LEAVENWORTH — A Kansas congressional hopeful does not plan to stop a raffle for an AR-15 rifle, even though it's the type of weapon authorities said was used in the mass shooting at a Florida high school.
Republican Tyler Tannahill, a candidate in Kansas' 2nd Congressional District, announced the raffle to support his campaign on Tuesday, a day before 17 people were killed in the Florida shooting. He told The Kansas City Star hours after the shooting that the raffle would continue, noting it was planned a month ago to coincide with the Kansas Republican Convention this weekend in Wichita.
Tannahill, a veteran Marine from Leavenworth, is among several people in the GOP primary race to replace U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who is not seeking re-election. He said the raffle was intended to show his support for the Second Amendment.
"No individual is for school shootings. It's heartbreaking ... being a parent, our thoughts on that, for me personally, I am a strong believer in the Second Amendment," Tannahill said. "I think we need to have a discussion of what can be done and throwing out comments of displeasure isn't going to solve it."
Hours after the Florida shooting Wednesday, Tannahill posted on social media that he and his wife were "heartbroken to learn of the tragedy" and shared a link to a nonprofit called FASTER, which gives teachers and school staffers violence response training.
"We're not trying to raise money off the school shooting," Tannahill told The Star. "We do want to find a solution and I think this FASTER program is something we can look into implementing."
The raffle will go on despite generally negative reactions on his website, with several comments asking Tannahill to end the raffle, calling it "tone deaf" and "ridiculous."
The raffle rules state participants must be 18 or older and meet all legal requirements to purchase and own a firearm.
Tannahill said the winner will be required to go into a store where the gun is on layaway and must pass federal background checks before the gun can be released.
In September, a Missouri candidate for U.S. Senate, Austin Petersen, was banned from Facebook for 30 days for livestreaming a raffle to give away an AR-15.