The owner of a Central Florida gun shop that recently declared itself a "Muslim-free zone" announced that he is teaming up with another Floridian, George Zimmerman, to raise funds for both of their legal bills by selling prints of Zimmerman's painting of a Confederate flag.
In a newly posted 10-minute "mini-documentary" about the burgeoning friendship between Zimmerman and Florida Gun Supply owner Andy Hallinan, the pair discussed how they believe "the media twists the truth" about them and argued that the Confederate flag must be defended by Americans against a "cultural cleansing" campaign waged by the media and the political elite.
Then, the pair announced that they are selling a series of prints of Zimmerman's Confederate flag painting, which includes the inscription, "The 2nd protects our 1st." Zimmerman described the inscription as a "double entendre."
"I was painting the American flag when I heard of you getting sued by CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), and I decided that I would do for you what the American people did for me," Zimmerman told Hallinan, in reference to his own fundraising campaign for a legal defense fund. In 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder charges for the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
The prints are going for about $50 each, and Zimmerman and Hallinan have promised to give the original painting away to one of the people who purchase a print. Most of the proceeds will be split between Zimmerman and Hallinan to use for legal bills and living expenses; an unspecified portion will go to the Boys and Girls Club.
"We'll see what the media does with this one," Hallinan said at the end of the video.
His gun shop is facing a federal lawsuit from the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, following Hallinan's July announcement that his gun store was becoming a "Muslim-free zone." He noted then that he "will not arm and train those who wish to do harm to my fellow patriots." In doing so, Hallinan "singled out Muslims as a group of people that it intends to treat differently," CAIR's complaint alleges.
The CAIR chapter has asked the U.S. District Court in Southern Florida for an injunction, which would prohibit Hallinan's shop from "discriminating against Muslims." CAIR also asked the judge to restrain the Florida Gun Supply "from instituting any policies or practices that discriminate or segregate people on the basis of religion, along with attorney's fees and costs."
As USA Today notes, Hallinan originally invited Hassan Shibly, executive director of CAIR in Florida, to come to the gun shop and talk with him about his "Muslim-free" declaration -- and to train to shoot with him; but Hallinan ended up backing off that invitation after "a flood of e-mails and calls from people that he said warned him that CAIR had been put on the United Arab Emirates' list of designated terrorist groups."
Although Hallinan has not yet filed a response to CAIR's complaint, his attorney, Robert Musie, told USA Today that "if there is anyone that is being turned away [at Florida Gun Supply], they are being turned away for public safety," and not for their religious beliefs. Musie called the lawsuit "bogus" and "frivolous."
Florida Gun Supply is one of a growing number of U.S. gun shops and clubs to have banned Muslims from shooting in recent months. Jan Morgan, the owner of Gun Cave Shooting in Hot Springs, Ark., announced last year that her range was "Muslim-free," a declaration that brought national attention to her business after an anonymous father and son of South Asian descent accused her of discriminating against them.
The men, who are Hindu, said they believed Morgan thought they were Muslim and turned them away because of that. Morgan said the father and son were engaging in "strange" behavior at her range, leading her to believe "these people might not be safe handling firearms in this range," she previously told The Post.
Morgan said she runs her business as a "private club," giving her the discretion to turn away applicants who, she believes, may pose a safety threat to her members. In April, the Justice Department said it was monitoring the range; as of late July, the department said it has no plans to investigate Morgan's business.
After the deadly shooting last month at a military recruiting station and a reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, another gun business in Oklahoma also declared that it will not let Muslims train at its range. "I didn't want any terrorists, or Muslims, cult, whatever you want to call them, training on my gun range," Chad Neal, owner of Save Yourself Survival and Tactical Gear, told the Religion News Service, "There is a military recruiting station in the mall in Muskogee, and I thought this was one thing I could do to help protect our local soldiers."
In the new Florida video, Hallinan said Zimmerman called "shortly after I published my 'Muslim-free' zone video, to support me." Hallinan added that his "friend" also called to "warn me about how the media was going to portray me." The two men believe they are fighting on the same side in a battle pitting "patriots" against "evil," with the winner gaining control over America's future.
In one portion of the video, Hallinan condemned a recent wave of support for the removal of Confederate flags, statues and building names from public land in the United States -- a push that began in response to the shootings inside a historic African American church in Charleston, South Carolina.
"The history of the Confederate flag is not one about racism," Hallinan said, adding that he condemns the use of the flag to represent anything other than "heritage and Southern pride." Those who want to remove it from the public view, he added are guilty of participating in a "cleansing" campaign.
"You know who else cleansed the history? Stalin. Hitler. And these people," Hallinan said. The video then cut to a Fox News clip showing Islamic State fighters.
In a statement announcing the sale of Zimmerman's prints, Hallinan said that he believes equating the Confederate battle flag with racism is unfair. "You cannot assume everyone who flies a Confederate flag is racist in the same way that you cannot judge every Muslim to be a terrorist, or every gun owner to be a serial killer," he wrote.
© 2015, The Washington Post.