Appearing on CNN on Tuesday morning, Kansas Republican congressional candidate Tyler Tannahill (R) tried to defend his plan to hold an AR-15 giveaway on the heels of yet another deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Florida — a shooting perpetrated by a gunman who legally obtained an AR-15. Tannahill’s defense did not go well.
Although Tannahill has vowed that whoever wins the raffle will have to pass a background check, that won’t do much good if the winner decides to give the gun to someone else. As host Chris Cuomo pointed out, Kansas does not require background checks for person-to-person transfers, meaning there’d be nothing stopping the winner from giving the semi-automatic rifle away to a person who shouldn’t have it.
Cuomo pressed that point, telling Tannahill, “look at your own state — Kansas. You’re gonna give away this weapon, you say, ‘well the person has to meet the federal background checks.’ Irrelevant. In your state, they don’t have checks for person-to-person sales and you know this. So God forbid someone who wins this AR-15 winds up transferring it to somebody else who is mentally unstable and they don’t know, and they go out and use it. How would you feel then?”
Tannahill didn’t answer Cuomo’s question, but instead tried to frame his giveaway as just part of an effort to stimulate a constructive discussion about guns.
“Chris, I’m here to have this discussion. Do we need to look into that? Let’s put it on the table,” he said.
But Cuomo pushed back.
“You want to talk about a solution while you’re also exhibiting the problem,” he said. “If you were going to give away a weapon in a state where you don’t have to have a background check on a person-to-person transfer, how do you know where that weapon is going to wind up? You don’t. Am I wrong?”
Tannahill again tried to dodge.
“Look, we’re not giving the gun away person-to-person,” Tannahill said. “That individual has to go to the gun store and pass all legal background checks.”
Pressed again, Tannahill conceded.
“Look, Chris, you’re just trying to make a point, and your point is that — okay fine, that’s not helping us get to the solution. We need to protect our students, we need to protect our teachers,” he said.
Concerns about person-to-person transfers aside, the Parkland shooting illustrates how even background checks aren’t necessarily enough to stop dangerous people from obtaining AR-15s.
The shooter who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last Wednesday, Nikolas Cruz, obtained his AR-15 legally in February 2017 after passing an instant background check. He had no criminal record.