Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spoke at the National Rifle Association convention in Houston on Friday ― three days after a gunman killed 19 elementary school students and two teachers in his state ― to say that the guns weren’t to blame for the last mass shoot.
“It’s much easier to moralize about guns and yell about those you disagree with politically. But it was never about guns,” Cruz said, after listing other possible culprits, such as “broken families, absent fathers, declining church attendance, bullying on social media, violent content online… chronic isolation, abuse of prescription drugs and opioids. ”
The senator continued with his scheduled speech at the NRA despite the shooting at a school in Uvalde, perpetrated by a gunman who used an AR-15 type rifle purchased legally a few days after his 18th birthday.
“The entire state – the entire country – is horrified and in mourning,” Cruz said of the Uvalde shooting. “And it’s an evil that has happened too many times.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (right) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick both backed out of their scheduled appearances shortly before the convention began. Abbott delivered a pre-recorded video message instead.
Patrick said in a statement that while he always supports gun rights, he “did not want my appearance today to bring any additional pain or grief to the families and all who are suffering in Uvalde.”
Several national lawmakers also skipped the convention, including Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who cited a scheduling issue, and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), who said he would make a trip to abroad in Ukraine.
Guns are prohibited at the NRA convention, but they are allowed almost everywhere else in the state.
Earlier this week, Cruz suggested reducing school gates as a solution to mass shootings like Uvalde’s.
“One of the things that everyone agreed on was not to have all these doors unlocked,” he told Fox News on Wednesday. “Have a school entrance and exit gate and have…armed police at that gate.”
Cruz again pleaded the case for more armed officers on Friday, as reports continue to circulate of Uvalde police failing to respond quickly to calls for help from children when they were locked in a room with the shooter.
“At the end of the day, as we all know, what stops the bad guys with guns are the good guys with guns,” Cruz told the NRA.
A bipartisan group of senators began meeting this week to discuss other ideas, including tougher background checks, proposals to make schools safer and “red flag” laws that allow authorities to temporarily seize the firearms of persons who have been determined to be a danger to themselves or others.
If they can strike some sort of deal, which has long eluded them, any legislation will likely be narrowly tailored due to overwhelming GOP opposition to grassroots gun reforms.
The Senate left town for its Memorial Day recess on Thursday, with lawmakers offering weak promises regarding bipartisan gun legislation. Democrats have pledged to hold votes on legislation passed by the House to expand background checks after senators return to Washington on June 6, if the talks do not bear fruit.
Cruz said he wanted to see action to stop the shootings by ‘stopping the bad guys’ and blamed Democrats for the failure of one of his bills, introduced with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) .
But more than discussing solutions, Cruz spent his time deriding Democrats — particularly for proposing measures to reduce gun violence — and calling them elites with “unlimited” resources.
Laws themselves are useless, he suggested.
“Law-abiding citizens respect the law, but criminals don’t,” Cruz said. “That’s why they are criminals.”
Elise Foley contributed reporting.