by J.H.Hatfield, p.148-149 , Aug 17, 1999

1995: Concealed carry doesn't make TX more dangerous

In 1995, the governor responded to the concealed handgun legislation: "I wouldn't be signing it if I thought it made Texas a more dangerous place." Indeed, a little more than a week after the House passed the concealed weapons proposal, the governor signed the bill into law, tossing out a ban on carrying weapons that was adopted by another Republican governor, E.J. Davis, 125 years earlier during a meeting of the post-Civil War Legislature.

"Today we signed a bill that gives Texans who feel the need to carry a weapon to protect themselves the right to do so," the governor announced at the signing ceremony, "assuming they are properly licensed and trained to do so."

The law required citizens who were 21 or older, with no criminal histories, mental illness, or substance abuse problems to undergo 10 to 15 hours of training and pass a proficiency exam before receiving a 14 year permit (which cost $140) from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Source: Fortunate Son(Hatfield)p.156; 1995 Texas Voting Record SB 60 , Aug 17, 1999

1995: $4000 fine plus jail for letting kids get loaded gun

Ironically, during the same week that the governor signed the concealed handgun bill, his office announced that he had signed another measure, which was designed to encourage parents to keep guns out of the hands of children.

The 2nd bill imposed a $500 fine on an adult who left a loaded gun unsecured so that a child could handle it. The penalty would be increased to a year in jail or a $4,000 fine if the child fired the weapon and killed or seriously wounded himself or another person.

In 1997, a survey among all Texas district attorneys discovered that only 4% of them had charged an adult under the law during the 2-year period following enactment, and only 2% of those adults charged were actually prosecuted. During the same 2-year period, however, there had been shootings by children in 15% of the counties in Texas.

Bush's critics complained that the penalty was a mere slap on the wrist and found it suspicious that the governor chose to pass both laws in the same legislative session.

Source: Fortunate Son, by J.H.Hatfield, p.157-159 , Aug 17, 1999

No child-safety locks on guns; concealed carrying ok

Bush opposes mandatory child-safety locks on guns & supports the right of Texans to carry a concealed weapon. The Governor recently signed into law a bill that requires a locality to get approval from the state legislature before suing gun manufacturers. Bush supporters argue that the act does not interfere with legitimate gun lawsuits but rather curbs trivial legal action.
Source: Time Magazine, p. 38 , Jun 28, 1999

Arrest for guns in school; track juvenile offenders

Source: GeorgeWBush.com/News/ “1999 Texas Legislative Record” , Jun 25, 1999

No city lawsuits against gun manufacturers

Gov. Bush signed a bill that would prevent cities, counties & local governments from suing firearm and ammunition manufacturers for the public costs associated with gun violence. The legislation is commonly referred to as a “lawsuit preemption bill.” According to a spokesperson, Bush supports the bill because he believes that “in order to curb frivolous lawsuits, the attorney general should be the clearinghouse to review issues involving a legal product which is being misused for criminal purposes.”
Source: CNN.com/AllPolitics “Bush quietly signs” , Jun 18, 1999

Gun restrictions OK within basic right to own guns

Bush opposed repeal of the 1994 assault weapon ban and indicated his openness to Clinton’s call to raise the age of legal handgun ownership from 18 to 21. But Bush opposed Clinton’s call for reinstituting 3-day waiting periods for gun purchases, saying he preferred instant background checks. And while he said he could support national legislation to extend such instant checks to purchases at unregulated gun shows, he’s made no effort to support a state bill that would have done just that in Texas.
Source: L.A. Times , May 1, 1999

Gun show checks OK; ban guns near schools & kids

An aide to Bush said the governor has “consistently supported since 1994 the idea of instant background checks at gun shows to make sure the people we don’t want to sell guns to are not buying guns.” The aide noted that Bush previously signed legislation prohibiting anyone from carrying a weapon within 300 yards of a school, and holding adults criminally liable if they allow a juvenile access to a loaded gun.
Source: CNN coverage: AllPolitics , Apr 30, 1999

Assault weapon OK; waiting period not OK

Bush expressed support for some gun control measures, including the ban on assault weapons and laws designed to keep guns out of the hands of juveniles. But he said he did not believe the waiting period for the purchase of handguns that is part of the Brady Act does much good, saying he prefers instant background checks.
Source: Dan Balz, The Washington Post on 2000 election , Apr 25, 1999

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Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
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Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022