TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A congressional candidate’s contest to give away a semi-automatic rifle is still on despite the original post being taken down by Facebook.
Greg Evers, who’s running in the Republican primary for the open seat in Florida’s 1st District, announced Monday he’s giving away a “Homeland Defender” AR-15 rifle on July 4. But on Monday night, Facebook pulled a post about the contest showing the rifle after receiving numerous complaints for “promoting graphic violence” and “describing the purchase or sales of drugs, guns or regulated progress.”
A post showing the rules for entering the giveaway has also been taken down after getting flagged for the same reasons.
Last January, Facebook imposed a policy barring private individuals from advertising or selling firearms on the world’s largest social network. Facebook did not immediately respond to a message about the gun giveaway Wednesday.
The Evers campaign says someone in California reported the post. Campaign spokesman Brian Burgess said they had anticipated someone would object but that likes and shares are still being tracked. The original post had received more than 1,100 likes and nearly 900 shares
Evers took to his Facebook page on Wednesday telling supporters that he has become a target for gun control advocates.
“Instead of taking on Radical Islam, they would rather take our 2nd Amendment rights away leaving us defenseless to further acts of terror like the one we just saw in Orlando,” Evers posted. “The truth is it was President (Barack) Obama’s reaction to this terrorist attack that drove my campaign to staunchly defend our 2nd Amendment rights.”
The custom-built rifle will be given away to one randomly chosen person who has liked and shared Evers’ page or signed up on his campaign website. It is open only to adults in the district who must pass all required background and security checks.
As of Wednesday, Evers’ page had received over 4,800 likes and nearly 2,100 shares.
Evers’ promotion came barely a week after a shooting at a gay nightclub killed 49 people in Orlando, a roughly five-hour drive from the Florida Panhandle district Evers seeks to represent. Gunman Omar Mateen used a semi-automatic rifle that was mechanically different from an AR-15 but had similar design features.
“The giveaway is tasteless, disrespectful and disgusting political pandering at its worst. He should be ashamed,” said Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of the gay and transgender rights group Equality Florida. “Giving a complete stranger the same style assault rifle just used to murder 49 people, most of whom have not yet even had funerals, is grotesque.”
This is not the only contest involving an AR-15 in a congressional race. Tennessee state representative Andy Holt is giving away two rifles during an event Saturday with candidates for that state’s 8th Congressional District.
In 2014, AR-15 rifles were part of giveaways in at least three U.S. House or Senate races.
Evers is one of five candidates running in the Aug. 30 Republican primary for the seat being vacated by Rep. Jeff Miller. Evers has served in the Florida Legislature since 2001, including the Senate the past six years. The National Rifle Association has given him an A-plus grade for the past 15 years.