LEANDER — Calling President Obama’s recent gun control initiatives “cynical” and “wrong,” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said on Tuesday that lawmakers “should focus our efforts on deterring and punishing violent criminals."

Citing his work as an attorney, and speaking in front of more than 100 employees at LaRue Tactical, a weapons and accessories manufacturer that makes a variety of semi-automatic rifles, Cruz said that “strict punishments” are “where are energy needs to be focused.”

“You leave law-abiding citizens and their families vulnerable to criminals when you strip their constitutional right to defend themselves,” he added.

Cruz also said that bipartisan compromise might come in a policy requiring states to turn over mental health records to strengthen background checks. 

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“There are 18 states across the country that have submitted fewer than 100 mental health records to the national background check,” he said. “We ought to make that system work."

In a press conference after his gun remarks on Tuesday, Cruz responded to accusations that his questioning of former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel for confirmation as secretary of defense had been reminiscent of McCarthyism. "Washington is a rough-and-tumble place," Cruz said, suggesting that the media had been irresponsible for focusing more on him than on Hagel's record. He called that record "extreme," and said to reporters, "I would ask for every 10 stories you write attacking me, write one story on Hagel's record."

Cruz also reiterated his call for Hagel to disclose his financial records and sources of compensation, noting that Hillary Clinton released eight years of compensation records before she became secretary of state.

The National Rifle Association has called Cruz a “leading Second Amendment advocate” and given him awards for his legal work as Texas solicitor general in the U.S. Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller. In that case, Cruz authored a brief in support of gun ownership rights.

During his prepared remarks on Tuesday, Cruz said that the assault weapons ban backed by President Bill Clinton “did zero” to prevent crime, and that cities like Washington, D.C., and Chicago, which have more restrictive gun control policies, have high rates of violent crime.

Last month, Cruz said on NBC's Meet the Press that the "gun show loophole" doesn’t exist, since firearm dealers run background checks on purchasers, and private sales between gun-owners — whether at a gun show or not — do not involve checks.

On the show, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, fired back: “If you are someone who’s not a felon, you go into a gun store, a registered firearm dealer, and buy 20 guns, which you can, he’ll do a background check on you. You can sell them to anyone you want, felon or anybody else. So there are huge holes in this law.”

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