US Presidential hopeful says more Australian women were raped after gun legislation changed.

US presidential hopeful Ted Cruz’s claim sexual assaults on women in Australia went up significantly after strict gun laws were introduced has been challenged, The Washington Post is reporting.

Cruz made international headlines after saying on high-profile American radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show on January 12 that “Australia’s post-Port Arthur massacre gun legislation meant women were unable to defend themselves from being raped”.

‘And as you know, Hugh, after Australia did that (gun buyback program), the rate of sexual assaults, the rate of rapes, went up significantly, because women were unable to defend themselves,’ Mr Cruz told the radio host.

‘There’s nothing that criminals or terrorists like more than unarmed victims.’

Conservative Republican candidate Mr Cruz is Donald Trump’s biggest rival for the Republican presidential nomination.

However The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column examined Mr Cruz’s comment and rated it a ‘whopper’ of a factual error, the highest rating on its ‘Pinocchio Test’.

Source: Twitter @mzamorephoto Michael Zamora

The gun debate is a critical issue in the presidential race, with Republican candidates like Mr Cruz and the National Rifle Association attacking President Obama and Democrat hopeful Hillary Clinton’s references to Australia’s successful firearm laws.

The Washington Post analysis also found no significant spike or drop but a gradual increase in sexual assault rates over the decade after the 1996 changes in Australia.

Significantly, the increase was likely affected by a rise in the reporting of sexual assaults and there wasn’t prevalent use of handguns for self-defence before 1996, as Cruz suggested, the newspaper concluded.

‘The rates didn’t go up ‘significantly’ after the buyback and there’s no evidence changes to gun laws in Australia affected sexual assault rates or jeopardised the ability of women to protect themselves,’ the Washington Post found.

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