NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry indicated Monday that he supported allowing teachers and administrators to carry concealed handguns in response to the Connecticut school massacre that left 20 children dead.
Local school districts should decide their own policies, Perry said. But if someone has obtained a concealed-handgun license, he said, "you should be able to carry your handgun anywhere in this state." He clarified that private property owners should be allowed to impose their own restrictions.
Perry was asked about calls for stricter gun control laws Monday at a tea party forum in North Richland Hills, a Fort Worth suburb. Perry said that he believed lawmakers should consider mental health issues as well as ways to make schools safer.
"It appears that this was a young man who was very disturbed," Perry said.
Some school districts across the state already allow school personnel to carry guns. When Perry talked about how he had read about one district allowing teachers, administrators and others to carry weapons, he was interrupted by loud applause from the crowd.
Perry has already directed Texas school districts to review their emergency operation plans in the wake of the massacre. His voice broke and he paused several times as he first acknowledged Friday's shootings, calling them a tragedy that "is not right."
"One of the things that I hope we don't see from our federal government is this knee-jerk reaction from Washington, D.C., when there is an event that occurs, that they come in and they think they know the answer," he said.
On stage with Perry were several Republican legislators who comprise what Perry called "the most conservative Legislature in the 28 years that I have served in Austin, Texas."
Perry told audience members that he and his staff would work with new GOP lawmakers on their bills. He said he would make it a priority to make Texas more attractive to businesses seeking to move from other states.
He also repeated his opposition to establishing a health insurance exchange or expanding Medicaid under the health care overhaul backed by President Barack Obama. Rising health care costs from Medicaid alone would continue to eat up more of Texas' budget in future years, Perry said.
"We're going to go bankrupt," he said. "So why would we want to add more people onto a program that already is headed in the wrong direction? I said it's not unlike putting a thousand more people on the Titanic when you know how it's going to end up."
Perry did not address issues in which he disagrees with some tea party activists, including term limits and business-recruitment funds. He declined to speak to reporters afterward.
He did take questions about running for president a second time in 2016. Perry said he learned two lessons from his failed run for the GOP nomination: get into the race sooner, and don't get into the race soon after back surgery, as he did last year. He said he would make "a number of decisions" about his future next summer.
"The presidency in 2016 is a pretty good piece down the road," Perry said. "But with that said, I think it is important for all of us to really focus on this legislative session. Surely, the most important thing that we do for this country is to make sure we continue to keep Texas as this place where people know that freedom is still very valued."
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