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In the South, Cruz Targets Rubio, Trump on Guns

As many Southern states prepare to vote, Ted Cruz is opening a new front in his battle against Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, zeroing on an issue near and dear to many in the South: the Second Amendment.

Republican presidential candidates: U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and billionaire Donald Trump.

* Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

LAWTON, Okla. — As many Southern states prepare to vote, Ted Cruz is opening a new front in his battle against Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, zeroing in on an issue dear to many in the region: the Second Amendment.

At a rally here Sunday night and a day earlier in Georgia, Cruz singled out his two rivals for what he called their past support for banning firearms.

"I will not compromise your Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms," the U.S. senator from Texas told supporters. "You know, it's worth noting my two leading competitors have both previously supported banning firearms. Donald Trump supported Bill Clinton's nationwide ban on many of the most popular firearms in America, and Marco Rubio, when he was on the city council in West Miami, voted to ban firearms in public parks. Let me tell you this: There is no universe in which I would ever support banning guns because I believe in the Second Amendment."

Cruz's criticism of Rubio centers on a resolution from 1999 that urged the Florida Legislature "to prohibit firearms in county or municipal parks, recreational facilities, or playgrounds, which are locations where children frequently congregate." With Rubio present, the West Miami City Commission unanimously approved the resolution, according to minutes from its March 3, 1999, meeting. 

Cruz's remarks about Trump, meanwhile, stem from Trump's 2000 book "The America We Deserve." In it, the billionaire critiques "extreme" stances of both parties on gun control and takes a more moderate position than he's offered on the campaign trail.

"The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions," he wrote. "I generally oppose gun control, but I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun."

In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law a ban on specific types of assault weapons, including certain models of AR-15s and AK-47s. The ban did not prohibit the ownership or resale of those weapons as long as they had been manufactured before the law went into effect. The ban expired in 2004. 

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Cruz's comments were not accurate.

"Mr. Trump is a member of the NRA and a major proponent of the second amendment as outlined in his policy available on," she said in a written statement. "He will continue to fight and protect the second amendment right for all Americans."

Cruz's campaign is especially going after Rubio, who visited Texas last week for the 10th Republican debate Thursday in Houston. At a rally on the eve of the debate, Rubio talked up his commitment to gun rights, promising to turn the page on President Barack Obama's record on the issue. 

"When I'm president, for the first time in eight years, you're going to have a president that protects your right to the Second Amendment to defend yourself and your family," Rubio said. "The Second Amendment was not a suggestion. It wasn't like, 'Oh, we think maybe' — It's not a suggestion. It's a right."

Rubio was introduced by Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez, who asked for a show of hands of how many people have a concealed handgun license. "You see, Marco believes that Texans don't need permission from Washington, D.C., to protect ourselves and our family," Sanchez said.

Cruz's campaign says Rubio's rhetoric and record do not match up on the issue, again citing the 1999 resolution in West Miami. 

"When Marco Rubio was voting to restrict the rights of concealed carry permit holders, Cruz was working as a lawyer for the National Rifle Association fighting to defend the Second Amendment," Cruz spokeswoman Alice Stewart said in a statement. 

Asked to respond to Cruz's charges on the Second Amendment, the Rubio campaign said the Texas senator was lying. 

"Senator Cruz is getting increasingly desperate and has given up trying to tell voters the truth," Rubio spokesman Joe Pounder said in a statement. "Marco is proud of his strong support for and record of standing up for the Second Amendment and no amount of Cruz lies can change that."

Cruz kept the heat on Rubio and Trump on Monday as the Texas senator stumped across his home state. Cruz was joined by Gov. Greg Abbott and former Gov. Rick Perry, who echoed Cruz's criticism of Trump on guns.

"He was for an assault weapons ban back in the mid-90s," Perry told reporters before Cruz held an afternoon rally in San Antonio. "Now you would think he's Mr. Second Amendment. Well, I don't know about that. I don't trust him."

Jordan Rudner contributed to this report.

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Politics 2016 elections Ted Cruz