Nashville politician Andy Ogles defends photo of him and his family brandishing guns

A Republican politician who represents the Nashville district where six people were killed in a school shooting has defended a controversial photo of him and his family brandishing assault rifles.

Pro-gun congressman Andy Ogles is pictured with his wife, daughter and two sons in front of their Christmas tree. The only person not posing with a firearm is his youngest child.

Representative Ogles, who has faced criticism from gun control supporters and Democrats over the 2021 picture, has since deleted it from his Facebook account.

When asked by Sky's US correspondent James Matthews if he regretted the social media post, the congressman replied: "Why would I regret a photograph with my family exercising my rights to bear arms?"

He then refused to explain why he had removed the photo from Facebook since the Nashville shooting, but not after previous school attacks.

On his website, Mr Ogles states: "The rights of the people to keep and bear arms, protect themselves and their families, and prevent tyrannical rule is a fundamental liberty of our constitutional republic."

After Monday's shooting by Audrey Hale at the Covenant School, Mr Ogles released a statement saying said he was "devastated" by the attack which killed three children and three adults.

"We are sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of those lost," Mr Ogles said. "As a father of three, I am utterly heartbroken by this senseless act of violence."

But gun control advocates then dug into his social media history, highlighting the festive post of his family displaying heavy weaponry.

The caption on the post read: "The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honour with all that's good."

Highlighting the same photo, Democrat representative Veronica Escobar tweeted: "How much more bloodshed will it take?"

"It's. The. Guns," she added.

Fred Guttenberg, a gun control supporter whose 14-year-old child was killed in the 2018 Parkland school shooting in Florida, also hit out at Mr Ogles.

"The tragedy of the latest mass shooting is listening to Tennessee politicians who refuse to call it a shooting but who engaged in behaviour that caused this to be more likely when they glorify guns," Mr Guttenberg tweeted.

Read more:
What we know about killer Audrey Hale
Video of Nashville school killer entering building
Why Nashville tragedy could have been even worse

When asked whether there should be any congressional action in the wake of the mass shooting, Mr Ogles said: "We don't want to jump to any conclusions. There's still a lot more information about this case that hasn't been let out to the public."

"Ultimately I think what this does is highlight some of the mental health issues, the mental health crisis we have in this country that needs to be the real conversation we're having right now," he added.

Monday's attack was stopped when the attacker, Audrey Hale, was shot dead by officers. Bodycam footage of that moment has been released by police.