By Jeb Inge
FRONT ROYAL -- A Virginia advocacy group sounded off on the national gun rights debate Thursday as it gave away the very weapon that set off the debate last year.
The gun given away by the Virginia Gun Owners Coalition at Main Street Pawn Brokers was an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Made by Barnes Precision Machine, the rifle is made in extremely small quantities, and as a result, has a retail value that can reach upwars of $2,000.
It was also the weapon of choice for Sandy Hook Elementary shooter Adam Lanza in Newtown, Conn., and alleged Aurora, Colo.-theater shooter James E. Holmes.
Coalition president Mike McHugh called the event a chance for the group to send the message to "gun-ban governor Bob McDonnell and President Barack Hussein Obama that if they can protect their children with men with guns and high cap magazines then so can we."
"I'm disgusted with the president, and I'm disgusted with our governor for doing absolutely nothing practical to protect our kids," McHugh said.
McHugh also denied that the AR-15 was used by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook massacre that claimed the lives of 22 children and 6 adults.
"That coward didn't use an AR-15," he said, claiming that Lanza performed the same "New York reload" with four handguns similar to the those used by Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho.
The Newtown Police Department confirmed to the Northern Virgina Daily on Thursday that the AR-15 was used by Lanza when he killed 20 school children and six adults in December.
When asked if he supported any type of gun laws, McHugh responded in the affirmative, calling for a repeal of the Gun-Free School Zones Act, which he called "the open season on kids act." Passed in 1990, the act prohibits the possession of a firearm in a school zone.
"There's nothing safe about it. It's an invitation for cowards and perps to walk into schools without any repercussion," he said.
Roanoke resident Larry Stewart, the winner of the AR-15, said he believes that teachers armed in schools is the solution to attacks like those in Newtown and Columbine.
"If there had been a teacher, or an administrator, in the school that was armed ... they would have dropped him in a heartbeat," he said.
Stewart, a Vietnam veteran and former sheriff's deputy in Roanoke County, describes himself as a "severe conservative," saying that proposed background check reform is one step toward complete disarmament, similar to the kind found in pre-war Nazi Germany.
As he waited for his background check to clear, Stewart explained that reforms to mental health evaluations and restrictions to ownership for the mentally ill are preferable to universal background checks for all potential buyers.
"What they're trying to do is get us to the point where they know who has guns so that Hitler and Mussolini -- all of those guys -- you disarm the citizenry and can take over the country. This is where the Holocaust came from, because they were disarmed." he said. "They're trying to lead it to the point where we don't have guns."
Ladd Everitt, director of communication with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, questions whether gun giveaways, such as the one held by the VGOC, are in good taste.
Everitt said he believes references to Nazi Germany undermine the gun-rights conversation.
"To patriots who actually believe in the work of the Founding Fathers, hearing our government being compared to Nazi Germany should be terribly offensive," he said.
Everitt questions the true intentions of the pro-gun lobby.
"They beat us over the head with tag words like freedom and liberty ... but the foundation is really that they have an individual right to shoot and kill government officials," he said. "[It's] this notion of 'if not ballots, than bullets.'"
"If you believe that the only thing left to defend freedom is to put a bullet in the head of a congresswoman, you have no faith in America," Everitt said.
Calls to the National Rifle Association were unsuccessful as a voice recording announced extremely high call volumes due to "recent attacks on our second amendment rights."
Contact Region Editor Jeb Inge at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org