Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said Friday that he thinks "there's a real issue to be talked about" in the wake of Wednesday's mass shooting at Emanuel AME church in South Carolina -- psychiatric medication.
The former Texas governor made the comments in an interview with NewsmaxTV's Steve Malzberg, after Malzberg asked whether the shooting, which left 9 dead, should be called "an act of terror."
"I don't know," Perry replied, noting that "there were more people than that killed in Paris" during the attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, before going on to identify the Charleston shooting as "a crime of hate."
"And also," Perry continued, "I think there's a real issue to be talked about: 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 explained 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 I think we as a country need to have a conversation about," Perry concluded, "rather than just the knee-jerk reaction of saying, you know, if we can just take all the guns away this won't happen."
Earlier in the interview, Perry told Malzberg that "the knee-jerk reaction" after mass shootings "is that if we can just take the guns out of the hands of everyone in the country, these kinds of things won't happen again" – but that he believed such violence would occur "as long as evil and cowardice is alive in the world."
As a result, Perry explained, "I'm not ready to point to any particular policy" that he thought should be changed in reaction to the shooting.
Perry also said that he thought any decision to stop flying the Confederate battle flag over the South Carolina statehouse "needs to be made in South Carolina."
Pressed for his own views about the flag, however, Perry said there might be a conversations to be had.
"I agree that we need to be looking at these issues as ways to bring the country together," he answered. "And if these are issues that are pushing us apart, then maybe there's a good conversation that needs to be had."
Ilan Ben-Meir is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Ilan Ben-Meir at email@example.com.
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