Ted Cruz's sordid history of pro-gun inhumanity after massacres
Senator Ted Cruz speaking with attendees at the 2021 AmericaFest. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) will place himself in the eye of another storm this week as one of the nation’s most grating voices against sanity in gun control policy.

But this is hardly his first rodeo. Exploiting gun-inflicted tragedy is what Cruz does.

Cruz will be among the featured speakers Friday – along with Donald Trump – at the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in his hometown of Houston (as opposed to Cancun, where he customarily heads during storms). For him, this will be just the latest act of callousness in a pro-gun extremist career launched a quarter of a century ago.

This week, Cruz doubled down on his pro-gun rhetoric immediately after news broke of the Uvalde school massacre Tuesday that took the lives of 19 children and an adult. That had the intended effect of placing him in the national spotlight at a time of emotional turmoil.

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It wasn’t original. Cruz did the same thing in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter of 20 children and six adults on December 14, 2012, in Newton, CT. And after the murder of nine Black churchgoers by a white supremacist on June 17, 2015, in Charleston, SC. And after the mass killing of 14 people and wounding of 22 others on December 2, 2015, at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, CA.

Elected in 2012, Cruz took office as a freshman senator less than a month after Sandy Hook. He lost no time taking a prominent role – alongside Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) in killing a proposal by President Barack Obama to expand gun background checks. The right-wing senators had threatened a filibuster against the measure despite 90 percent approval for such checks.

Cruz was still boasting about that four years later – as a Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential primary – as CNN reported.

“There’s a reason when Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer came after our right to keep and bear arms, that I led the opposition,” Cruz said in the debate. “Along with millions of Americans, we defeated that gun control legislation. I would note that the other individuals on this stage were nowhere to be found in that fight.”

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As the CNN noted drolly, “Most candidates would shy away from citing a massacre involving first-graders, but that has never been Cruz’s style regarding Second Amendment matters.”

By then, Cruz had shown he was willing even stoop lower than he had after Sandy Hook. The horrific racist 2015 at the church at Charleston had provided window into in his warped worldview:

“Three days after a young man named Dylann Roof fatally shot nine people in a historic church in South Carolina—the latest in a string of gun massacres across the U.S.— Ted Cruz campaigned at a shooting range in Iowa,” the CNN piece noted. And that wasn’t the worst of it.

“Days after the Charleston shooting, Cruz joked about gun control while holding a town hall event in Red Oak: “The great thing about the state of Iowa is (that) I’m pretty sure you all define gun control the same way we do in Texas: hitting what you aim at,” Cruz said.

“He went on to tell the crowd about his earlier visit to an outdoor gun range in New Hampshire where he fired automatic machine guns with his wife Heidi (noting she was petite and 5’5” while boasting) she was standing at the tripod unloading the full machine gun with a pink baseball cap that said, ‘armed and fabulous.”

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Then there was the shooting in San Bernardino by what proved to be two “homegrown violent extremists,” but whose action immediately prompted Cruz, Trump and to claim falsely the U.S. was “at war” with Muslims. After that one, there was this, as CNN reported:

“Two days after the massacre in San Bernardino, Cruz advocated self-defense as a response to homegrown terrorism. “You don’t stop bad guys by taking away our guns, you stop bad guys by using our guns,” Cruz said during a rally where he announced the formation of his national Second Amendment Coalition.”

Cruz, who grew up comfortably in the Houston suburbs and likely never saw an assault rifle until becoming a politician, has been shameless in altering that reality. As the CNN report noted, “He told voters in Iowa that one of the most amazing experiences on the trail was a duck hunting excursion with the gray-bearded patriarch of the A&E reality show “Duck Dynasty,” who later endorsed him.

“Cruz and Phil Robertson, both dressed in camouflage and covered in face paint, filmed a campaign ad while huddled in a duck blind, shotguns in hand

“You’re one of us, my man,” Robertson told Cruz.

Presumably, Robertson might not have felt that way about the Ivy League-educated Cruz back in 1997 when he was clerking for Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Then, Cruz was recruited by attorney Chuck Cooper, a former Reagan Justice Department senior official and longtime outside counsel for the NRA, according to a 2014 New Yorker feature by Jeffrey Toobin. “Ted was basically my lieutenant on all N.R.A. matters,” Cooper had said.

In 2008, Cruz argued as Texas Solicitor General on behalf of 31 states before the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark District of Columbia v Heller that overturned a longstanding federal ban on handguns in a contentious 5-4 decision on ideological grounds. Cruz was appointed in 2003 to that post by then-Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott.

In 2012, Cruz was endorsed by the far-right Gun Owners of America (GOA) – a group that often criticizes the NRA for being too soft. It’s headed by Cruz ally Larry Pratt, a man described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a gun rights extremist who also advocates a theocratic society based on Old Testament civil and religious laws, and a pivotal figure in the militia movement.”

Despite Cruz’s longstanding support of the NRA, he turned heads as a Republican candidate for president by bragging at a 2015 debate ““I was honored to be endorsed by Gun Owners of America as the strongest supporter of the Second Amendment on this stage today.” Allen Schroeder, a journalism professor and historian at Northwestern University, said at the time, ““I honestly cannot think of a parallel example from previous presidential primary debates” of a candidate on national television aligning themselves with a group so extreme.”

Cruz attacked Trump and his other primary foes as too soft on guns during that campaign, as CNN had reported:

“Last week during the Fox GOP debate in Detroit, Cruz blasted Trump for his earlier support of an assault weapons ban. Cruz told voters that the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia left gun rights advocates “one vote away” from the effective erasure of the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights.

“’If you care about the Second Amendment, then you need to ask who on this stage do you know will appoint principled constitutionalists to the court and not cut a deal with your Second Amendment rights?” Cruz said.”

This week, Rep. Ruben Gallego called out Cruz in some of the strongest language imaginable for his vileness after Uvalde. He said Cruz was “useless.”

But when it comes to exploiting national tragedy, Cruz is a lot worse than that.