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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

GOP club plans handgun benefit raffle in Mont Vernon

MONT VERNON – Members of the Mont Vernon Republican committee plan to raffle off a handgun next month to help launch the new political group.

The March 16 raffle, to be held during the committee’s regular monthly meeting, will feature a .357-caliber magnum revolver, a model held commonly by police and security officers. ...

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MONT VERNON – Members of the Mont Vernon Republican committee plan to raffle off a handgun next month to help launch the new political group.

The March 16 raffle, to be held during the committee’s regular monthly meeting, will feature a .357-caliber magnum revolver, a model held commonly by police and security officers.

Committee officers settled on the weapon as a way to raise funds for the new committee, which is in its first year of operation.

All money raised will go toward helping the group recruit Republican candidates to run for state and local office, according to Wesley Sonner, the committee chairman. The money will not go to any specific candidate, he said.

“These raffles are very popular,” said Sonner, who modeled the raffle after a similar event he held to support his 2010 congressional campaign.

“It worked pretty well when I ran (in 2010), so we thought it might be good to try one here,” he said. “It’s been a very good response so far.”

The N.H. Association of Chiefs of Police drew fire from around the state and across the country earlier this winter for holding a similar “30 guns in 30 days” fundraiser.

Gun control advocates nationwide criticized the police group for including several military-style assault weapons, similar to the one used in the Newtown, Conn., shooting.

“We have to recognize these for what they are, civilian versions of military weapons,” Cathie Whittenburg, a spokeswoman for the New England Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, said last month. “Why the police are raffling them off, it’s kind of baffling.”

Some critics expressed similar concerns about the Mont Vernon event.

Christopher Stewart, a political consultant from Manchester, raised questions Monday about the timing of the event.

“It’s tone deaf and the timing is off,” said Stewart, who works mostly with Republican candidates and groups.

But in Mont Vernon, organizers planned their local event with the Newtown shooting in mind, choosing to bypass the controversial military-style weapons, Sonner said.

“I’m a firm believer in the Second Amendment, but that was something we definitely took into consideration,” he said. “We tried to keep it as low-key as possible.”

And as a result, the raffle has drawn a strong, positive response from in and out of town, Sonner said.

“New Hampshire has a long history of respecting and preserving the rights of gun owners. This is very much in line with that tradition,” Jennifer Horn, chairman of the N.H. Republican Party, said Monday of the event.

“I certainly don’t see anything wrong with it,” added Rep. William O’Brien, a Mont Vernon Republican and former House speaker. “If I come across it, I’ll probably buy a ticket.”

Gun raffles are common in New Hampshire and around New England among hunting and outdoor clubs, among other groups, who use the fundraisers frequently to cover their costs and benefit charity organizations.

In Nashua, the Horse Pond Fish and Game Club typically holds two such fundraiser a year, and in Hollis, the Lone Pine Hunters Club has scheduled a 30 guns in 30 minutes raffle for April to fund its annual fishing derby and other events.

“We’re a nonprofit organization, so we need to find ways to raise funds,” Rob Keller, chairman of the Lone Pine Club, said last month.

In Mont Vernon, as in many other raffles, participants must be legal U.S. residents, at least 21 years old, and they’re subject to all state and federal gun regulations, said Sonner, the committee chairman.

If the winner is a New Hampshire resident, employees at Milford Firearms, the gun shop that donated the weapon, will conduct the sale out of the store, conducting the full background check, according to Nicholas D’Augustine, the shop owner. But if the winner comes from out of state, D’Augustine will ship the gun to a dealer in his or her home state to conduct the check and complete the sale, he said.

“No matter what, they have to fill out and pass the background check,” D’Augustine said. “There’s no getting around that.”

For more information about the gun raffle, visit the Mont Vernon committee’s website, www.MV
Republicans.org.

Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or jberry@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Berry on Twitter (Telegraph_JakeB).