One day before 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people with an AR-15 rifle at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Kansas Republican congressional candidate Tyler Tannahill announced an AR-15 raffle for his campaign.
“As an avid sportsman, I’m excited to announce our first AR-15 Giveaway! Your can earn multiple entries and no purchase is necessary to win!” Tannahill, a Marine veteran, wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post on Feb. 13. Tannahill also tweeted about the raffle and created a page for the contest on his campaign website.
When news of Wednesday’s mass school shooting surfaced, Tannahill expressed his condolences on Twitter, and voiced support for a nonprofit called FASTER that provides teachers with violence response training. But, according to the Kansas City Star, Tannahill has no plans to cancel the gun raffle, despite considerable social media backlash.
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. https://t.co/Ctrka95XJe #KS02 #ksleg #2A
— Tyler Tannahill (@TannahillTweets) February 15, 2018
The Star reported that Tannahill said the raffle was in support of the Second Amendment and that the giveaway was planned a month ago.
“I don’t think more laws could have prevented this,” Tannahill told the Star, adding that the winner of the raffle would have to pass federal background checks before receiving the gun. The Parkland school shooter, Cruz, also passed federal background checks to legally obtain the AR-15 he used to murder 17 people.
This isn’t the first time a Republican has advertised an AR-15 giveaway in the wake of a mass shooting. Days after the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Republican state Sen. Greg Evers touted a “Homeland Defender Giveaway.”
“With all that’s happening in the world today, I’ve never felt stronger about the importance of the second amendment in protecting our homeland than I do now,” Evers said in a written statement, Politico reported.
And according to the Kansas City Star, a Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, Austin Petersen, was banned from Facebook for a month after livestreaming an AR-15 raffle in September, days before the Las Vegas shooting that led to the deaths of 58 people.