Used-car dealers are never short on goofy sales gimmicks to attract customers.
They’ve been known to give away free cars, ride on the back of an Orca, and hire verbally challenged sports stars.
Mike Hagan, the owner of Hagan’s Motor Pool Auto Repair and Sales in Rochester, New Hampshire, has gone several steps further with a new campaign involving a notorious weapon.
His pitch: “Buy a car, get an AR.”
The marketing campaign was unveiled in May, but it has attracted new scrutiny in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Omar Mateen carried out his deadly attack on a nightclub in Orlando last week using a Sig Sauer MCX rifle. Authorities initially reported that the 29-year-old gunman had killed 49 people using an AR-15.
“Yet while the weapon is different,” writes The Washington Post’s Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “the MCX and the AR-15 share the same design purpose: providing a highly portable, customizable, easy to operate and accurate rifle for the individual who possesses it.”
Two days after the promotion began, Hagan’s began to advertise the giveaway on the dealership’s Facebook page.
“Need a car?” a promotional ad on Facebook states. “Want a free AR-15 also?”
“Get both at Hagan’s,” the ad continues. “Check out our “Featured Used Cars” page to see the vehicles that qualify. Only valid while stock of these rifles lasts. You must pass a background check. Other restrictions may apply. Call, email, or message us to get more information. Promotional weapon are not kept on premises.”
Hagan, a combat veteran who served in Afghanistan, told NH1-TV that the gun sale is done in conjunction with a local firearms store that completes the required background checks. He told the New York Daily News that car buyers send him their gun bills afterward and that AR-15s typically retail for about $500 in the area.
“This wasn’t started to make any sort of message or political statement,” he told the station. “It happened well before the terrible attacks in Orlando.”
“We’re giving these weapons away for people that can lawfully obtain them and we’re confident that they’re going to maintain them responsibly.”
Hagan told the station that the promotion has increased car sales. The Associated Press reported that Hagan has given away four AR-15s and one 9mm handgun, which Hagan also offers if customers decline the rifle.
“To me that’s just getting more of the nutjobs out to do even more harm to people that don’t deserve it,” Jen Marks, a local resident, told NH1-TV.
“My opinion – military and police are the only ones who should have them,” Lynn Pelletier, who lives in the area, added.
On Friday, Hagan wrote on Facebook that he’d had lots of “positive feedback” and “very little negativity coming our way.”
“Some of the negative feedback has accused me of being bigoted towards certain sexual orientations,” the post said. “Anyone who knows me, knows this is the farthest thing from the truth. I believe regardless of race, political affiliation…or any of that, you have a right do defend yourself. I believe in equality, and by learning how to properly and responsible operate a firearm you make yourself equal with all who would attempt to attack you.”
Hagan told NH1-TV that he isn’t worried about the possibility that the weapons from his giveaway will be used to harm the public. He told the station that he will refuse to sell someone a weapon if he gets an uneasy feeling about them.
“I could worry about the same thing with a car being used to hurt other people,” he said. “In the end, that kind of heinous crime is in the heart.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Peter Holley