AUSTIN, Texas — After the Uvalde school shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers in May, we've seen many proposals from state and federal leaders that are meant to better protect students and staff.
Today, we're talking about the Protect Our Children's Schools Act, among some other topics. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced the bill just a few days ago.
Sen. Cruz joined KVUE's Jenni Lee on Wednesday. Here's a transcript of their full discussion:
Well, Congress has appropriated about $190 billion for schools as part of three different bills designed for COVID relief. The states have not spent the majority of that money. More than half of that remains unspent. And then what my bill does is very simple. It makes those funds available for schools to use to enhance school security, to put in place physical steps, to put in place … things like hardening doors, hardening windows, to put in place things like hiring police officers to protect students and keep students safe.
Now, how much money is actually left over from the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan Act?
Just more than half. So so about $100 billion is left over that is unspent and available. I had previously introduced legislation that would create funding for school safety to double the number of police officers in schools that we would have. It would have spent $15 billion doubling the number of police officers. That would have additionally allocated $10 billion more for mental health counselors in schools to help troubled teens and hopefully to stop them before they commit some horrific crime.
And that bill is called Safe Kids, Safe Schools, Safe Communities Act. You introduced it in June. The bill would reallocate, what, $17.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act? Senator, if both of your bills pass, is there enough money to fund all of your proposals?
So there is. With respect to the COVID funding, that money has been already appropriated and it's unspent. So it is available right there. And it seems to me a commonsense step to say that if those funds are available, it is a real priority to make our schools safer. We keep saying these horrific crimes of lunatics targeting our kids, all of us want to see our kids safer. And we ought to take commonsense steps to make schools safer and protect children.
And speaking of horrific scenes, what's your reaction to the hallway video, Robb Elementary School, the day of the massacre?
It's just … it's horrifying, and it's horrifying and it's infuriating. There were 400 law enforcement officers there on the scene, and the fact that they waited 77 minutes before going in, it's indefensible. There is no good explanation for it. We had this deranged gunman murdering children and they waited over an hour before going in. Law enforcement should have been immediately breached. They should have taken him out. They could have saved a lot of lives that day. And I think, in the aftermath, there's no good explanation for why law enforcement failed to act swiftly to protect the children there.
Now your Safe Kids, Safe Schools, Safe Communities Act, as you said, would hire more armed officers on campus. How would more armed officers have stopped the killings at Rob Elementary?
Well, it's a very different scenario. If you look at these school shootings, many of them follow a similar pattern. After the Santa Fe shooting … Sante Fe High School is less than an hour from my house. I was there within an hour or so of that shooting. And afterwards, I sat down and participated in a town hall discussion with families who had lost children that day. And there was a pattern that had repeated from Parkland. If you look at Parkland in Florida, there, the shooter entered through an open back door. And, in Santa Fe, the shooter and entered through an unlocked side door. And, in Uvalde, the shooter entered through an open back door and was able to get directly into the classrooms. And, if you look at best practices, how do you make a school safe? One of the ways to do so that it can be very effective is to shrink down to a single point of entry. Think about how you have it at a federal building, a courthouse, a bank where you have a single point of entry. You obviously have multiple exits that are fire doors, but they only go out. And at that single point of entry, what is critical is to have armed law enforcement there, at that point of entry. That's the same as when you go into a secure federal building. If that had happened in Uvalde, if the gunman had tried to go in the back door and the door had been locked, and if he had been forced to go around to a single front entry and if there had been law enforcement there that he had to go through law enforcement to get in, they could have stopped him outside the school. They could have stopped him before he got in. What what made Uvalde so horrifying is that he got into the classroom with the little children. He was there before any law enforcement got there. And then, unfortunately, that was compounded by the fact that once law enforcement arrived, they delayed 77 minutes before going in to take him out. And so, there were multiple mistakes. But if we had secured that school to begin with and if there had been an armed police officer there, that madman could have been stopped before he murdered 19 children and two teachers.
So, Senator, you still stand by your one-door policy. Realistically, though, how long do you think it would take hundreds of students to get inside the schools with that?
Well, before this happens at schools all over the country, it happens at banks all over the country, at courthouses all over the country. It happens at federal buildings. You know, it's an odd, there's an odd Democrat talking point that came up afterwards of like … it's the doors. It's the doors. Look, this is how you secure a vulnerable site. And this is not complicated. This is how security experts do it. But it would be very simple and straightforward to have one central entrance for the school, and it is far safer. You know, I sat there with the parents in Santa Fe that were frustrated. Why was this guy able to get into the school the same way the Parkland shooter was? And now in Uvalde, this exact same thing happened. We keep seeing this pattern where if if a predator, if a murderer can get to kids without encountering law enforcement, that unfortunately leaves children vulnerable when we need to protect our kids.
Now, Senator, you're a very strong advocate of gun rights. Can you tell me why does an 18-year-old need an AR-15?
Well, an 18-year-old is a legal adult who can be drafted, who can serve to protect our country. And an 18-year-old has has a Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, just like he or she has a First Amendment right, has all the constitutional rights Americans have. You know, what often happens, and in the wake of of a tragic mass murder like this, is almost immediately the issue gets politicized. And there are two approaches for, how do you stop these kind of crimes? Everyone wants to stop these kind of crimes. The question is, what's effective? What actually works? One approach, and it's the approach that Democrats always take, is to try to disarm law-abiding citizens. That doesn't work. It is ineffective. It does not prevent violent crime. The approach that works is to target the bad guys, to target the criminals and the felons and the fugitives and those who try to illegally buy firearms. To lock them up, to prosecute them, to put them in prison, to take them off the street. That's what actually works. It also works to enhance security at vulnerable targets, like schools and churches. And I've spent a decade introducing legislation to do exactly that. In the wake of Uvalde, we passed a bill that is going to have zero effect stopping violent crime, but it satisfied the Democrats' desire to to limit the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. I think that is a mistake. I want to stop these crimes. And I'll tell you, the legislation I introduced, doubling the number of police officers in schools, creating a gun crime task force at the Department of Justice, so that if a criminal commits a crime with a gun, that individual is prosecuted, put in jail and gotten off the street, that actually works. That's how you stop violent crime. And, unfortunately, in the politicized world of Washington, Democrats have zero interest in actually locking up the bad guys. What they want to do is disarm you. They want to disarm law-abiding citizens, and that is both unconstitutional and very ineffective in stopping violent crime.
I think it's safe to say, Senator, that everyone is sick of the politics. We just want something done. As a parent, I'm scared to send my kid to school, to a public school. So, why not raise the minimum age to buy a weapon that likely would have prevented what happened in Uvalde, wouldn't you agree?
No, it wouldn't have prevented it at all. And, by the way, we saw another mass murder shortly thereafter in a suburb of Chicago that has among the strictest gun control laws in the country. And it didn't stop it there. What happened? When you pass gun control laws is, the law-abiding citizens obey you and I will obey the laws. But the criminals don't obey. And if you look across the country, there's a consistent pattern. The jurisdictions with the strictest gun control laws consistently have among the highest crime rates and murder rates in the country because people are disarmed and vulnerable. I'll give you a statistic, Jenni, from the Obama White House, which I think you will concede is not some right-wing operation. The Obama White House estimated that, in the United States each year, firearms are used defensively to stop a crime between 500,000 and 1 million times each year. That's a lot of lives that are saved if the Democrats succeed in disarming America. That's their objective. They want to disarm every law abiding citizens. That means that's 500,000 to 1 million times firearms don't stop a crime. Those are murders that happen, rapes that happen, assaults that happen. And look, we saw in Indiana just recently where another deranged mass murderer tried to to commit mass murder, and a private citizen, an individual who was concealed carry, took him out within 15 seconds, saved countless lives. We saw the same thing in Sutherland Springs. Sutherland Springs was the worst church shooting in the history of our country. I was there the very next day in Sutherland Springs. That deranged murderer was stopped by a man named Steven Williford, a plumber who lived just down the street from from the church. He heard the shooting was happening. He ran to his garage. He opened his gun safe, he brought out his gun. It was an AR-15. He ran barefoot to the church, didn't even bother to put on his shoes. He engaged with the gunman. He was an NRA-trained rifle instructor. He put two rounds on the gunman and he saved the lives of everyone in that sanctuary who was not already murdered. If you disarm law-abiding citizens, you get more crime, more murders and more death. I want to see people protected and kept safe. And so, disarming them is a really bad idea.
But several polls show the majority of Americans and Texans want some kind of gun reform. While the tragedy really hit all of us to our core, why not just do a little bit of gun reform, Senator?
Why do you have a political objective? You say you want to do gun reform. Why not stop crime? What I'm interested in, but let me tell you one of the ways to stop crime. There was an initiative that actually started in the Bill Clinton Justice Department. It's called Project Exile, started in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond, Virginia, had an incredibly high murder rate. And Project Exile, what they did is they said, 'If any criminal commits a crime with a firearm, we're going to prosecute them. Under federal law, there's mandatory minimum sentence. We're going to lock them up and put them in jail.' And they advertised all around Richmond. They put up they put up billboards, said, 'Use a crime and a gun, you're doing hard time.' It is incredible. Jenni, what happened? The murder rate in Richmond, Virginia, plummeted. It dropped 40%. They began getting criminals who were still committing crimes, but they go do a burglary and they would literally leave their gun at home because they knew if they got caught committing a crime with a firearm, they were going away for a long time, and murders plummeted. That works. The legislation I introduced would take Project Exile and make it national, implement it nationally. I want to stop murderers. I want to stop those who commit violent crimes. And I find it utterly bizarre that Democrats, and a whole lot of the media seem to have zero interest in stopping violent crimes, seem to have zero interest in that. And instead, the only political priority is they want to disarm law-abiding citizens from protecting their own families. It frankly makes zero sense to me.
We need to move along and talk about what the U.S. Supreme Court did yesterday and released its official judgment on Dobbs v. Jackson yesterday, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade. Now, that means our state's trigger law or ban on nearly all abortions start at the end of the month, Aug. 25. What's your message to doctors and patients who prescribe and use abortion medications for non-abortion medical conditions? What are they supposed to do?
Well, listen, every law in the country has exceptions for medical emergencies. And so, that's rhetoric that's not actually related to what the law is. I think the Supreme Court's decision was an incredible victory for democracy. Abortion is an issue that the people disagree strongly on. They have deeply felt passionate, emotional views and sharp disagreements. And under our Constitution, when there's a public policy issue like that, the way those issues are meant to be resolved is through the democratic process, through arguing back and forth, through electing representatives. And that's how abortion was handled in this country for the first 185 years of our nation's history. Then, in 1973, seven unelected judges said to the voters, 'You voters, you're not smart enough to handle this issue. We're going to decide for you.' And I think Roe v. Wade increased the division and the anger and the bitterness in our country because it stopped the democratic process. It gave no outlet for people who had very heartfelt views to express their views. Now, where we are now is, with Roe overturned, it returns to the democratic process and laws concerning abortion will be made by elected legislatures. The Texas Legislature will consider and will make the appropriate laws for the state of Texas, and the democratic process will work in Texas. Of course, Texas is going to enact different laws than California would or New York would. And each state, I expect, will enact different laws. And those laws will reflect the values and morals of the citizens in those states – that that's how our Constitution was intended to operate. And I think this decision was a tremendous victory for democracy.
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