JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Austin Petersen, a candidate for U.S. Senate, has lost access to his Facebook account after he attempted to give away an AR-15 on his personal account last Friday as a part of his campaign for the office.

Since Facebook policies prohibit “The purchase, sale or trade of firearms, ammunition, and explosives between private individuals,” Facebook prevented him from having access to his account for 30 days and his promotion was taken down.

Petersen attempted to entice his followers to sign a petition in support of gun rights and promised to give away an AR-15. “That’s why, when you add your name to this petition and stand up to defend the Second Amendment, we’ll add your name into a raffle to win an AR-15!” The promotion said. “Yes, it really is that simple; no strings attached.”

He sent an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and has been posting about Facebook’s decision on his official account.

He believes that he is being persecuted by Facebook for running against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill and points to campaign contributions to her campaign as evidence.

“It’s unclear to me why such content would warrant an immediate takedown and thirty-day ban,” his open letter says. “It’s difficult to ignore that this action comes during a period of heightened tension regarding Facebook’s role in our elections, and its perceived bias against conservative voices.”

Petersen rose to prominence in the 2016 campaign for president as he was the runner-up behind Gary Johnson in the Libertarian Party primary, calling himself a ‘freedom ninja.’

Michael Layer is a reporter for the Missouri Times and the Missouri Times Magazine. He joined the Missouri Times in August 2017 after graduating from Goucher College the previous May. To contact Michael, email or follow him on Twitter @_MichaelLayer