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Tennessee Lawmaker Says He'll Give Away Not One — But Two — AR-15 Rifles After Orlando Shooting

State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, explained his decision to give away two AR-15s in a Facebook post.
State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, explained his decision to give away two AR-15s in a Facebook post.

Hear the radio version of this story.

 Update June 14, 2016

A West Tennessee lawmaker is giving away not one — but two — military-style rifles in the wake of this weekend's shooting at a nightclub in Orlando.

State Rep. Andy Holt says he's trying to make a point that guns aren't to blame for the violence.

One of the firearms Omar Mateen used during his rampage through the Pulse nightclub was a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle.

That happens to be the same style of rifle that Holt, R-Dresden, has been planning for weeks to offer as a door prize at his upcoming Hog-Fest & Turkey Shoot fundraiser.

Such giveaways have been fairly common in recent years, and now that some people are contacting Holt to say the prize is insensitive, he says he plans to give away two.

"We shouldn’t be focused on the weapon," Holt says. "We should be focused on the motivation behind the person who's pulling the trigger of that weapon. In my opinion, this should be a focus on radical Islam, not on the AR-15."

Holt explained his decision to offer a second AR-15 in a lengthy Facebook posting on Monday. He says people should be asking how many more rifles he'll be offering — not whether he should end the giveaway — and notes that past terrorist attacks on U.S. soil have been pulled off with bombs and airplanes.

Holt says the attack does point to the need for some policy changes. He says it should be harder to buy guns for people who've been investigated for ties to radicalism, as Mateen was.

Holt also says the attack points to a need for more people to carry guns and to learn to shoot with what he calls "deadly accuracy" to protect themselves.

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini issued a statement saying her organization was "furious" at the giveaway. She also called Holt "reckless and irresponsible" for raffling off guns without putting the winners through a background check.

But Holt says he doesn't plan to give the guns to the winners directly. They'll be directed to a gun dealer — whom Holt declined to identify — who will complete the transaction, with the guns paid for out of proceeds from his fundraiser.

UPDATE

Holt says he and an aide received death threats after news of the giveaway broke yesterday.

The calls were taken by Michael Lofti, a staffer, who recorded portions. Excerpts were posted on Holt's blog. In them, a Memphis man says he'll come to Holt's office at the state Capitol to beat them up. He also says he owns firearms.

The Nashville Scene called the man who apparently made the calls. He says he doesn't recall making them and may have been on medication at the time.

Copyright 2016 WPLN News

Chas joined WPLN in 2015 after eight years with The Tennessean, including more than five years as the newspaper's statehouse reporter.Chas has also covered communities, politics and business in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. Chas grew up in South Carolina and attended Columbia University in New York, where he studied economics and journalism. Outside of work, he's a dedicated distance runner, having completed a dozen marathons
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