Shooting an ‘accident’: Rick Perry Accident

Published: June 21, 2015

Shooting an ‘accident’: Rick Perry Accident, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry on Friday suggested the fatal shooting of nine black people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white male was a drug-induced “accident”.

The former Texas governor was asked about the mass shooting at Emanuel AME church during an interview with the conservative NewsmaxTV. A spokesman for Perry later clarified that the Republican presidential candidate meant to say “incident,” but the soundbyte drew immediate attention and backlash.

Perry, who announced this month that he is running for president again after a failed bid in 2012, said he didn’t know if the tragedy was an “act of terror”, but acknowledged it was “a crime of hate”.

But Perry then pivoted to what he called the “real issue to be talked about” – drugs.

“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,” Perry said.

Some acquaintances of Dylann Storm Roof, the 21-year-old gunman in the Charleston killings, have said he used drugs – a detail that has been seized upon by conservative conspiracy websites such as Infowars.

But Roof, who was apprehended in North Carolina on Thursday, has confirmed that the killings were both premeditated and racially motivated. The shooting suspect told authorities he wanted to “start a race war”, after confessing to attending Bible study with the victims and then opening fire.

In addition to steering the conversation away from race and terrorism, Perry also accused Barack Obama of trying to take firearms away from the American people by pushing for stricter gun laws in the wake of mass shootings like the one in Charleston.

“This is the MO of this administration, any time there is an accident like this, the president is clear. He doesn’t like for Americans to have guns and so he uses every opportunity, this being another one, to basically go parrot that message,” Perry said.

He added that pushing gun control was a “knee-jerk reaction” that would do little to change gun violence “as long as evil and cowardice is alive in the world”.

Perry said he wasn’t ready to point to any policy changes that could prevent another Charleston, and said it was up to South Carolina to decide if the Confederate flag should continue to fly on the grounds of the state capitol in Columbia.

Other Republican presidential hopefuls have not explicitly discussed guns in relation to the Charleston massacre, but have cautioned that new laws are not the answer.

The New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, who is weighing a presidential bid but has not officially declared himself a candidate, told a conservative gathering on Friday morning that laws would not be able to prevent what happened in Charleston.

“This type of conduct is something that only our display of our own love and good faith that is in our heart can change – laws can’t change this,” Christie said during a speech at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, DC, an event that draws a largely evangelical audience. “Only the goodwill and love of the American people can let those folks know that that act was unacceptable, disgraceful.”

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who formally launched his presidential campaign this week, mourned the Charleston victims at the same conference but did not get into any policy implications.

“They were praying. They were learning and studying the word of the Lord,” Bush said on Friday. “In times like these, in times of great of national mourning, people of faith, all of us must come together and at least reflect on this and fortify our strength and love of Christ, love of God to be able to continue to go forth.”

Bush was also reticent to discuss race when a reporter at the Huffington Post asked him if the shooting was racially motivated.

“It was a horrific act and I don’t know what the background of it is, but it was an act of hatred,” Bush said, although he acknowledged the role played by race when asked again.

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