As the U.S. recovers from its most deadly mass shooting, a Tennessee lawmaker says he is "doubling down" on his decision to give away a door prize at an upcoming campaign fundraiser — two AR-15 assault rifles.
Two days before the deadly Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, Republican state Rep. Andy Holt announced he would be hosting a hogfest and turkey shoot on June 25.
"We'll have all-you-can-eat whole hog roast with all the fixings, a petting zoo and hay rides for the kids, live music, a turkey shoot and more!" according to the announcement on Holt's website. "Oh, did I mention we're giving away an AR-15 as the door prize!"
The massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando overnight Sunday, carried out by a shooter armed with a .223-caliber AR-15 type rifle and 9mm semiautomatic pistol. But Holt told BuzzFeed News the weapon used in the shooting is not to blame.
"Instead of focusing on the weapon that was used, there should be a focus on radical Islam," Holt said. "The focus should not be on the weapon, it should be on the individual's heart and the cowardly acts that he performed."
The AR-15 was selected as the giveaway prize by the campaign because of it is a multi-use firearm that can be adapted for hunting, target practice, or personal defense, he added.
The representative received a number of supportive reactions from people on Facebook who said they "couldn't agree more."
Still, the AR-15 giveaway has attracted criticism from many people across the U.S.
"Your 'door prize' is depraved," said one person. "Resign."
Holt and his executive assistant were also threatened over the phone by someone in Memphis who said he "had many guns and knew how to use them," the lawmaker said in a statement Tuesday.
"Holt is a big guy, as am I, and we can both take care of ourselves," said Michael Lotfi, Holt's executive assistant. "But we felt the need to report this to the state troopers considering that there are many children and women here at the capitol on a daily basis."
Despite the criticism, Holt told BuzzFeed News he was "doubling down" on the giveaway, bumping the number of prizes to two AR-15s instead of one.
Doubling the giveaway was not in response to the Orlando shooting or meant to be "hurtful to anyone or to serve as a symbolic slap in the face to the LGBT community," Holt said.
Instead, it was the result of "crazy liberal lunatics that started ringing me off the hook."
"We don't need to look past the fact that this murderous gunman was shot and killed," he said. "That same instrument was used to put that bad person in a neutral position."
Holt added that the person who wins the giveaway rifles will be required to undergo a background check by the supplier, who he declined to disclose.
Leticia Miranda is a retail reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Leticia Miranda at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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