Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams says he will give away a bump fire stock to show “solidarity with gun owners across the nation.”
The devices, which are also known as bump stocks and allow semi-automatic weapons to fire at a rapid pace, became the focus of a public debate on gun violence in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, which left 58 people dead. The shooter used bump stocks to increase the carnage, authorities have said.
“The tragedy in Las Vegas broke my heart, but any talk of banning or regulating bump stocks is merely cheap political lip service from career politicians. In reality, the bump stock is the new, shiny object politicians are using to deceive voters into believing they are taking action against gun violence,” Williams, a Georgia state senator, said in a statement. “Many firearms experts determined the Las Vegas shooter’s use of a bump stock actually prevented more casualties and injuries due to its inconsistency, inaccuracy, and lack of control.”
Williams did not cite any experts to back up that claim in the statement, but his office, citing a post by LegallyArmedAmerica.com, later explained the comment by saying bump stocks can diminish accuracy.
He added there is “zero evidence” to suggest a ban on bump stocks would prevent gun violence deaths, saying “liberals and Hollywood elites” were attacking the rights of Georgia gun owners. He instead placed the onus on needing to address mental health issues and inner-city violence.
“If politicians wanted to have a real conversation on reducing gun violence, they would be discussing mental health awareness and ways to reduce the weekly bloodbath in Chicago and other inner cities,” he said. “Blaming guns or bump stocks for the actions of a lunatic is the same as blaming McDonald’s for heart disease.”
Williams faces other well known GOP primary candidates in the race. He previously drew controversy during his candidacy after he participated in an “anti-Sharia” march earlier this summer and was photographed with a Georgia militia. Williams’ campaign said he posed for the photograph because the members looked like pro-gun supporters. And following the Charlottesville protests, which led to one woman’s death, Williams questioned a fellow gubernatorial candidate’s views on the preservation of Confederate monuments.
“I want to know where (Democratic Rep. Stacey Abrams) draws the line,” he said. “Will she demand we blow up the Jefferson Memorial and knock down the Washington Monument?”
And in the hours following the Las Vegas shooting, Williams asked which NFL players would be taking a knee to honor law enforcement following the shooting.
Williams’ views are at odds with some in his own party in Washington, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Concern over the use of bump stocks spans across political parties. Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo introduced legislation earlier this month restricting the use of the devices, and regarding examining the legality of the devices, Ryan said that “clearly, that’s something we need to look into.” The National Rifle Association has said the devices should be subject to further regulation but said it is opposed to a legislative fix.
This story has been updated to reflect comment from Williams’ office.
CNN’s Sophie Tatum contributed to this report.