President Barack Obama's plea for more gun control laws following the execution-style murders of nine parishioners in a South Carolina church is a "knee-jerk reaction" the commander in chief pulls again and again, GOP presidential candidate and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry tells Newsmax TV.
"This is the MO of this administration," Perry said Friday on "The Steve Malzberg Show.
"Any time there is an accident like this, the president's clear. He didn't like for Americans to have guns and so he uses every opportunity, this being another one, to basically go parrot that message."
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In his reaction to the tragedy, Obama told reporters at the White House, "We do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.
"At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency. It is in our power to do something about it."
But Perry said that, despite Obama's rhetoric, evil can still trump any laws that prohibit the use of guns.
"That's always the knee-jerk reaction is that if we can just take the guns out of the hands of everyone in this country, these types of things won't happen again. As long as evil and cowardice is alive in the world …," he said.
Police arrested Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old white man from Lexington, South Carolina, after he sat through a prayer meeting Wednesday night at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and then opened fire, killing nine African-Americans.
Perry said he is reserving judgment on whether the government needs to take legislative action until more facts are in.
"As the president said, we don't have all the facts and I'm not ready to point to any particular policy, but I know that we need to be working to bring people together in this country," he said.
"It's one of the reasons that we work so hard in the state of Texas to create an environment where you can get an education. Texas now has the second-highest overall high school graduation rate in America."
The racially-motivated shootings have prompted renewed demands for the removal of the Confederate flag from South Carolina's state capital building in Columbia.
Perry said he believed that decision should lie with the state.
"The Supreme Court case just finalized that basically said the state of Texas could prohibit the license plates [with the Confederate flag]. I do agree with that. That's the state's decision and again that needs to be made in South Carolina," he said.
"I agree that we need to be looking at these issues as ways to bring the country together and if these are issues that are pushing us apart, then maybe there's a good conversation that needs to be had."
Asked by Steve Malzberg whether the shooting should be called an "act of terror," Perry said:
"This was a crime of hate. We know that. Also, there's a real issue to be talked about and it seems, to me, again, without having all the details about this one, that these individuals have been medicated and there may be a real issue in this country from the standpoint of these drugs and how they're used.
"I know for a fact being a substantial supporter of our military and our veterans that the Veterans Administration, for instance, is handing out these opioids in massive amounts and then people question, 'well, why can't these young individuals get work or why is the suicide rate so high?'
"So I mean there are a lot of issues here underlying this that we as a country need to have a conversation about rather than just the knee-jerk reaction of saying, 'if we can just take all the guns away, this won't happen.'"
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