by Jeremy Morrison
Following the mass shooting in Orlando earlier this summer, Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, had a moment of pause. The announcement of his Full-Auto Fundraiser now seemed a little off, or at least awkwardly timed.
The senator decided to hold off. Forty-nine people had just been killed at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, with dozens more injured. The deadliest attack in the U.S. since Sept. 11, 2001. Dropping a Facebook post inviting folks to an arsenal-carnival of freakish proportions was probably in bad taste.
“I just felt it would be respectful,” Evers said of his decision to delay the fundraiser.
Instead, the longtime state legislator and current U.S. congressional candidate joined the rest of the country in mourning the Orlando tragedy.
“Next day, I made a donation down there to the fund to help the victims,” Evers said.
But soon enough, the conversation turned to guns, with President Barack Obama reminding everyone how the massacre was “the most deadly shooting in American history” and about “how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater or a nightclub.”
“And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be,” the president asked. “And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
This kind of talk tends to raise Evers’ hackles. Announcing his fundraiser now seemed not only appropriate, but perhaps even a necessary political retort or patriotic duty.
“When the president made it about an object,” Evers explained, “that’s when I became irate.”
So the senator proceeded to give away an AR-15 on the Fourth of July and then, earlier this month, announced his Pensacola fundraiser, during which donors will have the opportunity to “fire hundreds of rounds of ammunition from a selection of highly restricted assault rifles and machine guns.” Prizes will also be awarded for shooting “simulated terrorist targets.”
“What it gives to these people,” Evers said, explaining the allure of his fundraiser, “it gives them the added satisfaction of shooting something that they’re not able to shoot.”
While most of the guns on hand during the senator’s July 23 fundraiser are legal to own, it’s unlikely many people do — according to a press release from Evers’ congressional campaign, the selection will consist of machine guns grandfathered by the National Firearms Act due to their pre-1986 production, but wildly expensive because of their rarity.
“Weapons probably they’ll never be able to fire again,” Evers said.
Among the guns available for shooting during the fundraiser will be an M16 rifle and an Ingram MAC-10 and MAC-11. Such guns were produced for military use, with the M16 inspiring the civilian version AR-15 — a gun that has emerged as the poster child of the gun debate.
The argument against guns such as the semiautomatic AR-15 is that they allow a shooter to fire too rapidly, causing much more carnage than would otherwise be possible. Evers disagrees, pointing out that civilians could have practical reasons to have such a weapon.
“The AR-15 is a sport rifle,” the senator said. “If you’re trying to shoot varmints, which is exactly what the AR-15 was designed for, then yes.”
One gun listed in the fundraiser announcement, the KRISS Vector submachine gun, is not legal to own: “Don’t like this one too much,” the press release informs, “because you can’t own one, this is for military and police only.”
The fundraiser looks to be aiming for quite a haul. To fire all six machine guns on hand, participants will be spending $2,700. Firing four of the machine guns costs $1,500, while at the low end folks can shoot small arms for $25 (but the ammo’s not supplied at that level).
With the topic of guns ever present in headlines, and the Orlando shooting barely a month in the rearview, Evers’ fundraiser has generated some pushback.
“I took a lot of ridicule about sensitivity — ‘was I insensitive?’” the senator said.
Evers explained that he did not connect guns to the attack in Orlando. The senator equated guns to any other object that could potentially do harm.
“I saw an explosive that was made from just household chemicals,” Evers said. “Do we try to do away with household chemicals? Do you take away household chemicals?”
The senator’s fundraiser will take place July 23, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Pensacola Indoor Shooting Range. Hamburgers and hot dogs will be served.