CHEROKEE, Iowa —  On the campaign trail, Republican Iowa frontrunner Ted Cruz consistently gets big cheers for his staple line vowing to undo President Barack Obama’s “unconstitutional” executive actions on guns.

It’ll be one of his first acts in office, the Texas senator says.

But in a quieter moment on his campaign bus this afternoon, Cruz explained that he feels the sting of mass shootings and tragedies, and the severity of the gun violence issue in the United States is not lost on him.

“Of course violence is a problem in America,” Cruz told TheBlaze.

“Following the horrific shooting in Newtown, Ct. — and I would note as the parents of young children, that Heidi and I were utterly horrified at that act of depravity — President Obama had an opportunity to bring Americans together, to work with Republicans and Democrats to target violent criminals, to go after felons and fugitives,” Cruz said. “Instead, unfortunately, President Obama did what he’s done his entire tenure: He focused not on the bad guys, but on law-abiding citizens, on seeking to strip the constitutional protections of law-abiding citizens.

“That’s precisely backwards.”

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 26, the Obama administration pushed for massive gun reform — “cynically exploiting that tragedy,” Cruz said. It looked as though that effort would succeed, Cruz recalled.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks during a campaign stop at the public library in Onawa, Iowa, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP/Nati Harnik)

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at the public library in Onawa, Iowa on Tuesday. (AP/Nati Harnik)

“Far too many Republicans in Washington had all but acquiesced, had said, ‘This train is unstoppable, let’s get out of the way,’” Cruz said.

Cruz pointed to his own legislation from 2013, the Law Enforcement Alternative, as an example of the sort of measure he would undertake to curb gun violence in the U.S.

That legislation, authored by Cruz and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would have funded additional prosecution of gun-law violators and created a gun violence task force at the Department of Justice to stop felons and fugitives from buying guns, Cruz said.

“It focused directly on the bad guys, on the violent criminals,” Cruz said. “In my view, the violent criminals, we should come down on them like a ton of bricks.”

That bill was a key element of stopping Obama’s gun control push, the candidate argued.

“A great many senators supported that legislation, and that was a critical part of how we defeated President Obama’s unconstitutional proposals,” Cruz said. “It received a majority of the Senate — nine Democrats voted in favor of it. And the reason it didn’t pass into law is because Harry Reid and the Democrats filibustered it.”

Democrats have not “demonstrated seriousness” when it comes to targeting those who would use guns to do harm to others, Cruz argued.

“Instead, they have cynically followed an agenda, as Barack Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel put it, ‘never to let a good crisis go to waste,’” Cruz said. “Every crisis they try to exploit for a partisan political agenda.”