WASHINGTON — Hours after the worst school shooting in a decade took place in his home state, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas acknowledged that there were “way too many of these horrific mass murders” and suggested a possible solution: putting armed law enforcement on campuses.
Then Mr. Cruz, a Republican, quickly turned to blame Democrats and the news media for politicizing the issue.
“If you look to the past, we know what is effective, and it is targeting the felons and fugitives and the bad guys,” Mr. Cruz told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday evening. “But as sure as night follows day, you can bet there are going to be Democrat politicians looking to advance their own political agenda, rather than to work to stop this kind of horrific violence and to keep everyone safe.”
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunman killed 19 children and two teachers, Mr. Cruz remained unapologetic in his broad opposition to gun control measures. He reverted to a script that condemns Democrats for trying to use the issue for partisan advantage and argued that lawmakers should narrowly target the criminals who try to purchase firearms illegally.
Before the shooting, Mr. Cruz, who received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association during his 2018 re-election bid, was scheduled to address the organization on Friday at its convention in Houston. A spokeswoman for Mr. Cruz did not respond when asked if he still planned to attend the gathering.
Mr. Cruz’s unwavering position on guns reflects the entrenched opposition in his party to virtually any proposal that seeks to limit access to firearms. That firm stance has for years thwarted Democratic efforts to enact gun safety measures, even as the death toll from mass shootings in the United States has grown anew.
The immediate reaction of Mr. Cruz and other Republican lawmakers after the Uvalde shooting suggested that basic political dynamic remained unchanged.
“We don’t want to take away the rights of law-abiding citizens,” Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, said on Wednesday when asked if Republicans were interested in passing any gun control measures in the aftermath of the shooting.
During his time in the Senate, Mr. Cruz has insisted that he is trying to focus his attention on legislative measures that would narrowly target criminals and protect the rights of citizens who follow the law.
In 2013, he introduced legislation with Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, that would have incentivized states through grants to submit mental health records to the database that is used to check gun buyers’ backgrounds, known as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. It also would have increased the maximum sentences for people found guilty of straw purchases and gun trafficking.
But Mr. Cruz, Texas’ junior senator, has almost uniformly opposed other measures aimed at combating gun violence. During the Trump administration, when Texas’ senior senator, John Cornyn, a Republican, successfully pushed to pass legislation requiring federal agencies and states to do a better job of reporting criminal offenses to the national background check system, Mr. Cruz kept his distance from the effort.
Gun control became a central issue in Mr. Cruz’s re-election campaign in 2018, when the Texas Republican fended off a challenge from his Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke, who was a House member at the time.
In that race, Mr. Cruz focused attention on Mr. O’Rourke’s support for a ban on purchases of assault weapons, warning voters that the Democrat wanted to “take our guns.” By contrast, months after the 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Cruz voted against a measure prohibiting the sale of assault weapons.
“Assault weapons ban fails,” he wrote on Twitter at the time. “#2ndAmendment prevails #Protect2A.”
In 2019, when Mr. Cruz was asked about expanding background checks for all firearms sales over the internet and at gun shows, he warned that such a move would have a dispiriting effect on Republican voters.
“If Republicans abandon the Second Amendment and demoralize millions of Americans who care deeply about Second Amendment rights, that could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth Warren,” Mr. Cruz said, referring to the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, who was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination at the time.
Last year, after a mass shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., that killed 10 people, Mr. Cruz renewed his complaints that Democrats were seeking to politicize the issue.
“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,” Mr. Cruz said from the dais of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “But what they propose — not only does it not reduce crime, it makes it worse.”
Mr. Cruz’s comments on Tuesday night — when he suggested the best way to prevent school shootings was to keep armed guards on campuses — drew a new round of criticism from Democrats infuriated with his stance. Representative Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona, called him a “baby killer” in an expletive-laden post on Twitter.
Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, said he did not know “how Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz can show their face in Uvalde, Texas, this week.”
“Ted Cruz is just a slave to the gun lobby,” Mr. Castro said. “And he won’t do anything to solve this problem and has just made matters worse.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Cruz had another testy interaction with Mr. O’Rourke.
Mr. O’Rourke is now running for governor against Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican seeking re-election this year. The Democrat interrupted a news conference hosted by Mr. Abbott and accused Republicans of “doing nothing” to address gun violence.
Mr. Cruz was also on hand. “Sit down,” the senator snapped at his former opponent.