Candidate raffles off assault rifle CAMPAIGN 1994

August 29, 1994|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Sun Staff Writer

A U.S. Senate candidate raffled off an assault rifle yesterday -- a weapon just days away from becoming illegal for sale nationwide -- to raise money for his campaign.

On a muggy Annapolis evening, Republican C. Ronald Franks stood outside Bob's Coins and Guns store and selected the winning ticket from among 3,769 stuffed inside a pretzel barrel.

The winner gets a Colt AR-15 H-BAR, a rifle that will be banned from sale, transfer and manufacture when President Clinton signs the crime bill after Labor Day.

Dr. Franks, a dentist and state delegate from the Eastern Shore, refused to reveal the winner's name to a handful of assembled reporters and campaign workers.

To protect that person's privacy, he only announced the winning ticket's number -- 03644. He said the winner will have to pick up the weapon from Bob's Coins and Guns.

The $5-a-ticket raffle drew fire yesterday from Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, a gun control group based in Baltimore.

"It is outrageous and totally irresponsible for an elected official or a candidate for elective office to auction off a weapon the United States Congress has declared a weapon of war and banned," said the group's executive director, Vincent DeMarco.

Congress may have voted to ban it under the assault weapons provision of the crime bill, but the AR-15 is no assault weapon, Dr. Franks contended.

The heavy-barreled semiautomatic rifle, like many similar weapons, has been wrongly labeled as an "assault weapon" just because it resembles one, he said.

The rifle has been the victim of stereotyping and discrimination, just as blacks and women, particularly blondes, have been, he told a reporter.

The AR-15 "just looks like a fully automatic assault weapon that one of our troops would carry on the beach," he said.

A state law that took effect June 1 banned 15 types of semiautomatic assault pistols but did not include the AR-15 rifle or any rifles.

That law exempts new owners of AR-15 H-BAR rifles from the seven-day waiting period and criminal background check, Dr. Franks said. That statement was supported yesterday by two lobbyists on opposite sides of the gun issue.

Dr. Franks said he resorted to the raffle to raise money for his campaign because he is not a millionaire like at least two of his opponents, William Brock and Ruthann Aron. They are among the candidates in the Sept. 13 Republican primary vying for the seat occupied by Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes.

Dr. Franks estimated yesterday that the raffle raised about $17,600, after deducting the weapon's $950 cost. He said he relied on word-of-mouth, but also had fliers. One proclaimed: "WIN AN AMERICAN CLASSIC, THE COLT AR-15. EST. VALUE - $2000! AND SUPPORT THE SECOND AMENDMENT, EST. VALUE - PRICELESS!"

The raffle attracted ticket buyers from about 18 states, after the Washington Post reported on the controversy earlier this month. That story was picked up by out-of-state reporters and placed on the computer Internet, Dr. Franks said.

If the winner lives outside Maryland, he or she can arrange for the weapon to be transferred across state lines to another licensed firearms dealer.

The raffle also gave Dr. Franks a platform to emphasize his

opposition to assault weapon bans. He said such measures will not reduce crime because they're "not dealing with the social and economic issues that cause violent crime."

Dr. Franks has emphasized longer prison sentences as his favored solution to the crime problem.

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