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US Representative Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) set off a firestorm online by posting a Christmas photo in which he and his wife and children are holding semi-automatic rifles.

Massie tweeted the photo on Friday in the form of a Christmas card, showing himself and other family members armed with military-style rifles. The caption said, “Merry Christmas! P.S.: Santa, please bring ammo.” Massie is shown holding an M60 machine gun, while his youngest daughter holds what appears to be an Uzi.

The Twitter message accumulated about 28,000 “likes” within four hours of being posted. It also drew heavy backlash from critics, many of whom argued that the tweet was offensive, especially coming just four days after four students were killed and seven people were injured in a Michigan school shooting.

Gun control activist Fred Guttenberg pointed to an earlier school shooting – the February 2018 massacre in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead, including Guttenberg’s daughter. “Since we are sharing family photos, here are mine,” Guttenberg tweeted. “One is the last photo that I ever took of Jaime. The other is where she is buried because of the Parkland school shooting.”

Faced with backlash, Massie fired back at his detractors. Responding to one critic — who said, “The bar was on the floor, but somehow you managed to tunnel underneath it” – Massie replied, “The BAR is under the couch,” apparently referring to the acronym for the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle, a legendary series of guns used by US troops for more than 50 years.

The congressman has courted controversy in the past. After the US Capitol riot last January, he tweeted that the incident proved that members of Congress should be allowed to carry firearms to work. “Several of us were glad to be armed while barricaded for hours in our offices with our staff,” he said.

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