In just a few years, he turned an obscure Texas legal post into a national platform for red-meat conservative causes.
In 2008, in the high-profile Supreme Court gun-rights case called District of Columbia v. Heller, a brief was filed from the eighth floor of the Daniel Price Sr. State Office Building in Austin, Texas, specifically from the corner office of the man who was then the state’s solicitor general, Ted Cruz.
The brief took a strong stance on the divisive question of whether the Second Amendment establishes an individual right to own guns, or just protects state and local militias. The brief argued forcefully for the first view, writing that “the individual right to keep and bear arms” is a “fundamental right” and that “an individual right that can be altogether abrogated is no right at all.” Thirty attorneys general from other states signed on.
Today, with the White House pushing new gun restrictions and Cruz’s candidacy riding on next month’s Iowa caucuses, it’s no surprise that the Texas Republican would embrace gun rights as a defining issue, holding an event at a firing range and even raffling off an engraved 12-gauge shotgun as a campaign promotion.
In 2008, the situation was very different: he was wading into a case that had no immediate connection to Texas at all. But to see the signature of R. Ted Cruz on the brief would not have surprised the nine Supreme Court justices in the least. By that time, Cruz had been solicitor general for five years, and inserting himself into a case of wide prominence and importance regardless of any direct tie to Texas had become part of his playbook. He clearly saw the Heller case as a watershed in gun rights, writing that it would “determine whether the Second Amendment has any modern relevance.” And he was right. The Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision shot down the Washington, D.C., handgun ban and ruled for the first time in the history of this country that the amendment ensures an individual person’s right to have a gun for self-defense. The National Rifle Association recognized Cruz’s role with a resolution.