Gun giveaway by gubernatorial candidate draws fire

story by Ryan Saylor

One candidate for Arkansas governor is getting attention for an unusual giveaway on his campaign website.

Republican Curtis Coleman is giving away an AR-15 rifle. The weapon was donated by Don's Weaponry in North Little Rock.

"Now’s your chance to win an AR-15 rifle! Don of Don’s Weaponry in North Little Rock has donated a brand-new Palmetto PA-15 and one lucky Coleman supporter will become its proud owner," the web site reads.

The rules of the giveaway state that anyone entering to win the weapon must be an Arkansas resident with a mailing address in the state and be 18 years old or older. Additionally, the winner of the gun must be able to pass a background check.

"If for some reason the first winner doesn’t pass, another name will be drawn," the website said.

Social media lit up with word that Coleman's campaign was giving away a weapon, with Democrats immediately attacking Coleman.

"@curtiscoleman this is horrific. Same assault weapon used in #Sandyhook," Aaron Gibson tweeted. Gibson is the president of the University of Arkansas Young Democrats.

Caleb Conrad, president of the Henderson State University Young Democrats, also tweeted his disgust.

"@curtiscoleman is giving away an AR-15 rifle on his website. Reckless, irresponsible, and disgusting."

Coleman deflected much of the criticism being leveled on social media, tweeting his response to those who challenged his campaign's giveaway.

"Giving away a rifle to a law-abiding Arkansan who has passed a background check is 'reckless, irresponsible, and disgusting'?"

Josh Mesker, communications director for the Coleman campaign, said there was nothing wrong with what the campaign was offering as a giveaway item.

"There's nothing controversial about giving away a standard rifle, a type of firearm that is owned by millions of Americans and thousands of Arkansans, to a law abiding citizen who has passed a background check."

Mesker said giving the AR-15 away was not intended to create controversy but instead was meant to show Arkansans that Coleman stands in support of the Second Amendment while also building the campaign's base of supporters.

And Mesker had a response for Gibson and other groups that may try to call out the campaign for the gun giveaway.

"What I would say is really liberal groups such as the University of Arkansas Young Democrats are playing politics with an unspeakable tragedy and should be called out on it. They should place blame on criminals where it belongs and leave the rest of us alone," he said. "I think this is simply another attempt to criticize Second Amendment rights under a false pretense."