Just days after nine people were shot and killed by a racist 21-year-old gunman in Charleston, South Carolina, presidential candidate and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) cracked a joke mocking gun control while on the campaign trail in Iowa.
“You know the great thing about the state of Iowa is, I’m pretty sure you all define gun control the same way we do in Texas — hitting what you aim at,” Cruz said at a town hall meeting Friday, according to the Huffington Post.
While Cruz has made variations of the same joke at campaign appearances in the past, the line is particularly ill-timed as the country struggles to recover from the devastation in Charleston. Those in Congress that support strengthening gun control have been all but silent in the days since the shooting, resigned to the fact that reform is unlikely considering the close ties between many lawmakers and pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association.
Cruz has been ranked an “A+” by the NRA and has received almost $10,000 in campaign contributions from the staunchly anti-gun control group. In a speech delivered at the NRA’s annual convention this year, Cruz said he sent a letter to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) after the Sandy Hook shooting promising to “filibuster any legislation that undermines the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”
Cruz has continued his attempts to appeal to gun owners while traveling the country by touting his efforts to expand gun access. In April, he said in New Hampshire that he is pushing the Senate to allow soldiers on military bases to carry concealed firearms.
And at Friday’s event in Red Oak, Iowa, Cruz also told reporters that Democrats are trying to use the “horrific crime” as an “excuse to take away the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens.” He also talked about a recent trip to a gun range, saying, “My wife, Heidi, who is a petite, 5’2 California blonde, she was standing at the tripod unloading the full machine gun with a pink baseball cap that said ‘armed and fabulous.” The comments echoed the NRA’s recent attempts to appeal to more women, a goal that was apparent in the pink-filled exhibition hall at the group’s annual convention.
Cruz has been criticized in the past for sticking to his stump speech jokes without paying attention to what might be considered insensitive. Earlier this month, he issued an apology after joking about Vice President Joe Biden just days after his son’s death.