National News

Texas Governor Scraps Campaign Contest to Give Away Shotgun

Posted May 21, 2018 4:46 p.m. EDT

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas’ re-election campaign scrapped its plan to give away a shotgun in a contest after a high school student used a shotgun and a handgun to kill 10 people in the state Friday.

The campaign created its contest in early May, well before Santa Fe High School, about 35 miles southeast of Houston, became the nation’s latest scene of bloodshed inside a school. Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, has been charged with capital murder in the killing of 10 people.

Instead of a shotgun, the campaign will now give away a $250 gift certificate. Over the weekend, the campaign’s website removed an image of the governor aiming a shotgun along with the text: “Win a Texas-made shotgun!”

“We changed it because of the events on Friday,” said John Wittman, a campaign spokesman.

Such giveaway contests are common in political campaigns, which hope to build interest in the candidate and add a few email addresses for their mailing lists. But the timing irked gun control advocates, including the Austin, Texas, chapter of March For Our Lives, the student organization that formed after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in February.

“To put it bluntly, we find this a disgusting display of disregard of the toll gun violence takes and an absolute failure to respect your constituents in the wake of the #SantaFe shootings,” the group said Saturday in a statement on Twitter.

Abbott has long supported gun ownership, earning an “A” rating and an endorsement from the National Rifle Association in 2014.

After the Parkland shooting, Abbott called for improving background checks on gun buyers and better identification of mental health issues.

“It’s clear that the status quo is unacceptable, and everybody in every state must take action,” he said in February, according to The Texas Tribune.

While more than half of Texans want some form of stricter gun control, according to an October poll by the University of Texas and The Tribune, there’s little agreement on the main cause of shootings. Abbott plans to convene round-table discussions this week to discuss gun violence in schools, but the debate is expected to be far more muted than it was in Florida, and dominated by support for gun rights.