A Colorado sheriff’s office has apologized for posting an “insensitive” image of Santa Claus getting a concealed handgun permit just days after four people were killed in the Michigan school shooting.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, based in Colorado Springs, tweeted an image Friday of a man who appeared to be Santa, with white hair, a white beard and red overalls, at the sheriff’s office with the caption, “Guess who came in to receive his concealed handgun permit today?”
The caption included the statistic that the sheriff’s office has issued 49,750 concealed handgun permits and that 2,560 more are waiting to be issued.
But the message didn’t sit well the public, especially in the wake of the Oxford High School shooting.
A Twitter user condemned the post, saying, “I’m sitting here in downtown Oxford, MI, waiting for the candlelight vigil to start to pay tribute to 4 students who were murdered by a handgun smuggled into the school. But by all means, tell kids Santa carries a concealed weapon.”
Another questioned the motivation for the post, asking, "What is your message to children here?Santa has a legally concealed weapon? For protection against elves, reindeer, children who take a peek on Xmas eve? There is enough anxiety among children already.”
Another Twitter user wrote: “The families of the kids slaughtered in Oxford, MI would like a word. My daughter, who’s best friend is fighting for his life due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound, would like one as well. This is a reason this keeps happening.”
Another Twitter user called out the agency by saying: “This really is in poor taste, EPSO.
"I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be anything other than fun, but with yet another school shooting this week, and loads of children worried about that, posting this furthers their fears. And turns parents off," the user wrote. "Please reconsider and apologize."
The tweet was shared over 3,000 times.
Three hours later on Friday, the sheriff’s office apologized.
"EPSO intended to highlight our staff in the Concealed Handgun Permit Office, not to be insensitive," it wrote. "Santa correlates to the month of December and we thought he would help to recognize our hard working staff."
El Paso County is no stranger to gun violence. Six people who died in what investigators believe was a murder-suicide at a birthday party in Colorado Springs this year were targeted by a family member’s disgruntled boyfriend, police said at the time.
The post isn’t the first to have riled users after last week's school shooting. A Kentucky lawmaker came under fire for his own Christmas post that highlighted guns, which critics slammed as offensive.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., shared a family Christmas photo on Twitter in which each family member held a long gun. The caption for the holiday message read, “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo.”
Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., tweeted: “Aren’t we in the season of peace and goodwill? What a repulsive, violent message especially in a week when we lost 4 students to gun violence in Michigan. Instead of wishing for ammo, how about working for gun safety so all our kids can be home for the holidays?”
A 15-year-old boy and his parents were arrested in the Michigan shooting. All have pleaded not guilty.