White House hopeful Jeb Bush ignites Twitter storm with gun photo

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush arrives at a campaign event in South Carolina.
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush arrives at a campaign event in South Carolina.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush won Twitter for a few hours on Tuesday (Feb 16) after posting a photograph of a handgun under the one-word caption "America."

His tweet prompted a flood of praise, outrage and dripping sarcasm.

The former Florida governor - who did not immediately explain the photo of the pistol inscribed with his name - posted it after visiting the weapons maker FN Manufacturing in Columbia, South Carolina.

Candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are campaigning in the state ahead of its primary on Saturday.

Mr Bush is polling fourth with around 10 per cent of the vote.

His tweet received more than 7,000 likes and 9,000 retweets within an hour and a half of its posting - a record for his account, whose posts rarely rack up more than a hundred retweets.

The meme instantly took off, with others posting different photos under the heading "America", including the wrestler Hulk Hogan playing a guitar, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers pretending to smoke marijuana and former President Ronald Reagan riding a dinosaur.

National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden retweeted Mr Bush's post with the comment "Delete your account".

Others called attention to what President Barack Obama has called an "epidemic" of gun violence.

Several tweets with the caption "America" included photos of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook School massacre in 2012.

Republican lawmakers, many of whom are backed by the powerful lobby group the National Rifle Association, blocked Mr Obama's attempt to pass gun control legislation after the incident.

The United States saw 372 mass shootings in 2015 in which 475 people were killed and 1,870 wounded, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which catalogues such incidents.