By Michael Cass, The Tennessean
A candidate who's seeking to represent Nashville in Congress posted a photo of his gun and a pointed message for President Barack Obama on his campaign Facebook page.
Brad Staats, the Republican nominee challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper in the 5th Congressional District election, posted the picture of the silver and black Colt 911 semi-automatic pistol on Friday. Under it he wrote:
"Many people in Tennessee keep asking me about my opinion on Second Amendment rights. Apparently Tennesseans are part of that crazy crowd that Obama says 'cling to (their) religion and guns.' Well, then I must be part of that crazy crowd. Here is something that I usually have with me. Welcome to Tennessee Mr. Obama."
In remarks at a California fund-raiser in 2008 that he didn't know were being recorded, Obama offered the opinion that frustrated voters in towns struggling to recover from losing jobs a generation ago often "get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion."
Staats said he was not threatening Obama, who is seeking re-election this year.
"Good Lord, no," he said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. "Absolutely not. I'm not one of those that would ever threaten the president. He's probably got enough of his own stuff to worry about without me."
Max Milien, a spokesman for the United States Secret Service, which is responsible for the president's security, had little to say about the post.
"We're aware of it, and we will conduct any appropriate follow-up if necessary," Milien said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee declined to comment. Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Metro Police Department, said he hadn't seen the post.
"If there were a potential threat against the administration or a member of the administration, it would be passed on to the Secret Service," Aaron said.
A spokesman for the Tennessee Democratic Party and a spokeswoman for Cooper's campaign also declined to comment.
'Likes' on Facebook
Staats said he took the test required of Tennessee residents who want to obtain a handgun carry permit earlier this year and has been a member of the National Rifle Association for several years. He said he carries his gun for protection.
"There are just a lot of law-abiding citizens here that carry their guns," Staats said. "There are a lot of people in Tennessee that believe in their Second Amendment rights."
Twenty-three people had "liked" Staats' Facebook post by 4 p.m. Monday. His campaign page had been "liked" by 453 people on Facebook.
After Tennessean.com wrote a story about the post Monday afternoon, Staats linked to the story from his campaign page and wrote: "So the Tennessean took one of my posts and called it a threat to Barack Obama, which was completely taken out of context. My post from Friday was regarding the fact that the UN Small Arms Treaty, passed last week will undermine our Second Amendment Rights."
The original Facebook post made no mention of the treaty, although Staats said during the interview that it was prompted by that pact. A United Nations news release on Sept. 7 said the international organization's Review Conference on Illicit Small Arms Trade had renewed its "commitment to preventing, combating and eradicating the illicit trade" of small arms and light weapons.
In another post Monday, Staats linked to a YouTube video and wrote, "Is our current administration filled with traitors? Is our president a traitor? Is Barak (sic) Hussein Obama qualified to be president? Watch this EXCELLENT video and tell me. Remember, to our knowledge, Jim Cooper has signed off on every major piece of legislation that the current administration has proposed, even after he said he would not. Thank you Mr. Cooper ..."