By Mike Ward
Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday cancelled a shotgun giveaway contest in his re-election campaign amid controversy after a gunman killed 10 people and injured 13 others at a high school south of Houston.
Campaign officials said the giveaway has been changed to a $250 gift card redeemable for any kind of merchandise, not the $250 gift certificate redeemable for a Texas-made shotgun at a licensed gun dealer in Central Texas.
The gunman used a Remington 870 shotgun and a .38-caliber pistol in the attack Friday at Santa Fe High School, authorities said.
Abbott's giveaway -- many Texas politicians annually auction and giveaway shotguns and hunting rifles as part of their campaigns -- had drawn controversy over the weekend after door hangers advertising the giveaway were distributed in western Travis County as part of door-to-door campaigning, quickly touching off complaints on social media.
The Austin chapter of March for Our Lives -- the gun control initiative started by students in Parkland, Fla., after a school shooting there -- blasted Abbott on Twitter. "To put it bluntly, we find this a disgusting display of the disregard of the toll gun violence and an absolute failure to respect your constituents in the wake of the #SantaFe shootings," the group said in a tweet.
The contest quickly became a national buzz on social media.
Abbott soon modified his campaign website to remove the shotgun offer, and later changed it to the $250 gift card with no mention of a shotgun.
The governor on Sunday attended a church service memorial in Santa Fe for the victims of Friday's shooting.
Abbott campaign officials said the governor has sponsored shotgun giveways before, like many Texas politicians, including a raffle in October 2015 in his first year as governor.
Matthew Hogenmiller, head event organizer for March for Our Lives ATX that had blasted Abbott's shotgun giveaway, said Abbott was correct in dropping the contest.
"We are happy that the governor has canceled his shotgun giveaway," the group said in a statement. "It is our understanding that the money that would have gone to the shotgun, will instead be distributed in the form of a gift card. However, we continue to plead that the money given to the winner is instead donated to the survivors' funds in Santa Fe."
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