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Texas Man Kirk Franklin Shoots Himself Dead During NRA 500 NASCAR Race

NRA 500A Texas man used a gun to commit suicide on Saturday during a NASCAR race sponsored by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The Associated Press reports that 42-year-old Kirk Franklin of Saginaw, Texas shot himself in the head in the infield during the NRA 500 Sprint Cup race at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on Saturday. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner has ruled the death a suicide.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Franklin shot himself after an argument with other race spectators in the infield campground.

Fort Worth police spokeswoman Tracey Knight told reporters that alcohol could have been a contributing factor.

Race spectators were barred from bringing firearms to the event, and everyone entering the venue was subjected to a security search.

Saturday’s race marked the first time the NRA has sponsored a Sprint Cup event. According to Bleacher Report, the driver who wins the pole award at the event traditionally receives a shotgun, and the race winner receives a pair of revolvers and a cowboy hat.

From a marketing perspective, NRA sponsorship of such an event seems to make perfect sense.

“NRA members and NASCAR fans love their country and everything that is good and right about America,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre told CNN last month. “We salute our flag, volunteer in our churches and communities, cherish our families and we love racing.”

But the NRA sponsorship move comes during a period of intense gun control debate in the United States. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a gunman armed with a semiautomatic rifle killed 26 people, including 20 children, tens of millions of Americans have called for stricter gun control laws. The NRA, on the other hand, says the solution to the nation’s epidemic of gun violence is more guns.

Some gun control proponents were alarmed by the NRA’s sponsorship the Sprint Cup race.

“After the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators, the NRA has taken an unprecedented extreme position in the debate over the proper response to this tragedy, placing themselves at odds with the overwhelming majority of the American people, and even their own members,” Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT) wrote in a letter to NASCAR CEO Brian France. “Given the emotional state of the national conversation, I believe it would be imprudent for NASCAR to step into such a heated political debate and take sides in this debate by allowing the NRA the title role in the race.”

The NRA 500 was won by Kyle Busch.

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