Ted Cruz

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spoke at the Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 24, 2022.

AUSTIN — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, defended his recent statement that he would not support federal legislation that would raise the minimum age to purchase an assault rifle.

Cruz was one of hundreds of speakers at the annual Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, a three-day event that brings together politicians, pundits, journalists and more to talk Texas politics and policy.

Last week, parents of the children killed in the Uvalde school shooting in May urged Cruz to support federal legislation that would ban semi-automatic weapons purchases, to which the senator declined. Instead, he suggested there be an increase in police officers on school campuses.

Cruz kept on that message while speaking at a one-on-one event with David Drucker, a senior correspondent at the Washington Examiner, in downtown Austin on Saturday.

“If the objective is to stop these crimes, gun control is singularly ineffective,” Cruz said, stating that places such as Chicago with the strictest gun laws face the worst gun violence. While Chicago does experience high rates of gun violence and Illinois has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, Texas has a higher death rate caused by firearms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Texas has steadily loosened gun laws with the most recent last year when lawmakers passed a permitless carry law that allows Texans to carry a handgun without a license or training. Now, it is ranked in the middle of states with the highest firearm death rate in 2020 while also among the 20 or so states with the most lenient gun laws, according to the latest CDC data available. 

Nonetheless, Cruz insisted that restricting guns was not the answer.

“The question is what actually would stop it,” Cruz said. “Let’s assume all of us would like to protect innocent life and we would like to stop mass murders. If we start with that assumption that we want to stop (mass shooters), then we can have an actual, rational discussion about what public policy steps would actually work.” 

To Cruz, that means the funding of more police in schools as well as greater investments in mental health access, touting a law he wrote following the Newtown (Sandy Hook) mass shooting in 2013 that would do just that as well as force federal agencies to report federal felonies to a database.

Cruz used the Sutherland Springs shooting to highlight how the law could have stopped that tragedy from occurring in 2017, where a gunman entered a church in South Texas and killed 26 people, including an unborn child. He also used it to amplify the “good guy with a gun” narrative, often repeated by proponents as an argument as to why gun restrictions should be further weakened rather than tightened.

But the hero in the story was in his 60s at the time of the incident, an age that would not be impacted by the change the Uvalde are requesting.

When pressed on the distinct age group, Cruz further deflected, often repeating the question stating the opposition wants to take away AR-15-style guns from all people, particularly law-abiding citizens, rather than those within a specific age range.

“My solution is to throw them in jail and stop the repeat felons. Those with mental illness (we need to) stop them before they commit crimes,” Cruz said. “There are some we won't know beforehand and the single best step to stop them is to have armed police officers on campus.”

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