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US Senator Ted Cruz vehemently defended Texas gun laws at the Texas Tribune Festival Saturday and engaged viewers in a lively debate about semi-automatic rifles, mass shootings and school safety.
In a stage call with David M. Drucker of the Washington Examiner in Austin, Cruz blasted Democrats for their response to mass shootings and said the party wants to take guns away from law-abiding citizens.
At the end of the interview, some participants repeatedly booed and berated Cruz as he answered a question from the audience, seeking his ideas on how to limit or prevent mass shootings. Cruz, like many Republican officials, strongly opposes a ban on semi-automatic rifles. He cited the example of Stephen Willeford, the man who grabbed a gun and ran to First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs when he heard about a shooting there and helped end the violence that killed 26 victims.
“The weapon Stephen used to stop that was an AR-15,” Cruz said.
Viewers accused him of not answering questions about how he would end mass shootings and frequently yelled at him as he discussed some of the eight mass shootings that have taken place in Texas over the past 13 years.
But as viewers called out to the stage, the two-year-old senator asked viewers to bring the issue up in a civilized manner, saying they could have a “rational discussion about what policy moves would actually work to stop them.”
“When the goal is to stop these crimes, gun control is uniquely ineffective,” Cruz said. “If you disarm law-abiding citizens… [they] give up their guns. The criminals don’t.”
As viewers applauded his nod to Democrats’ gun control efforts, Cruz brushed the idea off, saying, “You can applaud that, except for the small problem that it doesn’t work.”
The conversation happened about a three-hour drive from Uvalde, where 19 children and two teachers were killed by an 18-year-old with an AR-15 in May. In the wake of the shooting, many members of the Uvalde community and families of victims have called for raising the age at which Texans can purchase a semi-automatic gun from 18 to 21. Cruz specifically focused his proposed actions on school security, calling for armed officers in schools to protect children and restrict access to schools to one door.
These proposals have been dismissed by people who say they would be logistically and financially prohibitive, noting that within minutes of the shooting dozens of armed officers were at the scene in Uvalde. Proponents of some gun restrictions say measures like safe-keeping laws, increased background checks and warning flag laws that allow courts to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others would be more successful in reducing gun violence.
After the Uvalde shooting, Cruz pushed ahead with legislation that would provide funds to double the number of school resource officers and significantly improve mental health support in schools.
Cruz said people generally have misconceptions about what constitutes an assault rifle and politicians take advantage of it.
As he spoke, a bystander exclaimed, “Violence doesn’t solve violence.”
“It’s actually the only thing that works,” Cruz said. “Violence doesn’t solve violence? This is actually why the left wants to abolish the police and why homicide rates are skyrocketing.”
The Texas Tribune Festival is here! This year’s TribFest will take place September 22-24 in downtown Austin and will feature more than 25 virtual talks with guests like Eric Adams, Peter Souza, Jason Kander and many others. Once aired for ticket holders, anyone can watch these events on Tribune’s Festival news page. Find out about the latest News and free sessions from TribFest.