Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is unveiling the "Second Amendment Coalition"

By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
Updated December 04, 2015 03:10 PM
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Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is campaigning Friday at an Iowa shooting range to highlight his pro-gun rights platform.

The Texas senator’s appearance at Crossroads Shooting Sports in Johnstown, Iowa, which comes two days after the mass shooting in San Bernadino, California, was scheduled several weeks ago, spokeswoman Catherine Frazier tells PEOPLE.

“Of course the California shooting was horrific, but that should not be a rush to take away law-abiding Americans’ constitutional liberties, particularly their right to defend themselves,” Frazier says in advance of the candidate’s afternoon rally with some of the 24,000-plus supporters who have signed on to Cruz’s “Second Amendment Coalition.”

Cruz previewed his message for the event in a Tweet Friday morning:

Cruz’s latest stand on gun rights comes as a new CNN/ORC national poll released Friday morning shows he has surged to second place (behind businessman Donald Trump) in the Republican presidential horse race.

The poll shows Cruz rocketing up 12 percentage points in just one month – from 4 percent in October to 16 percent at the beginning of this month.

Cruz last visited the same gun range in June, three days after a mass shooting inside a Charleston, South Carolina, church, according to ABC News.

And his return visit was not without controversy.

On Thursday night’s The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, host Trevor Noah ran an NBC News clip reporting that the Cruz campaign sent out invitations to the Iowa shooting range “just hours” after news broke Wednesday of the California shooting.

Said Noah: “Yeah, 14 people just lost their lives in a shooting, and Ted Cruz’s first thought is, ‘Oh, that reminds me, got to send out my invites to my gun party.’ ”

Much earlier on Thursday, Cruz opened his first speech of the day with a moment of silence for the victims in San Bernadino and said, according to CNN, “Our prayers are with the families of those who were murdered and those who were shot.”