Ted Cruz: 'You stop bad guys by using our guns'

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GOP Candidates Unanimously Oppose Gun Control After San Bernardino

JOHNSTON, Iowa -- Ted Cruz offered an impassioned defense of gun rights in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack on Friday, telling a crowd at an Iowa gun range, "you don't stop bad guys by taking away our guns, you stop bad guys by using our guns."

Cruz criticized the media for focusing on gun control in the wake of the shootings, telling his supporters: "Folks in the media ask on behalf of Democrats, 'isn't it insensitive to do a Second Amendment rally after the shooting.' I really don't view our job as being sensitive to Islamic terrorists."

SEE ALSO: New York Times makes rare move to slam 'gun epidemic'

Cruz also linked California's gun laws to the location of the attack, suggesting strict restrictions prevented Americans from defending themselves against terrorists. He pointed to Tennessee, where he said armed Marines would greet any terrorists attacking recruiting stations — a reference to those who stood outside a recruiting station with guns after an attack.

"You know California has among the strictest gun control laws in the country. The Brady Center gives five states an A- for being the very toughest in taking away the constitutional rights of its citizens," Cruz said. "And yet what do all the Democrats say? 'These great gun control laws — we need more of them.'"

9 facts you should know about Ted Cruz:

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Ted Cruz: 'You stop bad guys by using our guns'

1) His legal name is Rafael Edward Cruz.

(Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

2) His wife Heidi has worked at investment banking firm Goldman Sachs. The company told CNN Monday she will go on unpaid leave for the duration of his campaign. They met while they worked on George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign.​

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

3) He won his Senate seat in 2010 without ever having been elected to public office before. Prior to that he had been appointed to the office of the Solicitor General in Texas.  ​

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

4) He had a minor brush with the law in 1987 when he received a ticket for underage possession of alcohol as a senior in high school. ​

(Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

5) He has two Ivy League degrees: an undergraduate degree from Princeton, and a law degree from Harvard.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

6) He has kept a painting of himself in his office -- a picture of him as a 32-year-old arguing a case before the Supreme Court.

(AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)

7) He played a significant role in the government shutdown of 2013, leading a chorus of Republicans who refused to vote for any plan that kept the federal government running that did not also defund Obamacare. Cruz spend nearly 24 straight hours defending his position, including at one point reading the Dr. Seuss classic "Green Eggs and Ham."

(AP Photo/Senate TV)

8) His father (left) fled Cuba for the United States, worked in the oil industry and eventually became a pastor. He has made headlines for somewhat inflammatory statements, including telling an audience that President Obama should be sent "back to Kenya."

(Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)

9) He doesn't believe in climate change, an issue many Democrats have lampooned him for, in part because he leads the Senate's Space, Science, and Competitiveness Committee which oversees NASA.​ During a recent appearance on "Late Night with Seth Meyers" Cruz said "Debates on this should follow science and should follow data. Many of the alarmists on global warming, they’ve got a problem because the science doesn’t back them up."

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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The event, during which Cruz unveiled a coalition of Second Amendment supporters, had been scheduled before Wednesday's attack, and Cruz aides say protecting gun owners' rights is even more important in the wake of the shooting than it had been before.

"The Second Amendment is about something very fundamental," Cruz said. "It's about the God-given right of every single one of us to protect our home, our families and our lives."

Cruz went on to question the how intelligence gathering by the federal government failed to stop the shooters in San Bernardino.

"Let me ask a question. Why on earth did the Obama administration not know about this ahead of time and stop this before they carried out this terror attack?" Cruz asked. Earlier he called the administration "utterly ineffective at targeting the bad guys."

Asked by reporters prior to the event what specific actions he would take to avoid other American citizens from replicating the attack, Cruz focused on the U.S. mission overseas.

"The specifics are targeting radical Islamic terrorism across the globe. Let's begin with ISIS," he said. "An attack like this is directly connected to ISIS."

See Ted Cruz on the campaign trail:

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Ted Cruz on the campaign trail
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Ted Cruz: 'You stop bad guys by using our guns'
STAFFORD-MARCH 1: Ted Cruz holds his victory rally at the Redneck Country Club in Stafford, Texas. On the left is his wife, Heidi and their two daughters and on the right is the Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick. (Photo by Lucian Perkins /for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, stands on stage during a Super Tuesday night event in Houston, Texas, U.S., on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Cruz said Monday in Dallas that Super Tuesday will make the Republican primary a 'two-man race,' predicting that he and Donald Trump will finish far ahead of rivals Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ben Carson in terms of delegates. Photographer: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, greets attendees with his wife Heidi Cruz and children during a campaign event in San Antonio, Texas, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Cruz said Monday in Dallas that Super Tuesday will make the Republican primary a 'two-man race,' predicting that he and Donald Trump will finish far ahead of rivals Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Ben Carson in terms of delegates. Photographer: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images *** Local Captions *** Ted Cruz; Heidi Cruz
US Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at a presidential campaign rally in Dallas, Texas on February 29, 2016 one day before the 'Super Tuesday' primaries. Americans in a dozen states head to the polls for a slew of primaries and caucuses March 1 on what is considered the most important day of the presidential nominations calendar. / AFP / Laura Buckman (Photo credit should read LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 27: Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, arrives for a campaign rally near the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Ga., February 27, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 24: Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) greets people during a campaign rally at the Mach Industrial Group on February 24, 2016 in Houston, Texas. The process to select the next Democratic and Republican Presidential candidates continues. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
AMES, IA - JANUARY 30: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) arrives at a campaign event at the Gateway Hotel on January 30, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. The Democratic and Republican Iowa Caucuses, the first step in nominating a presidential candidate from each party, will take place on February 1. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - JANUARY 31: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to Iowa voters at the Iowa State Fairgrounds January 31, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. The U.S. presidential election kicks off tomorrow with the state's caucuses. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
HAMLIN, IA - JANUARY 30: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at a campaign event at Darrell's Place on January 30, 2016 in Hamlin, Iowa. The Democratic and Republican Iowa Caucuses, the first step in nominating a presidential candidate from each party, will take place on February 1. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
HAMLIN, IA - JANUARY 30: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (C) greets an audience member as he is introduced at a campaign event at Darrell's Place on January 30, 2016 in Hamlin, Iowa. The Democratic and Republican Iowa Caucuses, the first step in nominating a presidential candidate from each party, will take place on February 1. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks during a campaign stop at the Freedom Country Store, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Freedom, N.H. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, departs a campaign stop, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Washington, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Shown is Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, shadow as he speaks during a campaign stop Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Hollis, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Delaney Anne tries to make a selfie with Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a campaign stop, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Tilton, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, campaigns at Penny's Diner in Missouri Valley, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 17: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a campaign rally at the Siena Community Center on December 17, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Two days after participating in the fifth GOP presidential debate, Cruz began a swing through eight Super Tuesday states in five days. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a town hall meeting at Furman University on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, during the Rising Tide Summit at the US Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Scott Morgan)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks to supporters on the Statehouse steps in Concord, N.H., Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, after filing papers to be on the nation's earliest presidential primary ballot. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 03: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) leads a moment of silence for victims of the San Bernardino shooting prior to his address to the Republican Jewish Coalition at Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center December 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. Candidates spoke and took questions from Jewish leaders and activists. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, shops for jewelry from ChildVoice International with his daughters Catherine, left, and Caroline during a campaign stop at the Deerfield Fair Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Deerfield, N.H. ChildVoice International is a non-profit organization seeking to restore the voices of children silenced by war.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, speaks with fellow Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a rally opposing the Iran nuclear deal outside the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks during a Tea Party Patriots rally against the Iran nuclear deal on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. A revolt among U.S. House Republicans delayed action on the Iran nuclear deal today as some members insisted they aren't bound by a Sept. 17 deadline in their efforts to kill the agreement. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, center, right, posses for a photo with Timothy Lewis after a campaign event at the Stockyards in Forth Worth, Texas, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Photographed through attendees, Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at the Americans for Prosperity Road to Reform event Friday, Aug. 14, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 21: Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to supporters at his Religious Liberty Rally on August 21, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Earlier in the day Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) visited and spoke to guests at the Iowa State Fair. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks at the Iowa State Fair Soapbox in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A day after Jimmy Carter appeared on national television to talk about the cancer that's ravaging his body, Cruz criticized the former president's administration in a speech in Iowa. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, eats a pork chop at the Iowa Pork Producers tent during the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A day after Jimmy Carter appeared on national television to talk about the cancer that's ravaging his body, Cruz criticized the former president's administration in a speech in Iowa. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks at the Rally for Religious Liberty in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. A day after Jimmy Carter appeared on national television to talk about the cancer that's ravaging his body, Republican presidential candidate Cruz criticized the former president's administration in a speech in Iowa. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 8: Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) spends a few moments with his daughter Catherine before the start of the Cruz bus tour rally in a field behind Sprayberry's BBQ in Newnan, Ga., on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Texas Senator Ted Cruz participates in the Republican presidential primary debate on August 6, 2015 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 29: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, awaits for the elevator doors to close as he arrives in the basement of the Capitol, July 29, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks during a Anti-abortion rally opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood in front of the U.S. Capitol July 28, 2015 in Washington, DC. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced a Senate deal to vote on legislation to defund Planned Parenthood before the Senate goes into recess in August. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to reporters following a rare Sunday Senate session on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sunday, July 26, 2015. Senior Senate Republicans lined up Sunday to rebuke Cruz for attacking Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, an extraordinary display of intraparty division played out live on the Senate floor. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
WASHINGTON, USA - JULY 23: Republican Presidential Candidate Senator Ted Cruz speaks out against the nuclear deal with Iran during a demonstration that was interrupted by counter protestors in Lafayette Park across the the street from the White House in Washington, DC on July 23, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 U.S. presidential candidate, speaks during The Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, July 18, 2015. The sponsor, The FAMiLY LEADER, is a 'pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-life organization which champions the principle that God is the ultimate leader of the family.' Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
AMES, IA - JULY 18: Republican presidential hopeful Senator Ted Cruz of Texas fields questions at The Family Leadership Summit at Stephens Auditorium on July 18, 2015 in Ames, Iowa. According to the organizers the purpose of The Family Leadership Summit is to inspire, motivate, and educate conservatives. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, stands outside while waiting to speak during the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 18, 2015. The annual Faith & Freedom Coalition Policy Conference gives top-tier presidential contenders as well as long shots a chance to compete for the large evangelical Christian base in the crowded Republican primary contest. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 04: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) participates in a Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill June 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. The hearing is billed as 'Rewriting The Law, Examining the Process That Led to the ObamaCare Subsidy Rule'. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, speaks during a press conference at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Seneca, South Carolina, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. Cruz says Donald Trump sent his lawyers cease and desist letters over a Cruz campaign ad that portrays Trump as pro-choice saying that if the Cruz campaign doesn't pull ad, they'll see immediate legal action to prevent the continued broadcast of this ad, according to Cruz. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Keith Leslie, 53, a Cruz supporter who drove a few blocks down the road to the range, described the senator as "fired up" at the event in front of about 100 people.

"I think people are waking up that we're in danger, and there's a lot of those people who are here that mean to do us harm," Leslie said. "And we need to have someone who is going to stand up to them and let people stand on their own and not be a sitting duck in a shooting gallery."

"We can't allow people to use this tragedy as an excuse to take away law abiding citizens' right to defend themselves, and that's what Democrats are trying to do," Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler said Friday ahead of the event.

Tyler also said California's gun laws -- some of the toughest in the nation -- made the state an easy target for terror.

"Of course they would pick a place that people are unarmed and can't defend themselves," Tyler said. "This is a terrorist attack, and when people are unarmed, they are sitting ducks. I'm not predicting that it would have come out if people were armed, but at least someone might have had a chance."

San Bernardino County, where the shooting occurred, does issue concealed carry weapons permits to residents who pass a screening process.

Cruz himself labeled the shooting a terrorist attack in a speech Thursday at the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Washington. "This is yet another manifestation of terrorism, radical Islamic terrorism here at home," he said.

At Friday's event, Cruz announced the campaign has signed up more than 24,000 gun rights supporters nationwide, about 1,000 of whom are from early primary states, Tyler said. The coalition will be co-chaired by the head of Gun Owners for America, a pro-gun group that's sometimes pressed for fewer gun restrictions than even the National Rifle Association might have been willing to accept.

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