- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tennessee state Rep. Andy Holt is standing by his decision to give away two semi-automatic rifles during a campaign event this month, despite receiving death threats in the wake of Sunday’s terrorist attack at a Orlando nightclub.

Mr. Holt plans to give away two AR-15s as door prizes at his first “Hog Fest and Turkey Shoot,” held at his family farm in Dresden on June 25.

“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 pulling the trigger,” Mr. Holt told The Tennessean.

Omar Mateen used a SIG Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle, similar to the AR-15, and a 9mm Glock to gun down 49 people and maim 53 others Sunday at Pulse, a gay nightclub in downtown Orlando.

Mr. Holt said the gun is “black and it looks real scary,” which makes it an easy scapegoat. He said its primary purpose is for hunting, target shooting and self-defense.

“If I beat somebody to death with a hammer, that’s just a hammer,” Mr. Holt said. “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.”

Asked about background checks, he said, “I believe there needs to be decreased amounts of that for lawful citizens. The Constitution is very clear that all Americans, all U.S. citizens, have the right to keep and bear arms.”

Florida law prohibits a person from carrying a gun openly or concealed in any establishment that sells alcohol as its primary business, making Pulse nightclub a gun-free zone. Mr. Holt said these gun-free zones are prime targets and shouldn’t exist in any public spaces in Tennessee. He said he plans to introduce a bill next year that would also allow students to carry guns on college campuses, The Tennessean reported.

“When we deprive people of their opportunity to defend themselves, this is what happens,” he told the paper. “Innocent individuals are sitting ducks.

“I would encourage everyone in the state of Tennessee today if they don’t have a firearm to go out and purchase one,” he said. “And if they have a firearm, go out and purchase another one to be trained in the execution of using that weapon in a dangerous situation.”

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini lambasted Mr. Holt for the stunt, saying, “We’re furious that in the wake of this tragedy, state Rep. Andy Holt is being such a reckless and irresponsible gun owner.

Andy Holt doesn’t know if he’s putting the winning raffle ticket in the hands of the next mass shooter,” she said.

Mr. Holt’s legislative assistant, Michael Lotfi, said he fielded a series of phone calls from an anonymous Memphis-based male caller who threatened Mr. Holt and said he had multiple guns. Mr. Holt reported the incident to state troopers, The Tennessean reported.

Mr. Holt blamed the threats on “peace-loving liberals” in a Facebook post and called on Democrats to condemn the behavior.

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