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Kansas Congressional Candidate Raffling Off AR-15 Rifle

Robert Freiberger
flickr Creative Commons

Kansas congressional candidate Tyler Tannahill is sticking with his planned giveaway of rifle similar to the one used in the mass shooting at a Florida high school.

The Leavenworth Marine veteran running for the Republican nomination in the 2nd District announced the contest for an AR-15 rifle on social media the day before the Florida gunman killed at least 17 people.

“As an avid sportsman, I’m excited to announce our first AR-15 giveaway!” Tannahill said in posts to Twitter and his campaign’s Facebook page the day before the carnage in Parkland, Fla. “You can earn multiple entries and no purchase is necessary to win!”

He was just as enthusiastic in a news release.

“There’s no better way to demonstrate support of our Second Amendment rights than to offer one lucky winner a sporting rifle from the campaign,” said Tannahill. “As a congressman, I’ll stand up in defense of the Second Amendment against the gun-grabbing Paul Davis Democrats.”

That set off a backlash after the shooting, with several people criticizing Tannahill for being “tone deaf,” “out of touch” and worse.

Tannahill responded to the shooting with a Facebook post of his own, saying that he and his wife were “heartbroken to learn of the tragedy.”

Declaring, “We can do better,” Tannahill said providing violence response training to teachers and staff could help make schools safer.

Tannahill told the Kansas City Star he wouldn’t bow to pressure and cancel the gun giveaway, the announcement of which was planned to coincide with this weekend’s Kansas Republican Convention in Wichita.

“We need to have a discussion of what can be done and throwing out comments of displeasure isn’t going to solve it,” Tannahill told the Star.

The contests rules posted on the campaign website say contestants must be at least 18 to win the AR-15 and meet all legal requirements for purchasing a firearm, including passing a federal background check.

Tannahill is one of seven announced candidates for the GOP nomination for the 2nd District seat now held by Republican Lynn Jenkins. After five terms, she isn’t running for re-election. Earlier this month he attended a “Defend Our Flag” protest that included some participants driving pick-up trucks decorated with both American and confederate flags through downtown Lawrence, according to The Pitch.

Steve Watkins, another GOP hopeful in the 2nd District, also attended the demonstration.

The winner of the Republican primary will likely face Democrat Paul Davis in the general election. Davis, a former Kansas House minority leader, narrowly lost a 2014 bid to unseat former Gov. Sam Brownback.


Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics in Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @jmcleanks.