Texas senator challenges US Vice President to gun control debate

(Photo: Reuters / Adrees Latif)A man keeps guard in front of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who was speaking during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the George R. Brown Convention Center, site for the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Houston, Texas May 3, 2013. President Barack Obama and national media are demonizing law-abiding gun owners in the wake of recent violent acts, National Rifle Association leaders and political allies said on Friday at its first convention since the Connecticut school massacre. Organizers expect some 70,000 attendees at the 142nd NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Houston, which began on Friday and continues through Sunday.

In a defiant speech at the first day of the National Rifle Association's convention Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas.) challenged U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to a debate on gun control.

"I would like to issue an invitation to the vice president," Cruz said Friday. "I would like to invite the vice president to engage in an hour-long conversation and debate: 'How do we stop crime?'"

The most powerful U.S. gun lobby is meeting in Houston from Friday to Sunday with more than 70,000 members attending from around the country.

It comes when the national consciousness is focused on several recent shooting attacks that have stirred debate on U.S. gun policies.

Some are arguing for the constitutional right to be allowed to carry arms for self-protection while others counter that easy access to guns leaves ordinary citizens vulnerable to armed attacks. More liberal church groups support greater gun  control.

Cruz, a clear proponent of gun rights, targets the vice president who led his administration's push for new gun restrictions following the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shooting.

While that legislative effort died in the U.S. Senate in April, both Biden and U.S. President Barack Obama have pledged to continue pursuing universal background checks and stricter gun trafficking laws.

"If Vice President Biden really believes the facts are on his side and this is not an exercise in political power, I would think he would welcome the opportunity to talk about the sources of violent crime and how we can do everything we can to stop it," the Texan senator said to an approving crowd.

Cruz also proposed gun legislation that failed to pass procedural votes in the Senate on the same day as background checks.

Gaining only 52 votes in favor of passage, the failed legislation was proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Cruz.

It would have increased funding for criminal prosecution, school safety and mental health resources in relation to gun violence, as well as a task force to pursue felons who fail background checks.

However, it would also have loosened gun restrictions by making it easier to purchase guns across state lines. The measure gained the support of nine Democrats, but still failed with 48 votes against it.

Cruz's speech was part of the NRA's annual conference. Festivities will be held throughout the weekend in Houston, though Cruz is scheduled to be in South Carolina on Saturday.

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