Even as gun enthusiasts from across the nation buy tickets to a Carroll County political fund-raiser raffling a 9 mm pistol, Maryland Republicans remain divided over the Feb. 26 event, which prompted the resignation of a county GOP leader this week.
"It's not good politics," 2nd District Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee's planned fund-raiser. "At a time when we should be debating the extreme initiatives proposed by State Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., all anyone is talking about is this raffle."
In November, Curran called for stricter gun control laws, including a ban on the private ownership of handguns, a proposal Gov. Parris N. Glendening has called "unrealistic and unpassable."
Sixth District Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett praised the local GOP group for refusing to back down despite criticism of the raffle.
"In Carroll County, the gun raffle is a very legitimate fund-raising activity," said Bartlett. Bartlett said the raffle was proposed in the fall to oppose Curran's gun control proposal.
The local committee is selling $5 tickets for a chance to win a Beretta 9 mm pistol and a copy of "More Guns, Less Crime," a book by University of Chicago Professor John Lott.
Response to the raffle has been overwhelming, organizers say. The committee had planned to print 500 tickets, but requested 3,500 more to meet growing demand from places as far away as California, said committee member Scott Hollenbeck.
Debate over the raffle was reignited this week by the sudden resignation from the county central committee of Betty L. Smith, former vice chairwoman, who called the raffle "insensitive and irresponsible.