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Gun-toting Santa billboard creates controversy; gun shop manager says lighten up

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So much for jolly ol’ Saint Nick … except for Americans who find happiness in a warm gun?

A billboard in Charlotte, N.C., that depicts Santa Claus holding a military-style assault rifle is creating plenty of controversy.

The sign reads: “Santa knows what you really want.”

With the focus coming on the heels of the deadly terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., that claimed 14 lives, an attack by a Muslim couple armed with assault rifles, critics have been quick to condemn the ad.

Others express concern that the ad could send the wrong message to kids.

Blackstone Shooting Sports, a local retail gun store that offers an indoor shooting range and firearms training, is behind the billboard, figuratively speaking.

“Santa Claus is synonymous with the holiday season,” store manager Guy Santiago told NBC Charlotte. “We thought the ad would be amusing and that our customers and potential customers would get a kick out of it.”

As for originality, a California gun range was in the news last year for a similar billboard that showed Santa holding an assault rifle. The ad included the slogan: “We build AR’s for Santa.”

Tom Tillison

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