Gun club photos slammed as heresy

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A US gun club is offering children a chance to pose for photos, such as the one shown here, with Santa while holding pistols and assault rifles.

The gun in front of Santa is an $80,000 (£50,000) machine gun. Next to it is a tripod-mounted rifle. In another of the pictures, 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 opportunity 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 was not 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 photographs are not loaded and have had their firing pins removed, and their chambers are regularly cleared to ensure safety, Mr Kennedy said.

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.”