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Nati Harnik, Associated Press
FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2013 file photo, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walks through tall grass during a pheasant hunt hosted by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, in Akron, Iowa. Cruz has made the defense of Second Amendment rights a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, touting his past legal work fighting against gun control laws.

WASHINGTON — Ted Cruz has made the defense of Second Amendment rights a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, touting his past legal work fighting against gun control laws.

In his three years as a U.S. senator, Cruz's voting record has earned an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. Fiery criticism of President Barack Obama's efforts to tighten background checks for gun purchases is a staple of Cruz stump speeches.

But records suggest the 45-year-old politician's passion for the issue emerged relatively recently in his life, coinciding with his ascent in Republican circles in Texas. He bought a .357 Magnum revolver for his wife in 2003, and owns a 12-gauge shotgun.

Though his campaign woos sportsmen, Cruz seldom hunts himself. Three recent outings appeared to be more about bagging votes than birds.