Sportman's Elite, a local sporting goods retailer that sells firearms and hunting equipment in El Paso, Texas, will be giving away a semi-automatic handgun to one of its Facebook fans once the page reaches 300 "likes."
The promotional event was announced Wednesday evening on the store's Facebook page with a picture of a Kel-Tec .380 ACP pistol. "Here's the gun," the post read, saying that it would be "free to one our friends on Facebook when we hit 300 likes!"
"We are over halfway there," the message concluded, telling prospective customers to "share this post and try to keep your shares in El Paso."
A sales associate who declined to give his name but said he came up with the idea for the Facebook promotion confirmed that "just one" handgun would be given away in the current social media campaign. "The idea is to generate likes," he said in a phone call to the store. "Once we reach 300, we'll draw from that pool to give out the prize."
"We will obviously be doing a full background check and complying with all applicable federal laws, including a full federal background check," he added.
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"This is the first time I've seen this happen," Andrew Polk, a webmaster and online coordinator for several local newspapers and business publications in El Paso, said of the social media giveaway. He added that while other guns have been promoted on the business' Facebook page, items featured in giveaways have traditionally been other sporting goods equipment such as game bags, hats, and coupons.
Late last month, Electronic Arts removed a promotion for weapon and firearm sales from the website for its upcoming military shooter "Medal of Honor" after facing an intense backlash from critics and fans. The difference with Sportman's Elite, however, is that the company already explicitly trades in firearms and real-world sporting equipment. And earlier in August, "Likes" themselves were determined to be worthy of protection as free speech, raising the question of how First Amendment and Second Amendment rights will converge on social media in coming years.
"It makes sense in a way," Polk said of the social media promotion, since the store is "trying to amp up towards a bigger 'like' number. But I could understand why other people would be up in arms -- no pun intended!"
By mid-afternoon Thursday, Sportman's Elite had 166 "likes" on its Facebook page.