Rep. Holt sticks to gun giveaway plans

State Rep. Andy Holt is firmly standing behind his decision to give away a semi-automatic rifle of the same model used in the Orlando shooting massacre, reports The Tennessean.

While announcing his plans last week to hold his first annual “Hog Fest and Turkey Shoot,” Holt, R-Dresden, said he will give away an AR-15 as a door prize to an attendee of his June 25 fundraiser.

The event is also scheduled to include a turkey shoot — participants are encouraged to bring their own rifle and ammo.

Holt said despite Sunday’s massacre in Orlando that left 49 people dead and 53 wounded, he remains stalwart in his belief that the weapon used in the mass shooting is not to blame.

“It has nothing to do with the style of weapon. It has everything to do with who’s behind the weapon,” said Holt, who has sponsored several gun bills, including one recently enacted law that allows full-time employees at Tennessee colleges and universities to carry weapons on campus.

Holt said the weapon is the type that can be used for multiple purposes including hunting, target shooting and self-defense.

He said the only thing wrong with the AR-15 is that “it’s black and it looks real scary” adding, “If I beat somebody to death with a hammer that’s just a hammer. But if I was to take and wrap it up in electrical tape and make it black I guess that would make it an assault hammer.”

Holt said there is no functional difference between any semi-automatic weapon and an AR-15, and argued that it didn’t matter that an AR-15 had been used in various American mass shootings in recent years, including the 2012 shooting in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater and last year’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. “It’s not about the gun. It has everything to do with the position and condition of that person’s heart that’s behind the gun behind pulling the trigger,” he said.

UPDATE/Note: TNDP Chair Mary Mancini says Holt is a “reckless and irresponsible gun owner.” Release below.

NASHVILLE, TENN. (June 13, 2016) – TNDP Chair Mary Mancini blasts Republican Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) for giving away two AR-15 assault rifles to strangers at campaign event.

“Our hearts are with everyone in Orlando and across the world as we grieve the most-deadly mass shooting in our country’s history. The people who lost their lives were travel agents and doctors, teachers and students. They were brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. There were people enjoying a night out with friends and loved ones.

That said, we’re furious that in the wake of this tragedy, state Rep. Andy Holt is being such a reckless and irresponsible gun owner. Responsible gun owners don’t give away guns without background checks. Responsible gun owners make sure that guns are safely and securely stored to prevent access by children or irresponsible adults. Responsible gun owners don’t put guns in the hands of strangers. Andy Holt doesn’t know if he’s putting the winning raffle ticket in the hands of the next mass shooter.

We’re also furious that when 18% of all hate crimes are committed against the LGBTQ+ community, Andy Holt continues to fan the flames of hatred towards that community by making jokes that demean them and statements that blatantly define them as different, wrong, and scary.

Love will triumph over hate, it always does. But in the meantime, Andy Holt, please, just stop.