Corey Stewart has enjoyed many titles during his political career: longtime Republican chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, Virginia state chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign (until he was fired), current Republican candidate for Virginia governor.
The latest bullet point in his résumé? Semiautomatic weapon donor.
On Saturday, he announced that he’s giving away an AR-15 rifle, the style of weapon used in several of the nation’s mass shootings and most notorious crimes, including the 2002 Washington-area sniper attacks, one of which was a homicide at a gas station in Stewart’s county.
In a news release Saturday, Stewart announced the AR-15 giveaway knowing full well that it would probably attract controversy — and news coverage.
“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. “In fact, even though I’m sure it’s certain to send the liberal media into a frenzy, to show my dedication to the Second Amendment my campaign is GIVING AWAY an AR-15 to one lucky supporter.”
Shifting into third person, Stewart then wrote: “That’s right. Corey Stewart for Governor is giving away an AR-15.”
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. They were used in the Orlando club massacre this summer that killed 49 people; the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that left 14 people dead; the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults; and the mass shooting in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July 2012 that killed a dozen. Dean Harold Meyers, 53, was killed as he pumped gas on Oct. 9, 2002, in Prince William County with a similar weapon — a Bushmaster XM-15 — part of the Washington-area sniper attacks that killed 10 and wounded three.
In an interview with The Washington Post on Saturday, Stewart dismissed the debate surrounding the weapons. “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 semiautomatic 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. Even though the contest rules say the drawing for a winner will be Dec. 21, Stewart said he hopes to give the gun away in January to highlight his hopes for overturning a Virginia law that requires gun owners to obtain a permit if they want to carry concealed weapons.
Stewart’s news release has a link to the contest’s website, which encourages people to fill out a credit-card form and donate to Stewart’s campaign. Readers also can click on small print to read the contest rules, which say you don’t need to give Stewart money to win.
One key rule: You must be a U.S. citizen, age 18 and above.