Florida State Senator Starts an AR-15 Giveaway Contest

State Sen. Greg Evers, who is looking to make the jump to U.S. Congress in the First District in the Panhandle, announced today his “Homeland Defender” AR-15 rifle giveaway on Facebook. Anyone can enter by liking and sharing his Facebook status, and Evers will select a winner on the Fourth of July.

“With terrorism incidents on the rise, both at home and abroad, protecting our constitutional rights has never been more important,” Evers said in a prepared statement. “With all that’s happening in the world today, I’ve never felt stronger about the importance of the Second Amendment in protecting our homeland than I do now.”

The rifle was made by a company within the district and has the text of the Second Amendment etched onto its side.

However, you don’t need to be a member of a well-regulated militia to win it. Anyone 18 or older in the district who can pass a background check is eligible to win the grand prize.

Evers, the scion of a famed Florida fertilizer family, has a well-known penchant for guns. In the Florida Senate, he recently coauthored a bill that would have allowed people with concealed-carry permits to bring guns onto Florida college campuses. The bill, controversial even among some fellow Republicans, ended up being defeated in the latest legislative session. He was also behind a successfully passed bill that prevents schools from punishing students who play with simulated weapons. It suffices to say that Evers has a lifetime A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.

Evers’ contest will add one more AR-15 semiautomatic rifle (the civilian version of the military’s fully automatic M16) to the estimated 10 million to 12 million that are already out there in America. Of course, of those millions of civilian assault rifles, not a single one has actually stopped a case of terrorism on American soil.

AR-15-style rifles are powerful weapons capable of shooting off as many rounds a second as the user can pull the trigger (unless, of course, that user has a perfectly legal Bump Fire Stock, which removes the need for repeated trigger pulling). The gun is so powerful it’s shunned by hunting purists and isn’t recommended for amateur home defense unless the user wants to risk shooting through his own walls and even into neighbor’s homes.

Gun control proponents believe that obtaining such a weapon shouldn’t be as easy as it is in a state like Florida. In this case, however, obtaining one can be as simple as clicking a few buttons on Facebook.

The Sunshine States’s superconservative First District was once the stomping grounds of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. Current officeholder Rep. Jeff Miller is retiring. Evers’ biggest competition in the Republican primary is State Rep. Matt Gaetz. Gaetz also has an NRA-approved track record on guns.

We’re 165 Days Into 2016 and We’ve Had 133 Mass Shootings

A gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning, killing at least 50 people and making it the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

It was a terrible, tragic event — and the 133th mass shooting in 2016 alone. It was the 15th mass shooting in Florida this year, and the fourth in Orlando.

The non-profit Gun Violence Archive (GVA) tracks mass shootings in the United States. And their data shows that there have been 76 days this year with mass shootings in the United States — and 88 days without. A total of 207 people have died in those incidents, including the known victims of the shooting this morning in Orlando.

GVA uses the FBI definition of a mass shooting, which is defined as a single event where four or more people are shot (not necessarily killed) and does not include the shooter in the tally. It’s important to note, however, that there is not one universally accepted definition of what constitutes a mass shooting, and many methodologies differ from how GVA collects its data.

Some counts, like the one compiled by USA Today, only track mass killings, or events in which four or more people were killed. Mother Jones also maintains a database, which, like USA Today’s, only tracks events in which four or more people were killed, but Mother Jones excludes shootings related to “gang activity, armed robbery, or domestic violence.” (GVA does not exclude shootings related to gang or domestic violence.)

Even so, its an important resource that underscores the prevalence of gun violence in America — and how frequently shootings that involve multiple people happen across the country.

Florida has had more mass shootings this year than any other state

There have been 15 mass shootings so far in Florida, which is more than any other state. GVA’s database shows that there are two other states that have had more than 10 mass shootings this year: California has had 14 and Illinois has had 11.

Four of those shootings occurred in Orlando, including the shooting at the Pulse nightclub this morning. The other shootings were:

There were five mass shootings on February 20 alone

On February 20, 10 people died from mass shootings and 15 were injured — in five separate places.

This includes the Feb. 20 shooting in Orlando mentioned earlier, where four women and a police dog were shot during a grocery store robbery. This was the same day as a shooting in Kalamazoo, Mich. that got national attention— and left six people dead.

A man in Tampa, Fla. was killed early that Saturday morning in a bar. An Alabama man died in a drug-related shooting — and a Mississippi police officer also died, at the end of a six-hour stand-off related to a domestic dispute.

Mass shootings are one part of America’s gun violence problem

On the whole, regardless of differences in classification, deaths from mass shootings make up a small fraction of deaths from gun violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2013 alone, 33,636 people died in firearm deaths, or 92 people every day. But looking at 2013 data from the Mass Shooting Tracker, only 502 of those deaths — or 1.5 percent — were connected to mass shootings.

Most gun deaths in the United States (21,175 of 33,636 in 2013) are suicides. And most non-suicide deaths (11,208) are homicides. The rest are classified as accidents and police shootings. And while it’s true that homicide rates have reached historic lows, no other developed country in the world has the same rate of gun violence as America. The US has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, more than seven times the rate of Sweden, and nearly 16 times the rate of Germany, according to UN data compiled by the Guardian.

This is not to say that Americans shouldn’t care about mass shootings. But mass shootings are only one part of the equation in America’s ongoing problem with gun violence.

President Barack Obama Reveals Executive Actions on Gun Control During Emotional Press Conference

After weeks of speculation surrounding the possibility of President Barack Obama issuing executive actions on the nation’s dire need for a stronger focus on gun control, Obama revealed his plans to help reduce the prevalence of gun-related violence across the country. Ahead of the announcement, so-called gun rights activists immediately started to stir up controversy surrounding the possibility of stricter background checks for those wishing to purchase firearms. Obama, however, pushed forward with his initiative before ultimately revealing his plan during a White House press conference on Tuesday.

Mark Barden, the father of Sandy Hook victim Daniel Barden, introduced Obama and Vice President Joe Biden by reminding the nation that Obama previously “made a promise” that he would do “everything in his power” to keep the nation safe from preventable gun violence. “I still remember the first time we met,” Obama said to Barden when taking the podium. “That changed me that day and my hope earnestly has been that it would change the country.”

“Too many,” Obama said after recounting the recent outburst of mass shooting in the United States. “Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns. Suicides, domestic violence, gang shoot-outs, accidents. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters or buried their own children. Many have had to learn to live with a disability [or] without the love of their life. A number of those people are here today. They can tell you some stories. In this room right here, there are a lot of stories.”

“We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees that kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency,” Obama added, pointing to the notion that violence is not a uniquely American problem. “We start thinking this is normal.” Speaking directly to conspiracy theorists that continue to perpetuate the notion that Obama is somehow planning to do away with the Second Amendment outright, Obama hesitated very little in rebuking such falsities. “I taught constitutional law,” Obama quipped. “I know a little about this.”

Though background checks are required at designated “gun stores,” some gun sellers are not required to operate under the same set of quite reasonable rules. “Everyone should have to abide by the same rules,” Obama said. The POTUS even referenced some Republican rivals’ previous statements in apparent accord with the expansion of background check requirements, including two particularly unlikely sources: George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

“I reject that thinking,” Obama said in response to the “Why bother?” argument proposed by pacifists. “At the same time that Sandy Hook happened, a disturbed person in China took a knife and tried to kill a bunch of children,” Obama reminded the nation, “but most of them survived because he didn’t have access to a powerful weapon.”

Until Congress acts appropriately on the issue of gun law reform, Obama is confident his decision to use his legal authority of executive action to expand background checks to all forms of gun purchases (digital and physical) will help move gun control in the right direction in the years ahead. “We’re also taking steps to making the background check system more efficient,” Obama added. “We’re going to bring an outdated background check system into the 21st century.”

“If we can do it for your iPad,” Obama said of the ability to track a stolen iPad with ease from the comfort of one’s home, “[then] we can do it with a stolen gun.” Adding that some retailers have already “stepped up” to support these proposals, Obama asks all retailers to take the task of gun safety seriously. “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” Obama said of the horrific Sandy Hook massacre. “And, by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”