Tennessee Lawmaker's Fundraiser to Give Away AR-15 Rifles Days After Orlando Attack
Mere days after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history left 50 dead and 53 wounded, Tennessee Rep. Andy Holt said he will no longer give away an AR-15 rifle as a door prize at his first annual "Hog Fest and Turkey Shoot" fundraiser.
He'll give away two:
Giving away two AR15s now. See you all there! https://t.co/QI3meb24iA
— Andy Holt (@AndyHolt4TN) June 13, 2016
The AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle available to civilians, has gained in popularity of late, despite being the weapon of choice in several of the worst mass shootings to occur in the U.S.—Newtown, Aurora, San Bernardino, Umpqua Community College and others. (Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, used a , similar to the AR-15 but in a different family of rifles.)
The gun, prized for its relatively low price point and military styling, has been the subject of much controversy for those same reasons. The Boston Globe yesterday ran a picture of an AR-15 on its front page with the headline "Make It Stop." A Philadelphia journalist was able to buy one in seven minutes, start to finish.
So, naturally, after the Orlando nightclub shooting, Holt's AR-15 giveaway, scheduled for June 25 and planned before the attack, received a whole bunch of criticism. But rather than switching up the prize to a nice spa gift certificate or whatever, Holt doubled down, shifting blame away from the AR-15 and launching into an impassioned defense of gun rights.
"It's not about the gun," he told The Tennessean. "It has everything to do with the position and condition of that person’s heart that’s behind the gun pulling the trigger."
And more, via The Tennessean:
When asked how someone could determine whether a person has a good or bad heart while trying to obtain a weapon, Holt said, “Ultimately we don’t know the answer to that question. But what we do know is that the vast majority of weapons that are used are not used for those unlawful purposes. They’re used for lawful purposes of defending one’s self.”
Turning to the issue of background checks, when Holt was asked if he believes there needs to be additional steps taken, he said, "I believe there needs to be decreased amounts of that for lawful citizens. The Constitution is very clear that all Americans, all U.S. citizens, have the right to keep and bear arms."
And some more:
"When we deprive people of their opportunity to defend themselves, this is what happens,” Holt said. “Innocent individuals are sitting ducks.”
Holt argued that gun-free zones should not exist in any public spaces in Tennessee, while standing behind his plan to introduce a bill next year that will allow students to carry guns on college campuses.
He stopped there. Wait, no, there was more:
"I would encourage everyone in the state of Tennessee today if they don’t have a firearm to go out and purchase one. And if they have a firearm, go out and purchase another one to be trained in the execution of using that weapon in a dangerous situation," he said.
In a post on Facebook, Holt said he was "furious" because the federal government has not recognized the threat of radical Islam and lawmakers such as U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, have blamed the Second Amendment.
So there you have it.
Whatever your stance on gun control, can we all agree Holt's response was maybe a tad insensitive? Carry on with your fundraiser and give one gun as planned, sure, why not. But with the blood from America's worst gun massacre still fresh on the floors, why rub everyone's noses in it?