The Context Around Jeb Bush’s “Stuff Happens”

Jeb Bush speaks to voters at the Heritage Action Presidential Candidate Forum in Greenville, S.C., on Sept. 18.
Sean Rayford AFP/Getty
Oct. 2, 2015, 4:57 p.m.

A day after a deadly shooting in Oregon left the nation shocked and sparked calls for stricter gun control from Democratic presidential contenders, Republican 2016 hopeful Jeb Bush faced a question on the topic of gun violence at an event in South Carolina on Friday.

Bush’s response to that question is now the subject of heated criticism on the Left. Liberal rapid-response group American Bridge characterized the exchange as follows: “Today at the Conservative Leadership Project in Greenville, SC, Jeb Bush spoke about government response to events like the mass shooting in Oregon and said, ‘Stuff Happens.” But the video circulated by American Bridge doesn’t include any explicit mention of the Oregon shooting.

Here is the question that Bush was responding to, as it appears in a video released shortly after the exchange. The question was posed by someone who does not appear on camera:

A long, long time ago I was listening to the radio and they were talking about how in schools you’re not allowed to have prayer vigils … you’re not allowed to pray, I should say, or have, you know, Christian or Jewish or whatever faith-based groups on these public education schools. But then the guy said, you know, it’s funny, you send a guy in there with an Uzi or a handgun to shoot a bunch of people, the first thing they do after the tragedy—prayer vigil, whatever the faith-based group is. And he always said if you do that on the front end maybe you wouldn’t have those tragedies on the back end.

Here is how Bush responded:

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…. It’s very sad to see, but I resist the notion, and I did—I had this challenge as governor, because we have—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.

A second video showing Bush responding to a reporter’s’ question appears to indicate him doubling down on his earlier comments.

Here is what the reporter asked Bush:

Was ‘stuff happens’ a mistake, then?

And here is what Bush said in response:

No, it wasn’t a mistake. I said exactly what I said. Why would you—explain to me what I said wrong. Things happen all the time. Things—is that better?

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