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Thursday, January 24, 2013

NH police gun raffle one big misfire

Telegraph Editorial

Ever since the senseless slaughter of 20 first-graders and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school last month, law enforcement officers across the country have stepped up to try to combat gun violence on their own.

Consider: ...

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Ever since the senseless slaughter of 20 first-graders and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school last month, law enforcement officers across the country have stepped up to try to combat gun violence on their own.

Consider:

n In Compton, Calif., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department collected 386 weapons Monday in its second “Gifts for Guns” buyback program. Participants received gift cards worth between $50 and $200, depending on the weapon.

n In Miami, 130 guns were rounded up Saturday in return for Miami Heat tickets or a choice of gift cards to Walmart or Winn-Dixie, a Florida-based supermarket chain. Two more gun buyback events are scheduled in conjunction with neighborhood churches.

n And in Stamford, Conn., less than 50 miles away from the scene of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., police collected 54 weapons over three Saturdays in return for $4,350 worth of gift cards. A local hospital and a community center helped to fund the most recent event and another planned for Saturday.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, a statewide organization of police chiefs is getting ready to raffle off 31 guns in 31 days, starting with a Ruger SR-556 semiautomatic rifle that looks very much like the weapon used to gun down the 6- and 7-year-old schoolchildren in Newtown.

That’s right. While law enforcement officers across the country are working with hospitals, churches and other organizations to find ways to reduce the number of weapons in their communities, ours are getting behind a fundraiser to increase the number in their own.

The raffle has rightly drawn strong criticism from anti-gun violence groups in and out of New Hampshire, as well as those who feel the gun raffle is inappropriate in general and in poor taste in particular so soon after the Newtown massacre.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police is partnering with gun manufacturers Sturm Ruger &. Co., Sig Sauer Inc. and Rody’s Gun Shop in Newport to sponsor the fundraiser, which is intended to raise money for a one-week police academy this summer for men and women ages 14-20 with an interest in law enforcement.

All 1,000 tickets priced at $30 have been sold for the event, which will kick off May 1 with the raffling off of the aforementioned semi-automatic rifle. Other rifles and handguns provided by Sturm Ruger and Sig Sauer – semiautomatic and otherwise – will be given away one each day until the end of that month. Winners will be subject to all federal and state gun laws.

While a Nottingham resident has offered to raise $30,000 for the training academy if the police chiefs cancel their controversial raffle, as of today they
are moving forward as planned.

Now, let’s be clear. We’re not suggesting that gun buyback programs are the single solution to gun violence in America. They’re not.

Nor are we suggesting that law-abiding citizens don’t have the right to own firearms for hunting, sport and personal protection. They do.

But we are suggesting that in a nation that sports the highest rate of gun ownership in the world – and the second-highest rate of gun deaths among industrialized nations behind Mexico – there’s something quite disturbing about the state’s police chiefs consciously putting more guns into circulation.

Newtown or no Newtown.