GOP Candidate Brad Staats Takes Controversial Aim at Obama’s ‘Guns or Religion’ Remark on Facebook

A Republican candidate for Congress posted a photo of a handgun and the greeting "welcome to Tennessee Mr. Obama."

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This photo was posted on the Brad Staats for Congress Facebook page.

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A Republican candidate for Congress is taking the heat for a controversial Facebook post of a handgun and the greeting "welcome to Tennessee Mr. Obama."

But Brad Staats, who wants to represent the Nashville area in the 5th Congressional District, said he wasn't threatening the President with the picture of a silver and black Colt semi-automatic pistol.

Staats, a conservative small businessman, is already locked in a tough challenge against U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a five-term Democratic incumbent.

"Absolutely not. I'm not one of those that would ever threaten the President," Staats, 43, told The Tennessean newspaper Monday. He's probably got enough of his own stuff to worry about without me."

Staats was giving his opinion Friday on the Second Amendment, which gives Americans the right to keep and bear arms.

"Apparently Tennesseans are part of that crazy crowd that Obama says 'cling to their religion and guns,'" Staats wrote on Facebook with the picture of the pistol. "Well, then I must be part of that crazy crowd. Here is something that I usually have with me. Welcome to Tennessee Mr. Obama, where we appreciate our 2nd Amendment rights and the Constitution that was wisely given to us by our founding fathers."

Obama made the "guns or religion" remark when he was running for his first-term in 2008 and was speaking to supporters at a private fund-raiser about working class people in small town America, who've lost jobs, the Huffington Post reported.

"It's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations," Obama said at the time.

A Secret Service spokesman told The Tennessean they are aware of Staats' post and "will conduct any appropriate follow-up if necessary."

Staats, an NRA member, claimed Monday that the post was his take on the U.N. Small Arms Treaty, which regulates the trade of illicit guns, and his belief it will take away Second Amendment rights.

His original post, however, didn't mention the treaty.

It received more than 200 "likes" as of Tuesday, with one person commenting that "I'm glad to see someone in politics standing up for our rights."

Other Facebook users said Staats should be "ashamed" of what he wrote.

By Erik Ortiz / New York Daily News