"One of the things that I hope we don't want to see from the federal government is a knee-jerk reaction from Washington, D.C., when there is an event that occurs, that they can come in and think they know the answer," Perry told a Tea Party group near Fort Worth.
Perry, a 2012 Republican presidential hopeful until early this year, also said schoolteachers and administrators should be allowed to carry concealed handguns if they get licenses.
Local school districts would decide their own policies, but "you should be able to carry your handgun anywhere in this state," Perry said to applause from members of the Northeast Tarrant County Tea Party in remarks broadcast by KXAS-TV, Dallas.
He later said private-property owners should be allowed to set their own gun-control rules.
Perry's comments came as U.S. retail chain Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. suspended sales of semiautomatic rifles at its more-than-500 stores and removed all guns from sale and display at its Danbury, Conn., store 9 miles from Newtown, where 20 children and six adult staff members were killed Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"Out of respect for the victims and their families, during this time of national mourning we have removed all guns from sale and from display in our store nearest to Newtown and suspended the sale of modern sporting rifles in all of our stores chainwide," Dick's said in a statement.
Private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP said it would immediately sell Freedom Group Inc., the Madison, N.C., manufacturer of the .223-caliber Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle police say 20-year-old Adam Lanza used in Friday's shootings.
"It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level," Cerberus said in a statement.
A .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle also was used in the October 2002 Beltway sniper attacks in Washington, Maryland and Virginia that killed 10 people and critically injured three others.
Separately, California lawmakers announced a bill to more strongly regulate the sale of ammunition in the state.
The bill, introduced by Democratic state Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, would require anyone wanting to buy ammunition for any type of weapon to undergo a background check and buy a $50 one-year permit.
The measure also would require all ammunition sales in California be done in person, prohibiting sales by mail.
The National Rifle Association, breaking days of silence, issued a statement Tuesday saying it was "shocked, saddened and heartbroken" by the Newtown shootings.
"The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again," it said.
The group, which promotes firearm-ownership rights, explained its silence by saying, "Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting."
It said it would have a "major news conference" Friday but did provide details.
President Barack Obama spoke by phone about gun control Tuesday with conservative Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a strong gun-rights supporter who said Monday the Newtown massacre had changed his views on assault weapons and he was now willing to toughen the nation's weapon laws.
After the call Manchin said he and Obama agreed "that as Americans and parents, all of our children belong to all of us -- and we must work together to keep our precious children safe."