Savannah Behrmann

USA TODAY

Published 9:50 PM EDT Sep 10, 2019

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and actress-turned-activist Alyssa Milano met in person Tuesday in Washington, D.C., after the outspoken conservative and the equally outspoken liberal got into a lively Twitter discussion about gun control and the Bible that resulted in the senator telling the actress he would be “happy to sit down & visit next week about uniting to stop gun violence & about the Constitution.”

There was even a Facebook live stream, as the unlikely pair met on Capitol Hill, along with Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jamie was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Parkland, Fla., mass shooting. Guttenberg has since become an activist on the issue of gun violence. 

Tuesday’s meeting was also attended Ben Jackson, co-founder of #NoRA, an anti-NRA organization “inspired by the Parkland shooting,” according to its website.

More: GOP leaders meet with Trump as pressure mounts on gun legislation

The sit-down happened as senators arrived back on Capitol Hill following the summer recess.. While Congress was absent from Washington, four high-profile shootings occurred this summer. Now, Republicans are facing pressure to take up legislation on guns and congressional Democrats say they aren’t going to back down in their demands that the Senate and the White House do something.

Congressional GOP leaders also met at the White House with President Trump Tuesday in an effort to chart a path forward.  

Texas, the state Cruz represents, has seen multiple mass shootings in the last few years, including a recent rampage through Odessa and Midland that left 7 dead, a shooting last month at Walmart in El Paso where 22 were killed, a 2018 shooting at a high school in Santa Fe where a student shot and killed ten people and another in Sutherland Springs in 2017 where a gunman killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church.

When she originally challenged Cruz to meet, Milano had said in a tweet last week that the meeting should be live-streamed so the “American people can hear your bull**** first hand.”

But, the consensus after the hour-plus-long meeting was that there needs to be civility in political conversation and policy debates, even if their legislative views remain unchanged.

On the issue of gun violence, Milano told Cruz that she is begging him “to have the courage to lead” and that “for many people in this country, your stance has made you almost like this caricature of a villain.”

“That is why this meeting was so important to me. I wanted to look at you in the eye, and know that you really are a human with a heartbeat,” she continued. 

Throughout the meeting, both Milano and Guttenberg pressed the conservative senator to “please do something,” and talked about how little they could do as private citizens compared to what a legislator like Cruz can do. 

Cruz consistently decried legislation backed by Democrats, such as bills that would impose more comprehensive background checks, especially for private firearm purchases and purchases at gun shows. He often pivoted to highlight the gun control bill he and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced that aims at “keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals.” 

Cruz said he fears more restrictive bills could lead to a gun registry and buyback programs. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Cruz’s 2018 Senate race opponent and now a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, has already proposed mandatory buybacks of assault weapons.

More: Beto O’Rourke takes on Meghan McCain over gun rights

“A gun registry is how gun confiscation is carried out,” Cruz stated Tuesday.

Following the meeting, Milano tweeted: “I just left. He was gracious. I’m unsure if it changes anything. But appreciative for the opportunity to bridge the divide with civil, meaningful, discussion. Link to entire meeting below. #NoRA”

Guttenberg also posted online with the same tone, saying: “Thank you @SenTedCruz for agreeing to meet with @Alyssa_Milano, @DadoftheDecade and I today.  Our meeting lasted a very candid 90 minutes. While I am not sure it changed anything, I appreciate that we had the chance to try and find some common ground.”

Cruz tweeted a thread following the meeting, beginning with: “Always grateful for the opportunity to engage in positive, civil discussion on substantive issues. Today’s meeting with @Alyssa_Milano and @fred_guttenberg was productive and respectful, and I appreciate their willingness to come here with an open mind.”

Before the streaming video of Tuesday’s meeting ended, Cruz and Milano hugged.

Contributing: Jeanine Santucci, Nicholas Wu, and Christal Hayes.

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