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What Jeb Bush was talking about when he said 'stuff happens'

"It's just heartbreaking to see these things," referring to Thursday's mass shooting, "but this is -- this is the broader question of rule-making."

GREENVILLE, South Carolina—Jeb Bush said calls for sweeping government rules and regulation often follow tragedies like the mass shooting this week in Oregon, but that such responses aren't always focused on the correct challenge.

"It's just heartbreaking to see these things," referring to Thursday's mass shooting, "but this is -- this is the broader question of rule-making."

"What we end up doing lots of times is we create rules on the 99.999% of human activity that had nothing to do with the tragedy that had forced the conversation about doing something," Bush said. "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," he added.

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Bush made the comments during a broad conversation about the Constitution at an event in South Carolina where he emphasized the importance of protecting personal liberty, even after tragedy.

He later clarified that his comments on limiting liberty were not directly related to the events in Oregon but a more general commentary on public tendency. "Yeah, not related to Oregon," he said, adding, "Just clarity here. Let’s make sure we don’t allow this to get out of control. There are all sorts of things that happen in life. Tragedies unfold. Look, just read the papers, and you see a child dies in a poll, is drowned, and parents want to pass a law to do something. And you got to be careful that you want to solve the problem. If there is a problem, a defect in the law, fine, then we did that all the time. But sometime you’re imposing solutions to problems that doesn’t fix the problem and takes away people’s liberty and rights and that’s the point I was trying to make."

As he has done after past shootings, Bush focused the cause more on mental health problems of a few rather than gun control for the many.

"No gun law necessarily is going to be able to deal with that, that is a sick person where there was no intervention in their lives to get them on the right course."

The Republican candidate said his philosophy on this issue is similar to his entire constitutional view which he said focuses on "the bottom up" with deference to states over the federal government.

"Maybe we ought to be more connected in our communities, maybe we ought to have a greater awareness of the mental health challenges that exist all across this country," he said. "Maybe there's a better way to deal with this."

Asked about Bush's comments at a news conference Friday afternoon, President Barack Obama said, "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.'"

Responding to criticism, Bush's campaign issued the following statement late Friday: “It is sad and beyond craven that liberal Democrats, aided and abetted by some in the national media, would dishonestly take Governor Bush’s comments out of context in a cheap attempt to advance their political agenda in the wake of a tragedy. Taking shameless advantage of a horrific tragedy is wrong and only serves to prey on people's emotions.” 

This article first appeared at