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Cruz accuses Democrats of playing political ‘theater’ for proposing gun safety measures ‘every time there’s a shooting’

Texas Senator Ted Cruz listened during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz listened during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington.Greg Nash

In the wake of two deadly mass shootings in less than a week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz accused Democrats of playing political “theater” on Tuesday for proposing gun control measures that he claimed would be ineffective at preventing such violence from occurring.

The Republican’s comments arose during a Senate committee hearing on gun violence, which had been scheduled prior to the shootings at three Atlanta-area spas and at a Boulder, Colo., grocery store on Monday. The attacks in Georgia claimed the lives of eight people, primarily women of Asian descent, while the shooting at the Colorado supermarket left 10 people dead.

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The Colorado attack was the deadliest mass shooting since 2019 when a gunman killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, according to the Violence Project, a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University.

“Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater, where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders,” Cruz said, referring to initiatives like universal background checks put forth by Democrats.

He claimed that “after every mass shooting” — and there were over 600 in the United States last year, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Gun Violence Archive statistics — Democrats propose “taking away guns from law-abiding citizens because that’s their political objective.”

“But what they propose, not only does it not reduce crime, it makes it worse. The jurisdictions in this country with the strictest gun control have among the highest rates of crime and murder,” Cruz said, reiterating a false talking point peddled by gun rights groups including the National Rifle Association.

In fact, research completed on the subject thus far points to the opposite conclusion. One study, led by Boston University School of Public Health researcher Michael Siegel, found that “states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.”

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Another study, undertaken by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that “a higher number of firearm laws in a state are associated with a lower rate of firearm fatalities in the state, overall and for suicides and homicides individually.”

Massachusetts, for instance, with some of the toughest gun laws in the country, also has the least amount of gun violence per capita, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But Cruz insisted that Democrats were attempting to leverage their own political power to push forward an agenda, and in the process, “disarm law-abiding citizens” and “make them more likely to be victims.”

The last time Cruz was up for reelection in 2018, the senator was the top recipient of contributions from gun rights groups, such as the National Rifle Association, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Facing a formidable challenge from former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke, the Republican incumbent raked in approximately $311,151 during that election cycle — more than $80,000 over the amount collected by the second-highest recipient, former Arizona senator Martha McSally, according to the organization.

Cruz narrowly held off the Democratic congressman from El Paso in the race, defeating O’Rourke by less than three percentage points. It had been decades since a Democrat had come that close to winning a statewide office.

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In response to the senator’s comments on gun control laws being ineffective at preventing mass shootings on Tuesday, O’Rourke fired back in a tweet.

“Maybe he wants us to focus on his ridiculous argument instead of the blood on his hands,” wrote O’Rourke, who has been traveling across Texas focusing on both the power outages and coronavirus pandemic that have gripped the state.

During the hearing, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said inaction “by this Congress” made the “horror” that occurred in Georgia and Colorado “completely predictable.”

“Thoughts and prayers cannot save the eight victims in Atlanta or the ten last night, including a brave police officer,” Blumenthal said, who went on to list other statistics related to shooting deaths.

In response, Cruz went on the defensive, saying that he introduced legislation along with Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley “targeted at violent criminals, targeted at felons, targeted at fugitives, targeted at those with serious mental disease to stop them from getting firearms, to put them in prison when they try to illegally buy guns.”

The Grassley-Cruz bill, or the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act, was first proposed as an amendment in 2013 and was reintroduced in 2019. Cruz said during the hearing that he and Grassley were reintroducing the bill again.

In effect, it would require agencies and institutions to submit records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in order to prevent people with criminal backgrounds from obtaining firearms.

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Cruz also became visibly angry over Blumenthal’s earlier comment about calling for specific policies instead of just expressing sentiments.

“I don’t apologize for thoughts or prayers. I will lift up in prayer people who are hurting,” Cruz said, his voice rising. “I believe in the power of prayer and the contempt of Democrats for prayers is an odd sociological thing.”

He then urged Senate Democrats to pass the legislation proposed by himself and Grassley and not to participate in a filibuster.

Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley was among those like O’Rourke who took issue with Cruz’s comment about Democrats pressing for stricter gun control laws being political “theater.”

“It’s long past time to end the obstructionism that’s costing lives,” Pressley wrote in a tweet. “Abolish the filibuster and pass meaningful gun control legislation. Now.”

Following the mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado, President Biden on Tuesday called for the strengthening of the nation’s gun control laws. He proposed the expansion of background checks during gun sales and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“I don’t need to wait another minute, let alone an hour, to take common-sense steps that will save lives in the future and to urge my colleagues in the House and Senate to act,” Biden said.


Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.