Andy Hallinan said he doesn't want to hurt any of America's leading Democrats, but he did put their faces on shooting targets sold through his Citrus County gun shop.
He said he's trying to show just how far the First Amendment can go. Critics, however, aren't convinced. They're calling for the U.S. Attorney's Office to bring federal charges against the 29-year-old gun enthusiast.
The targets are among Florida Gun Supply's top sellers on the Inverness store's website. They feature President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders with a bullseye in the center of their faces.
"It doesn't matter what you believe in America," Hallinan said Wednesday, "as long as it's not harmful to other people."
But Florida's Council on American-Islamic Relations called the targets "de-facto" threats that merit federal charges.
"Andy violated federal law by conveying a threat against the President of the United States," CAIR-Florida spokesman Wilfredo Amr Ruiz said in an email statement. "Promoting and selling a bulls-eye print of President Obama is not freedom of speech. Andy is inciting violence targeting the President."
Hallinan isn't too bothered by CAIR's call for his prosecution. He said the U.S. Constitution protects him against being arrested for the targets because he is not a "credible threat."
He's already faced CAIR in a courtroom. The organization sued him last year after he declared his store a "Muslim-free zone." A federal judge dismissed the suit in November because the complaint contained "only bald, conclusory allegations devoid of factual enhancement," according to the order.
Hallinan said the Secret Service visited his store Wednesday, after the targets started drawing a lot of attention online. They first went on sale in mid-April.
A Secret Service spokesman said he couldn't confirm or deny investigators visited the store, because the agency doesn't comment on protective intelligence investigations.
The story of how the targets came to be actually started a few weeks ago in Massachusetts, where Hallinan was attending a Second Amendment rally in early April. There, he spotted a car bumper covered with pro-Sanders stickers.
He took his own "Muslim-free zone" stickers (he moistened them with water so they'd be easy to take off) and used them on to cover the Bernie stickers. He posed for a photo, which went viral.
Hallinan got put on a "Bern notice," he said, and his businesses flooded with calls from unhappy Sanders supporters.
So he decided to "apologize" via a Youtube and Facebook video.
"Here I am, for the very first time, ever, apologizing for my actions," he said in the video. "I am very sorry I didn't tell you about our new targets sooner."
Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] or (813) 226-3400. Follow @sara_dinatale.