JOHNSTON, Iowa -- Ted Cruz on Friday offered an impassioned defense of gun rights in the wake of the San Bernardino, California, terrorist attack, telling a crowd here 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."
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.
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.
"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.