The meeting between the two on Sept. 10 to discuss gun violence, which was live-streamed on Facebook, was sparked after Milano asked on Twitter for someone to “cite which passage of the Bible God states it is a God-given right to own a gun?”
In a lengthy series of tweets to Milano, Cruz said that at the core of the discussion is the right to life and liberty, which is intrinsic to the right to defend oneself. Milano responded saying that she’d “love” to meet with him and also suggested they live-stream the meeting “so America can hear your [expletive].”
Milano arrived Sept. 10 at Cruz’s office in Capitol Hill alongside two others—Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was killed in the 2018 Parkland shooting, and Ben Jackson, a gun control activist. During the conversation, both Milano and Guttenberg expressed their wish to reduce gun violence to protect lives.
At one point, referring to the Twitter posts that Cruz had posted to Milano earlier, Guttenberg clarified that “Nobody’s trying to remove your right to self-defense … nobody’s trying to remove weapons from anybody.”
“By the way, I have two guns in my household for self-defense, just so you know,” Milano interjected.
Later, Milano said, “We all believe in the Second Amendment.”
Cruz responded in agreement, saying, “That’s one of the reasons I believe in people’s rights to protect themselves.” He later referred to a recent case in Houston, Texas, where a 28-year-old woman defended herself from assault by a group of men, by firing shots from a pistol she had in her bag.
Guttenberg at one point asked, “Can we also agree that not everybody should have access to a weapon?” To this, Cruz replied, “of course,” adding that he believes laws should be focused on “felons and fugitives and those with serious mental illnesses” rather than restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens.
Cruz said that he agrees background checks should be strengthened. He said one solution he had been raising repeatedly since 2013 is a bipartisan legislation commonly known as Grassley-Cruz that was reintroduced May this year.
“What it [does] is focused on strengthening background checks. I want background checks to be stronger and more effective, and keep weapons out of the hands of violent felons and fugitives, and people with dangerous mental illness,” Cruz explained.
He used example of the Sutherland Springs church shooting to illustrate the need for such a bill. The shooting killed 26 people in November 2017. Cruz called it an “entirely preventable crime, and the system failed.”
Cruz explained that the shooter had a felony conviction and a domestic violence conviction, and was thus ineligible to buy or own a firearm. But the shooter lied in his background check and was able to obtain a gun because ”the Air Force under the Obama administration never reported his felony to the database,” Cruz said.
The law, raised by Cruz and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would also mandate that federal background check databases be more accurate, and also prosecute those who lie on gun background checks.
The Grassley-Cruz legislation was voted in the Senate in 2013 and had gained 52 votes, a majority vote in a then-Democratic Senate, Cruz noted. But it did not pass into law despite the majority vote because the Democrats filibustered the legislation, demanding 60 votes for the law to pass, he said.
“I would encourage you in your meeting with Democrats, ask them why they filibustered Grassley-Cruz,” Cruz said to Milano, to which she replied, “Ok, I will.”
“Because none of them ever articulated a policy objective to it,” Cruz said. “The only explanation that made sense is that they were mad that their own proposals that impacted law-abiding citizens didn’t pass and because their proposals didn’t pass, they filibustered a law enforcement piece of legislation.”
Fears of Gun Confiscation
While both Guttenberg and Milano continued to revisit the topic of HR8, Cruz expressed that he did not believe that universal background checks as per HR8 would stop criminals from committing acts of violence with firearms.
The Democrat-majority House in February passed HR8, which would require background checks on all firearm sales in the United States, including those between strangers who meet online, or at gun shows. The bill has not passed the Senate. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.
“The existing law is that background checks are required for anyone in America who buys a firearm from a federally licensed dealer,” Cruz said. “What is exempted right now are private person-to-person transactions, so not from a dealer. If you look at where the guns [criminals] get are coming from, fewer than 1 percent of the guns used in crimes come from gun shows, that’s not where the criminals are getting their guns.”
The Department of Justice reports that 77 percent of criminals in state prison for firearm crimes get firearms through theft, on the black market, from a drug dealer or on the street, or from family members and friends. Less than one percent get firearms from dealers or non-dealers at gun shows.
Cruz also noted that there were “millions of well-meaning people who are very concerned about this and don’t want to see, for example, background checks on private person-to-person sales.”
“The next step to enforce it—many people fear—is a gun registry,” he said. “That the only way you can know if someone’s sold—sells a person-to-person gun—is to register them. And a gun registry is how gun confiscation is carried out.”
He called out three Democrats who are running for the presidential nomination—Beto O-Rourke, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker—whom he said “are campaigning right now on gun confiscation, they are campaigning on forcing American citizens to give up their firearms … I disagree with it.”
“If we agree that the objective is on saving people’s lives and stopping murders, I believe that the much more effective way is focus on the bad guys rather than law-abiding citizens,” he said. “I think gun confiscation is a perfect example of a policy that targets law-abiding citizens rather than bad guys.”
‘Civility and Humanity’
The meeting concluded with Milano and Cruz hugging. Milano reiterated her message, which was to “please do something about gun violence,” and that she “will give Democrats as much hell about working together.”
Milano earlier said, in a nod to the nature of the meeting the two were having: “We don’t have to ever see eye to eye on certain issues, I get it—but I could guarantee you, if more people have conversations like this, we’d realize that we’re not as far apart.”
Cruz commented of the meeting: “I hope in talking about how do we stop gun violence, how do we stop mass murders, that we can have a real conversation about policy solutions. But I also hope that just seeing people on different places on the political spectrum treating each other with civility and humanity—it’d be nice if that was a little bit contagious.”
Epoch Times reporter Masooma Haq contributed to this report.