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Rick Perry refers to Charleston church shooting as ‘accident’ during interview

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WASHINGTON — Rick Perry condemned the Charleston church shooting Saturday as “an absolute heinous hate crime,” one day after a spokesman said the Republican presidential candidate misspoke when he called the massacre an “accident.”

“I think we all come here today with heavy hearts for those individuals in Charleston — those Charleston Christians — who were gunned down in an absolute heinous hate crime inside of their place of worship,” the former Texas governor said at the Faith and Freedom Coalition “Road to Majority” Conference in Washington Saturday morning. “That deranged individual didn’t just take lives of black Americans — he gunned down nine children of God.

“There is something more basic to our humanity than the color of our skin, our ethnic heritage, our nationality. It’s that we’re all made in the image of a loving God,” Perry continued. “And we cannot let hatred and violence break the ties that bind us together.”

After his speech at the conference, Perry told reporters that a discussion on gun control is a good thing.

“I think it is healthy for us as a nation to have conversations and defend our positions whatever they may be,” he responded. “I do have an issue that the knee-jerk from the left is always, ‘We’re going to take people’s guns away from them,’ when in fact there may be a host of contributing factors here.”

Perry’s comments on Saturday follow an interview he did with the conservative NewsmaxTV Friday, in which he referred to the massacre as an “accident.” A spokesman for the former Texas governor quickly clarified by saying Perry meant to say “incident.”

In the interview, Perry, a staunch opponent of gun laws, was asked about whether President Barack Obama was too quick to blame guns after the Charleston shooting.

“Any time there is an accident like this, the President is clear,” Perry said in response. “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.”

Despite addressing his comments and speaking openly about the shooting Saturday, many people were still outraged over his “accident” line and took to social media to criticize his comments.

Perry, who served as governor of Texas for 15 years, has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association and has his own concealed handgun license, even though he can’t carry guns after he was indicted last August on counts alleging coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity.

When he was governor, he signed several bills to loosen gun control laws in the United States, including a bill that allows people to store guns in their cars and another that reduced the price to renew a concealed handgun license for veterans to $25.