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FL-Sen: Nelson falsely claims that background checks would have prevented Florida's mass killings

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) speaks to the media Monday as he visits the Jacksonville Landing, where a man killed two people and wounded several others Sunday in the GLHF Game Bar in Jacksonville, Florida. Nelson is currently facing a tight race for his Senate seat against Florida Gov. Rick Scott. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) implied that background checks would have prevented multiple mass killings in Florida. In actuality, the Orlando Nightclub and Parkland killers had both passed background checks, and in the case of the recent video game tournament shooting in Jacksonville, the killer had come from out of state.

Nelson, 75, is currently facing term-limited Florida Gov. Rick Scott, 65, in a tight race for Nelson's Senate seat.

What did Nelson say?

During a CNN interview on Monday, Nelson argued that background checks would have prevented the three attacks in Florida. After first insisting that he was not "going to get into the politics" of the situation, Nelson said:

I can tell you what I believe that we should do. At the very least, just common sense would tell you that we oughta have a law that is a comprehensive universal background check in the acquisition or purchase of a gun. That would have caught Omar Mateen, the killer in the pulse nightclub. A comprehensive background check may have caught some of the mental health problems of the killer in the high school in Parkland. Because he had not been adjudicated mentally incompetent, that did not come up on the comprehensive background check. And so, I'm hopeful that eventually Senators are going to come to their senses, and that we can get a comprehensive background check law passed.

Nelson seemed to contradict himself with his last example, first arguing that comprehensive background checks would have caught the killer, and then pointing out that existing comprehensive background checks had not caught the killer's mental illness. It is unclear how Nelson's proposed national background check laws would flag undiagnosed mental illness.

While Florida does have background check laws in place, a report from June by the Tampa Bay Times revealed that the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer services had handed out hundreds of concealed weapons permits to people who had failed background checks.

At the time, Scott called the failure "disturbing" and "concerning." Neither of the killers that Nelson mentioned were armed as a result of this mistake.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer did not question Nelson's claims.

How is the race going?

Real Clear Politics views this race as a toss-up, with Scott up by 1.5 percent in an average of six polls conducted since May. Politico reported that several Democratic senators have started to worry that Scott, who has a substantial campaign war chest thanks to his personal wealth, could beat Nelson in November.


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