WASHINGTON - Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said on Friday more government is not always the answer for Americans when crises erupt and "stuff happens," a remark that Democrats charged was a callous response to victims of gun violence a day after an Oregon mass shooting.
At a conservative forum in South Carolina, Bush was asked a rambling question by moderator Alan Wilson, the state's attorney general. Wilson pressed him on whether there should be more prayer vigils at schools and other institutions to prevent tragedies such as when someone "with an Uzi or a handgun" shoots "a bunch of people."
Wilson did not mention the Oregon shootings a day earlier in which nine people were killed.
"We're in a difficult time in our country and I don't think more government is necessarily the answer to this. I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else," Bush, a former Florida governor, replied.
"It's just very sad to see," Bush added. "I resist the notion that - I did - I had this challenge as governor. Look, stuff happens, there's always a crisis and the impulse is always to do something, and it's not necessarily the right thing to do."
Democrats, who see Bush as a threat to their chances of holding the White House should he become the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, pounced on the remark, a day after the mass shooting at an Oregon community college.
"What a way for Republicans to end a horrible week. In the aftermath of another national gun tragedy, Jeb Bush just told victims of gun violence everywhere, 'stuff happens'," the Democratic National Committee said in a statement.
President Barack Obama was asked about the "stuff happens" remark at a White House news conference.
"I don't even think I have to react to that one. I think the American people should hear that and make their own judgments based on the fact that every couple of months we have a mass shooting and ... they can decide whether they consider that stuff happening," Obama said.