Sen. Ted Cruz, fresh off the stage on the National Rifle Association’s convention in Houston, sat all the way down to a sushi dinner that was interrupted on Friday by a fellow Texan who confronted the Republican lawmaker over his hard-line stance on firearms, three days after 21 people were gunned down at an elementary school within the state.
The top of the confrontation saw the person shouting above security officers walking him toward the door.
“Nineteen children died! That’s in your hands! Ted Cruz, that’s in your hands!” he says in video of the incident.
The person, Benjamin Hernandez, told HuffPost that he was in Houston because his digital promoting company was livestreaming the protests staged outside the NRA convention. When he saw Cruz walk into the identical restaurant where he was having dinner, Hernandez said, he thought, “Oh, hell no.”
“A few days ago, I had caught that clip of Beto [O’Rourke] confronting [Texas Gov. Greg] Abbott, and I wrote something to the effect of, ‘Confront all these hypocritical assholes like Beto did.’ And it’s very easy to tweet, right?” Hernandez told HuffPost. “But then two days later, Ted Cruz is walking on this space where I’m, and it’s like, OK, I actually have to go seek advice from him now.”
Although other Republican lawmakers dropped out of the NRA event after the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Cruz kept his scheduled appearance, delivering a speech where he argued guns weren’t responsible for the deadly incident.
On the restaurant, Hernandez pretended to pose for an image together with his arm around Cruz while a friend began surreptitiously recording a video that captured him turning to Cruz to discuss gun policy after the fake photo.
“You already know, I’d encourage you ― I gave a couple of half-hour speech today on the NRA convention ― I encourage you to look at it,” Cruz may be heard responding.
Hernandez, speaking quickly, implores him to elucidate his stance on gun control within the wake of the Uvalde shooting where 19 children and two adult teachers were killed.
“Background checks ― is that so hard?” he says.
Cruz glances back on the person filming, appearing to appreciate what’s happening, then tells Hernandez, “OK, you don’t wish to listen.” Hernandez then stops speaking, allowing Cruz to say that Democrats’ proposals, which he didn’t define, wouldn’t have stopped the shooter. Eighteen-year-old Salvador Ramos, who died on the scene, waited until his birthday to legally purchase two AR-15 rifles and greater than 1,600 rounds of ammunition.
Hernandez then tells Cruz: “You may make it harder for people to get guns on this country. You already know that. You already know that. But you stand here, you stand on the NRA convention ― it’s harder, it’s harder when there are more guns to stop gun violence.”
At that time, security officers position themselves between Cruz and Hernandez, escorting him to the door.
The 2-minute video was shared by Indivisible Houston, a progressive activist group, which identified Hernandez as a board member. One other patron of the sushi restaurant captured the interaction from one other angle, as Cruz’s security began forcibly leading Hernandez away.
“The time for civil discourse and debate ― once they allow it, which they don’t ― that’s over, to me,” Hernandez told HuffPost.
He continued: “It’s uncomfortable. Yes, it was uncomfortable for me to go and try this ― that’s not me. My mom was even surprised that I dropped the F-bomb. But this week has had me dropping F-bombs, because I’m just so incensed that they’d stand there and never do anything about it.”
He said what surprised him most about Cruz’s response was how “canned” it seemed ― Cruz had given the identical response about Democratic proposals to a Sky News reporter who pressed him on gun control measures earlier within the week.
“You’re directing me to your 30-minute speech, and you only can’t answer an easy query? Background checks, can’t we start there?”
While a bipartisan group of lawmakers has began working toward a compromise on gun control measures, Congress has largely didn’t pass meaningful reform within the face of repeated mass shootings during the last decade. A bill to expand background checks passed the House but is stalled within the Senate, where it is just not expected to pass because of Republican opposition.