Guns raffle makes return

Fund-raiser planned for second year by Carroll GOP

March 10, 2001|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Republican Central Committee, which gained international notoriety and earned more than $17,000 last year raffling off a handgun, will sell chances to win a Beretta pistol and a Beretta 12-gauge shotgun this year to raise money for the local GOP.

"We saw this as a good opportunity to expand it and continue to build the base that we have of support, not only in Carroll County but throughout the state as well," said W. David Blair, the central committee chairman, who plans to announce details of the raffle this morning at the group's legislative breakfast. "The [raffle] last year was very successful. We'll be satisfied if we sell as many tickets this year."

Last year, more than 3,400 tickets were sold. Television crews from as far away as Norway and Canada descended upon Westminster to witness the raffle, which was condemned by Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who called it "an absolute disgrace," and by some Maryland Republicans, including Ellen R. Sauerbrey and the vice chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, Michael Steele, who called it "wrongheaded."

This year, reaction to the raffle is tempered. No organized protest has been planned.

"We will always oppose it, but I don't think we'll go to the extremes this year. It just gives them more publicity," said John Price, who helped organize a protest outside the committee's legislative breakfast in February 2000, when a 66-year-old Keymar woman was declared the winner of a 9 mm Beretta handgun.

As the crowd inside cheered, Price and his wife, Carole, stood beside Route 140 waving signs and color photographs of their 13-year-old son, John Joseph Price, who was killed in 1998 by a playmate in an accidental shooting.

Outraged by last year's raffle, the Prices asked state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat, to outlaw such events. Instead, her bill sparked more gun raffles. In the end, the proposed legislation was killed in the Judicial Proceedings Committee on a 7-3 vote.

"I think their decision to hold another gun raffle lacks tact and diplomacy," Price said of the central committee's latest contest. "This isn't a gun club. These are politicians. They shouldn't be doing this. It's disgraceful and disrespectful to people who have lost children to gun violence."

The raffle comes at a time when the nation is grappling with another shooting in a public high school. On Monday, San Diego authorities said, 15-year-old Charles Andrew "Andy" Williams opened fire with his father's .22-caliber revolver at Santee High School in Santana, Calif., killing two students and wounding 13 other people. It was the worst school attack since the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., two years ago.

Organizers of the Carroll raffle say the issue is not the guns but the children, who they said are being raised without strong family values.

"The issue that needs to be addressed with these school shootings is what's going on with these young people that they need to turn to violence to resolve issues," Blair said. "The accessibility of firearms is no different today than it was years ago, so what has happened? The values of our society have changed. That's what we need to address. We need to get back to the values that hold families together and make them strong."

The raffle enjoys the support of every member of Carroll's delegation in Annapolis.

"I'm in support of the gun raffle. It's a legal commodity. It's a legal fund-raising process," said Del. Carmen Amedori, a Westminster Republican. She is co-sponsoring the raffle, which promises to raise more money than the central committee's annual fund-raising dinner. That event, held each fall to honor the "Republican of the Year," typically puts about $2,000 in local GOP coffers.

The $5 tickets go on sale today at the committee's legislative breakfast at Wilhelm Ltd. Caterers banquet hall in Westminster. The event begins at 7:30 a.m.

The drawing will be held on the Fourth of July.

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