SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Here’s a Christmas gift that won’t be coming in Santa’s sleigh — a 9 mm handgun that a Utah gun group plans to giveaway to celebrate the success of its new online firearms classified page.
The Utah Gun Exchange was created by Nick Moyes and three of his friends earlier this month to fill the void left when KSL-TV temporarily suspended firearms listings on its popular classifieds website after the Connecticut school shooting.
KSL officials said they felt it was appropriate to halt gun ads during a time of national mourning.
Moyes’ site already has 600 firearms listings, and hopes it becomes a place for responsible, polite Utah gun owners to unite.
“If we can be a good ambassador for the gun community and put on a good face for the gun community in light of these tragedies, we are happy to step up to the plate,” said Moyes, 31, a concealed firearms permit instructor from Saratoga Springs, Utah.
The Utah Gun Exchange group will be picking “one lucky winner” among some 7,000 people who have “liked” their Facebook page and are 21 years or older. The winner must pass the requisite government background check.
The winner will receive a Sig P2022 9 mm handgun with a mounted laser. There is no significance to the gun, other than the fact that it was inexpensive and cool, Moyes said.
Moyes says the gun is used by French police, and was the one pulled out of a safe by fictional character Jason Bourne in the “Bourne Identity” movie.
The gun giveaway is callous and offensive, said Abby Spangler, founder of Alexandria, Va.-based Protest Easy Guns. The national group advocates for a law that would require background checks on all weapons sold in the United States, including in private sales.
“Flags are still at half-mast as our nation grieves,” Spangler said. “For this to happen is like throwing acid on the heart of the American people.”
Moyes knows there will be backlash to the Christmas-day fun giveaway but said he and the other founders will just keep a smile on and continue to educate. Their goal is not to make everyone have a gun, but ensure that people that want to have them continue to have that right.
Like the NRA and other gun advocates, Moyes said guns don’t cause mass shootings like the one that took the lives of 20 schoolchildren and six adults on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Among the victims was 6-year-old Emilie Parker, who was laid to rest Saturday at a funeral in Ogden, Utah.
“Whether it’s a knife, or a gun or car, evil things happen,” Moyes said. “Evil exists. We want people that understand that to have the resources and the ability to protect and defend themselves and their families.”
As evidence, Moyes cites an incident that occurred in central China on the same day as the Connecticut shooting. A knife-wielding man injured 22 children and one adult outside a primary school in what was the latest in a series of periodic rampage attacks at Chinese schools and kindergartens.
But Spangler cited the same incident as proof that more gun laws are needed. The fact that none of the victims died shows that guns magnify the death toll when deranged people go on the attack.
“We’re not against law-abiding gun owners,” Spangler said. “We are against dangerous individuals having easy access to guns.”
No KSL executives were available for comment on Monday. Firearms listings on the KSL webpage remain suspended with a note explaining the decision.
“In the wake of this and other similar incidents, important questions have been raised about the ease of access to guns,” the message reads. “These questions deserve time for careful consideration and we are confident that an appropriate resolution will be found.”
Moyes said has no ill will toward KSL, but said his site is prepared to take the mantle from the TV station if it decides to permanently suspend firearms listings.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)