MANASSAS, Va. (AP) — A Republican candidate for Virginia governor is giving away an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle as part of his campaign.
On Saturday, Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart announced the giveaway in a campaign email to supporters to show his dedication to the Second Amendment.
“If elected to be your next Governor, you can be 100% CERTAIN I will never compromise on your God-given right to keep and bear arms,” Stewart wrote.
AR-15-style weapons and other assault-style rifles have been the subject of fierce debate because of their use in mass shootings across the United States, including the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and the Orlando nightclub massacre this summer.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Stewart said that he doesn’t see this as a controversial contest.
“Look, this is a rifle that people are permitted to own in the United States. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Stewart said. “It’s a semi-automatic rifle. It is not an assault rifle. This is a great hunting rifle, and it’s also great for recreation use.”
Stewart said that winners will have to undergo a background check and that he’s giving away the weapon through a dealer to adhere to state and federal regulations.
According to contest rules, the drawing for a winner will be Dec. 21, but Stewart said he hopes to give the gun away in January to highlight his hopes for overturning a state gun law.
The Virginia gubernatorial election will take place next November.
Meanwhile, a Republican state lawmaker in Tennessee in June said he received threats for planning to give away an AR-15 as a door prize for a political fundraiser.
Rep. Andy Holt responded to the criticism by announcing that he would give away a second one as well at his Hog Fest and Turkey Shoot. Holt, a hog farmer from northwestern Tennessee, was the sponsor of a new law this year to allow faculty and staff at public colleges and universities to be armed on campus.