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8th District Republican Party to raise money through gun raffle

SALISBURY — Less than a month after the school shooting that took the lives of 17 in Parkland, Florida, local Republicans are proceeding with a fundraiser to raffle 30 firearms in 30 days.

For $30 a ticket or $100 for four, the 8th District Republican Party is offering chances to win a firearm a day throughout the month of June. Winners can pick up their guns from Ed’s Gun Shop in Vass in Moore County.

The guns, procured with party funds, range in value from $400 to $600. Proceeds will benefit Republican candidacies in state Senate and House races.

As many as 1,000 tickets will be sold and numbered 000 through 999, with winners selected using the N.C. Education Lottery’s Pick 3 numbers each day.

The first four guns to be distributed are AR-15s, the same type of gun used in the Florida shooting.

Some across the political aisle found the raffle insensitive given the current national debate about guns and school safety.

Scott Huffman, a Democratic candidate for the 8th Congressional District seat, said that while he supports the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, he doesn’t understand the thought process behind the raffle fundraiser.

“I just think it’s tragic that the Republican Party is using something like this as a means to generate funds, especially as soon as the tragedy that happened in Parkland,” he said. “ … Using guns that killed innocent children should not be the way at all.”

Kelsey Brown, chairman of the 8th District Republican Party, said the Parkland murders did not lead him and others to plan the fundraiser. But, he said, several factors led the party to proceed with it.

“We didn’t invent the wheel on this,” he said. “Several groups and municipalities do the same kind of raffle.”

Brown is right. Gun raffles are nothing new, nor are they unique to any particular political party.

Joe Fowler, a Democratic candidate in N.C. House District 76, held raffles for firearms during his work with the National Wild Turkey Federation.

One raffle, benefiting the Future Farmers of America, distributed three guns a day throughout the month of December, Fowler said.

“I understand both sides of it, and I’ve been on both sides my whole life,” said Fowler. “It’s not a one-faceted issue at all.”

Other Democrats have raised or plan to raise money in a similar manner. Irwin Carmichael, a Democrat running for re-election as sheriff in Mecklenburg County, had plans since November to raffle 15 firearms on Feb. 17.

The contest offered three semiautomatic, assault-style rifles, with tickets selling for $50 or three for $100.

Carmichael canceled his fundraiser on Feb. 15, the day after the Parkland shooting. In a statement, he said the raffle would not serve to advance the values close to his heart.

Brown said the 8th District Republican Party’s fundraiser was similarly long planned and therefore difficult to cancel or change.

“There was a lot of work involved in getting this together,” he said. “We’d put so much planning into this to get it all to fall in June.”

He said that the Parkland shooting would not have dissuaded him from buying a gun had he already planned to do so.

“I understand why some people are going to be sensitive, but those people are not going to be buying the tickets,” said Brown. “The people who are were going to be buying guns anyway.”

From his experience, Fowler agreed that last-minute cancellations of fundraisers can be difficult. But Marc Tiegel, another Democrat running for the 8th Congressional District seat, said there is more to be considered about the contest than insensitivity and logistics.

“I don’t see how this fosters responsible gun ownership,” said Tiegel. “I think we need to be having some real conversations rather than just gimmicky giveaways.”

Brown said raffle ticket buyers must be qualified to own guns in order to claim their prize. Otherwise, they would forfeit the firearm.

He said there needs to be meaningful conversations following the Parkland shooting.

“I think that guns are not the topic to be talking about,” he said. “It’s mental health. We need to take the stigma away from it. We need to understand it. … Stopping the sale of guns is not going to stop gun violence. Mental health is where our target should be.”

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8, agreed.

“There are people in our society who should not have access to guns — including convicted felons, noncitizens, convicted domestic abusers and those a judge has ruled are mentally unstable and shouldn’t possess a firearm,” Hudson said. “Having said that, there is nothing wrong with citizens exercising their God-given rights as protected by the U.S. Constitution. In fact, I intend to buy some raffle tickets myself.”

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