Pro-Gun Congressional Candidate Defends AR-15 Giveaway

A pro-gun Congressional candidate in Kansas plans to go ahead with his AR-15 giveaway, launched the day before the same type of assault rifle was used in the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

Tyler Tannahill, a Republican, announced the giveaway on Tuesday.

"As an avid sportsman, I'm excited to announce our first AR-15 Giveaway! You can earn multiple entries and no purchase is necessary to win," he wrote, with a link to his campaign website to enter the contest. It is timed with this weekend's Kansas Republican Convention and will still happen.

"We firmly believe in the Second Amendment and I think there definitely needs to be some thoughtful dialog on school safety and mental health," Tannahill told Reuters Thursday.

Congressional Candidate AR-15 giveaway
(Photo: Twitter/Tyler Tannahill)

Tannahill also posted a statement after the shooting on Wednesday.

"My wife and I are heartbroken to learn of the tragedy today at a Florida school. A sticker on the door isn’t protecting our kids. We can do better. The FASTER program saves lives," Tannahill tweeted.

Kansas State Senator Steve Fitzgerald, who is running against Tannahill for the Republican nomination, told the Topeka Capital-Journal he would not offer political advice to a rival, but "The timing is pretty bad."

Rep. Kevin Jones, another Republican candidate, told the Capital-Journal he could see how some would think the giveaway is disrespectful. "I think he should make that choice," Jones said.

Twitter users had stronger responses to Tannahill's message. "Tone deaf. Your timing couldn’t be better, though, to convince people to vote for your opponent," one person wrote.

"As an 'avid sportsman,' what do you hunt with that (other than children in school hallways)? Or do you believe that hunting children IS sport? #kansantokansan," another wrote.

"This is unbelievable. What kind of sport requires a semi automatic machine gun? You should be ashamed and embarrassed but you won’t be," another added.

The suspect in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, legally bought a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 .223. He cleared a background check, since he had no criminal record. The age limit for purchasing long guns, including AR-15-style weapons, is 18.

According to the police report, Cruz has confessed to the shooting and said he had more ammunition in his backpack. Seventeen people, including students and teachers, were killed.

Photo Credit: Twitter/ @Taylor Tannahill