The Norman Transcript

February 18, 2013

Gun raffles stoke debate after shooting

By Lynne Tuohy
The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. — Police chiefs in New Hampshire wanted more money for their youth training program. A youth hockey team in North Dakota needed more ice time.

Both saw giving away guns as the answer.

From car dealerships to political parties to hockey teams to yes, even police chiefs, gun giveaways are an attractive way to make money or draw in customers. But in the wake of the deadly shooting rampage in a Connecticut elementary school, such raffles are drawing criticism as the ease of obtaining firearms fuels gun-control debates nationwide.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police is raffling off a gun every day in May, including a Ruger AR-15-style rifle with 30-round magazine similar to the one used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 20 children and six educators in December. The players in West Fargo’s Youth Hockey Association will raffle off 200 guns and an all-terrain vehicle next month. Up for grabs are shotguns, handguns hunting rifles and semi-automatic rifles.

Both were planned long before the shooting in Newtown invigorated calls for increased gun control. That didn’t stop critics from blasting the raffles as, at best, in poor taste and, at worst, criminal.

John Rosenthal, founder and director of the Massachusetts-based Stop Handgun Violence, called the chiefs’ raffle “insane” and “criminally irresponsible.”

“In 33 states, including Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, the winner of this AR-15 can turn around the same day and sell it to anyone without an ID or background check,” Rosenthal said. “They should cancel their raffle and give away a nice mountain bike or snowmobile.”

Jonathan Lowy, director of the legal action program at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said he knows of no state in which the raffle would be illegal. But “having these gun giveaways and gun raffles can trivialize the seriousness of firearms,” Lowy said.

In a letter posted on the chiefs association website, Salem Police Chief Paul Donovan extended his sympathies to the families of those killed in Newtown but stressed it and other tragic shootings “are contrary to lawful and responsible gun ownership.”

Donovan, who did not respond to interview requests, wrote that the raffle’s rules require winners meet all applicable state and federal laws, including background checks. The goal of the raffle — to raise $30,000 to offset the cost of the weeklong police cadet training academy — has already been met. The 1,000 raffle tickets, at $30 apiece, sold out last month.

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