A planned appearance by the president of the National Rifle Association, not far from the site of a Kentucky school shooting, is stirring controversy, The Paducah Sun reports.
The 16th annual "Night Before Fancy Farm" rally will begin at 7 p.m. Aug. 3 in the Lovett Auditorium of Murray State University. It's an annual event hosted by GOP members in Marshall and Calloway counties, and used as a fundraiser for Republican candidates in both counties.
This year's main speaker will be Lt. Col. Oliver North, president of the National Rifle Association, said Danny Holt, chairman of the Marshall County Republican Party.
The choice has stirred controversy in light of the Marshall County High School shooting earlier this year.
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One Marshall High teacher and shooting survivor, Chris Kerrick, took to social media to voice his concerns. Kerrick, who teaches U.S. government at the high school, posted a letter on the MCRP's Facebook page, asking members to cancel the event.
When the letter was repeatedly removed - Kerrick posted it three times on the group's page - he reposted it on his own page.
"They have the right to delete my comment," Kerrick said during an interview with The Sun. "I wish they wouldn't have."
In his letter, Kerrick wrote that he feels the Marshall Republicans missed an opportunity for a respectful debate about the issue.
"This is NOT about taking away guns," Kerrick wrote in his letter. "This is about respect and empathy for all those affected by January 23 and not inviting an organization that has never worked to be part of the solution.
"I, along with my own children and colleagues, have seen horrific things," Kerrick continued, "and this seems nothing more than a flippant 'who cares because our guns are more important.'"
The letter, in full, can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ckerrick/posts/10156200025510985.
Holt said Kerrick is entitled to his opinion, but called the writing "rhetoric" and added the letter seems to contradict itself. Kerrick wrote that his problem is not with the NRA and guns, but Holt believes that Kerrick has a very clear "pet peeve" against the organization.
"I don't know what Chris Kerrick's problem is," Holt said. "He double-speaks everything he puts on there."
When asked about choosing North to speak, Holt said it was the decision of a committee. Holt also stated the decision to ask North to speak was made two days prior to his appointment as president of the NRA.
"When we first talked about it, I did not know that he had been elected or was in the running to be elected," Holt said.
He said North was chosen due to his impressive qualifications, which include working with the National Security Council, his high level of military decoration as a Marine, his work with Fox News and the fact that he founded Freedom Alliance. Holt added that North will be "tremendously received in a positive way."
Kerrick said his problem isn't with the NRA or gun control, but that the MCRP chose North regardless of the controversial statement it would make.
"It's not empathetic for those who lived through (the shooting) and witnessed it firsthand," Kerrick told The Sun.
Organizers of the March for Our Lives rally are planning a peaceful protest outside the GOP event, starting at 5 p.m. Its rally description reads: "Join our student activists from Marshall County High School, Murray High School, and Calloway County High School in saying NO to Oliver North and NO to NRA influence in our political process."