Ted Cruz: 'I don't apologize for thoughts or prayers' for shooting victims

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Only two people cited by TSA for mask violations have agreed to pay fine MORE (R-Texas) said Tuesday that he will not “apologize for thoughts or prayers” that he sends to shooting victims.

In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Cruz talked about the ways the United States could prevent shootings like the ones seen in Atlanta and Boulder, Colo., that occurred almost one week apart. 

The Texas senator said the Department of Justice (DOJ) has a "long" and "indefensible" practice of not "prosecuting felons and fugitives" who try to illegally purchase firearms. 

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"[G]oing after criminals, locking them up and putting them in prison — that's how we prevent these [shootings]. Now we will learn in the coming days and weeks the exact motivation of the murderers in Atlanta and Boulder, Colo.," Cruz said. 

"But we already know this pattern is predictable — over and over and over again," he added. "There are steps we can take to stop these crimes. And you know what the steps aren't? The steps aren't disarming law-abiding citizens." 

Cruz also claimed that firearms are used in people's defense to protect their families. 

“By the way, I don’t apologize for thoughts or prayers," he said. "I will lift up in prayer people who are hurting and I believe in the power of prayer, and the contempt of Democrats for prayers is an odd sociological thing.”

“But I also agree thoughts and prayers alone are not enough," he added. "We need action." 

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Cruz’s comments came after Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinBiden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Democrats ramp up pressure for infrastructure deal amid time crunch MORE (D-Ill.) said earlier in the hearing on gun violence that politicians need to do more than offer thoughts and prayers.

Prayer leaders have their important place in this. But we are Senate leaders. What are we doing? What are we doing other than reflecting and praying? That’s a good starting point. That shouldn’t be our endpoint,” Durbin said.

The comments were also aimed at Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) who said Republicans only give their thoughts and prayers after shootings.

Cruz reintroduced the Grassley-Cruz amendment on Tuesday that would prevent those with criminal backgrounds from getting guns by requiring agencies to have updated and accurate records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

The hearing came after eight people were killed in the Atlanta area following a shooting spree at three massage parlors. The majority of the victims were Asian women. 

On Monday, a gunman opened fire in a Boulder, Colo., supermarket, killing 10 people including a police officer. The suspect has been detained and charged with 10 counts of murder, according to a press conference held by law enforcement Tuesday. 

The suspect, 21-year-old Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, allegedly attacked the grocery store just 10 days after Boulder's assault weapon's ban was blocked by a judge. The gun that was allegedly used by Alissa was purchased six days before the shooting took place, according to The Associated Press

The exchange between Cruz and Democrats comes amid calls from President BidenJoe BidenBriahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Former New York state Senate candidate charged in riot MORE on the Senate to pass House gun reform legislation that would expand background checks. Biden also called for the banning of assault-grade weapons in a speech Tuesday afternoon from the White House.