Turns out "gun raffle" isn't just a folksy term for Russian roulette. The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police will give away a gun a day in May, with the proceeds from ticket sales to defray the cost of police cadet training. In North Dakota, a youth hockey league will raffle off 200 guns as a fundraiser next month.
Both were organized long before the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last December, but for many, they're nevertheless far from timely. Three of the New Hampshire raffle's guns would be banned under legislation recently introduced in the Senate.
John Rosenthal, director of Stop Gun Violence, claims that gun raffles are "insane" and "criminally irresponsible." He spoke to the AP:
"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."
In fairness, it's not like these fundraisers plan to load guns into a T-shirt cannon and head to the nearest major sporting event. According to the rules of the New Hampshire drawing, any winner must be legally eligible to own such a gun and submit to any required background checks. (That Police Chiefs' raffle, by the way, is already sold out—all 1000 tickets have been purchased.)
But aside from issues of pure legality, Jonathan Lowy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence argues that these events "trivialize the seriousness of firearms." After all, aren't raffle prizes usually more along the lines of a bucket of gourmet popcorn or free movie tickets?