Thursday 22 February 2018

Santa's machine gun grotto surprise

Santa and some of his machine-gun toting helpers in a US gun club photo shoot (AP)
Santa and some of his machine-gun toting helpers in a US gun club photo shoot (AP)

A US gun club is offering children a chance to pose for photos with Santa while holding pistols and assault rifles.

One image shows Santa in a wingback chair with a snowflake background, a Christmas tree behind him and flanked by an 80,000 dollar (£50,000) machine gun and a tripod-mounted rifle. Next to him is a man standing behind a boy, who is holding an unloaded AR-15 with an attached grenade launcher.

In another, Santa cradles a toddler dressed in camouflage, while a man and woman stand close by with rifles with foldable stocks. In yet another, five beaming young ladies pose with AR-15, an AK-47 variant and other rifles.

Ron Kennedy, general manager of the Scottsdale Gun Club in Arizona, said the business got the idea for the photo op last year when a club member happened to come in dressed as Santa and other members wanted their picture taken while they were holding their guns.

"Our customers have been looking for a fun and safe way to express their holiday spirit and passion for firearms," said Mr Kennedy, noting people have used the photos for Christmas cards and Facebook posts.

Mr Kennedy, whose club offers guns for sale and rental and has a 32-lane indoor shooting range, said the event wasn't aimed at children, but the club supports the right of parents to include their children in the photos and believes that is a personal choice.

The guns used in the photos are not loaded and have had their firing pins removed, and their chambers are regularly cleared to ensure safety, Mr Kennedy said.

To buy a semi-automatic rifle in the United States, a prospective purchaser must be at least 18 years old and cannot be a convicted felon. The requirements for prospective buyers of fully automatic machine guns include being at least 21 years old, not being a convicted felon and getting a special licence from federal firearms agents.

Democratic state Representative Steve Farley, who proposed an unsuccessful ban on large-capacity gun magazines like the one used in the January mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six people and wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others, said the gun club's photo op was inappropriate.

"To involve machine guns and Santa in a celebration in the birth of Jesus Christ is the worst kind of heresy I can imagine," he said. "I would suggest that the people who created this read some of the New Testament."

Press Association

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