A mall Santa lost his job and a young boy now has all the Nerf guns he could ever ask for after the NRA stepped in to reward the child’s tears from a viral Christmas video.
The video dates back to Dec. 6, when four-year-old Michael and his mom paid a visit to Santa Claus at the Harlem Irving Plaza mall in Norridge, Ill.
Video captured from the visit shows Michael sitting down to share his Christmas wish with Santa. His mom, Sabella DeCarlo, can be heard prodding him to come up with something.
“Um… maybe… a Nerf gun,” the boy says.
“No, no guns,” Santa replies. “Nope. Not even a Nerf gun. If your dad wants to get it for you that’s fine, but I can’t bring it to you.”
Santa asks the boy if he wants something else, such as Lego or toy cars.
Michael pauses, looks around, then bursts into tears, prompting his mom to rush in and comfort him. The child heaves and sobs while his mom holds him for about a minute. His little sister, who appears to be about one year old, can be seen sitting beside him.
The boy eventually stops crying and he and his little sister pose in front of Santa for a picture.
“I had to fight back tears right along with him,” DeCarlo later told ABC News.
The video sparked angry backlash from gun-lovers and several conservative opinion sites in the United States, while racking up millions of views on Twitter.
It also caught the attention of the NRA, which seized on the incident as an opportunity to win some publicity.
The NRA zeroed in on the mall Santa shortly after the video surfaced, tweeting: “All this little patriot wanted for Christmas was a Nerf gun, and this anti-gun mall Santa chose to push his anti-freedom beliefs on this little boy and made him cry.”
There is no evidence in the video to suggest the mall Santa hates freedom, or that the boy, 4, is especially patriotic.
Nevertheless, Michael has seen a parade of well-wishing Santa impersonators since the incident. Nerf-maker Hasbro sent him a gun, USA Today reports. The mall also dispatched a different Santa to deliver a Nerf gun and an apology to the family.
“The (Harlem Irving Plaza) and our third-party Santa company are deeply distraught and deeply apologetic about this unfortunate incident,” the mall said in a statement on its Facebook page Dec. 7. “Santa is heartbroken and crushed that he has made this child so sad and upset, and turned in his resignation. The Santa company will continue to remind all Santas how important it is not to impose personal opinions during visits with the children.”
The mall also shared a video of the “real” Santa delivering a Nerf gun to Michael.
The NRA sent another Santa — and a camera crew — to visit Michael a few days later. The gun-loving Santa delivered a full arsenal of foam firepower to the boy’s house. He also gave Michael, 4, a lifetime membership in the NRA.
The lobby group later turned the footage into a fundraiser for itself on social media.
“Mean Santa won’t be happy I have this,” the boy says in the commercial, before he’s shown gunning down the NRA Santa with a Nerf dart.
“The North Pole doesn’t need any Commies,” the NRA Santa says in the video.
The video ends with Michael’s parents, Sabella and Michael DeCarlo III, thanking their supporters for all the Nerf guns they’ve received. The couple says they’ll donate most of the gifts to “other little patriots in need.”
Michael’s dad says in the video that he is a police officer and a longtime NRA member.
The entire episode has been compared to A Christmas Story, the 1983 film in which a young boy begs his parents and Santa to give him a BB gun for Christmas.
“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” Santa tells him in the film, before kicking him down a slide. “Ho. Ho. Ho.”
The boy ends up getting the gun anyway — but perhaps he’d have gotten it sooner if he’d gone to the NRA.