AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Rick Perry expressed outrage Wednesday at the president's plan to curb gun violence, saying he's "disgusted" by the "political left" using the Connecticut school massacre to push for greater restrictions on guns and that the Second Amendment trumps Barack Obama or any other president.
At a White House ceremony, Obama unveiled plans to press a reluctant Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used during the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month.
He also used his presidential powers to enact 23 measures that don't require the backing of lawmakers. Obama's executive actions include ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.
Perry's reaction came a short time later and was especially bombastic — even for a Republican governor who rarely shies away from strong language.
"The piling on by the political left, and their cohorts in the media, to use the massacre of little children to advance a pre-existing political agenda that would not have saved those children, disgusts me, personally," Perry said in a statement. "The Second Amendment to the Constitution is a basic right of free people and cannot be nor will it be abridged by the executive power of this or any other president."
Obama promised to use "whatever weight this office holds" to urge lawmakers into action on a plan that will cost $500 million. He is also calling for improvements in school safety, including putting 1,000 police officers in schools and bolstering mental health care by training more health professionals to deal with young people who may be at risk. His proposals were based on recommendations from a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden. They mark the most comprehensive effort to address gun violence in two decades — since Congress passed the 1994 ban on high-grade, military-style assault weapons. That ban expired in 2004.
Perry responded that "the Vice President's committee was appointed in response to the tragedy at Newtown, but very few of his recommendations have anything to do with what happened there."
"Guns require a finger to pull the trigger," he said. "The sad young man who did that in Newtown was clearly haunted by demons and no gun law could have saved the children in Sandy Hook Elementary from his terror."
Perry also said prayer can be stronger than laws, imploring: "Above all, let us pray for our children."
"There is evil prowling in the world — it shows up in our movies, video games and online fascinations, and finds its way into vulnerable hearts and minds," he said. "As a free people, let us choose what kind of people we will be. Laws, the only redoubt of secularism, will not suffice. Let us all return to our places of worship and pray for help."
Perry's comments came after first-term Rep. Steve Toth introduced a bill in the Texas House seeking to ban in the state any federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.The bill by the Republican from The Woodlands would allow police officers across the state to arrest federal law enforcement officers who attempt to enforce any such ban in Texas. Toth has since appeared on television stations throughout the state and the country, promoting his legislation.Even though the Texas legislative session opened last week, House committees have yet to be appointed, meaning legislation cannot yet be debated much less approved. Still, the U.S. Constitution mandates that federal law prevails when contradicted by state law.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, released his own statement saying, "President Obama has put forward a common sense plan to increase gun safety in the United States. How many more tragedies must we endure before we step up and take action?"Ellis said he planned to introduce a bill that would stop Texans who cannot pass a background check at a gun store from going to a flea market and buying one there, "no questions asked."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.