By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Tuesday touted his support for allowing service members to be armed following last summer’s shootings in Chattanooga.
Cruz also criticized a decision by Virginia’s Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, for revoking reciprocity agreements on concealed handgun permits with 25 states.
“There are consequences when you elect Democrats in power,” Cruz said at a rally in Nashville. “Because when they get to power they come and try to take your guns.”
One man in the crowd shouted: “It’s true!”
Herring has said he took the step to revoke the state’s reciprocity with Tennessee and other states after a review found that their permit requirements are weaker than Virginia’s. He called it a common-sense step that will help keep concealed weapons out of the hands of dangerous and irresponsible people.
Cruz blamed President Barack Obama for banning personal firearms on military installations such as the recruiting center and reserve facility in Chattanooga, where a shooter killed four Marines and a sailor in July.
“Sadly, the state of Tennessee has seen the tragic consequences of this administration’s policies,” Cruz said.
“The next time a jihadist shows up at a recruiting center in Chattanooga, he’s going to encounter the business end of firearms,” he said.
FBI Director James Comey earlier this month announced that the July 16 shootings by Muhammad Abdulazeez, a naturalized U.S. citizen, had been “inspired and motivated by foreign terrorist propaganda.”
That determination led to a decision by the Navy to award the Purple Heart to the five slain servicemen and another Marine who was injured there.
Cruz is on an eight-state, 12-city “Christmas Tour.”
Supporters brought cake and sang to help Cruz celebrate his 45th birthday in Knoxville, the first of three stops Tuesday.
His next stops were in Nashville and North Little Rock, Arkansas. Two Oklahoma rallies were to follow on Wednesday.
“These are Southern states, these are conservative states,” Cruz said in Knoxville. “We’ve got military veterans. We’re gun owners who love God.”
Tennessee is among the Super Tuesday states holding primaries on March 1.
“And the role of the great state of Tennessee is going to be to ensure that the Republican nominee and the next president of the United States is a real and proven conservative,” he said.
In a Knoxville news conference, Cruz said that Obama believes that there is a greater threat to national security from “SUVs in driveways” than from ISIS and that, as president, he would aim for repeal of environmental agreements, according to the News Sentinel.
“The president’s first job is commander in chief,” Cruz said.
Cruz also backed away from criticizing Trump’s recent comments on Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton in which Trump said Clinton was “disgusting” for taking a restroom break during a commercial break in a debate.
He spoke to media before appearing before a crowd of at least 1,000 in the Farragut High School gym.
“I think this man will be the next president of the United States,” Tennessee state Rep. Jason Zachary said as he introduced Cruz before the gathering.
The Tennessean says Cruz had a “standing room only” crowd of about 900 at the Nashville event and leads its report on his criticism of “bipartisan corruption” in Washington, D.C.