Pima County Republicans will go forward with plans to raffle off a Glock gun to raise money for get-out-the-vote efforts, even though the effort has met with vehement opposition.
In their online newsletter last week, the heading read, "Help Pima GOP get out the vote and maybe help yourself to a new Glock."
The announcement has an image of the weapon, noting it comes with three 12-round magazines and a case.
Tickets are $10 each, with a sales cap of 125 tickets. "Tickets will go quickly for this firearm," the newsletter cautions.
The model of Glock is not the same as the one Jared Lee Loughner used in the rampage that shook Tucson in early January. The gun used by Loughner was a Glock 19. The weapon being raffled is a Glock 23.
Loughner faces 49 criminal counts in the mass shooting that left six people dead and 13 wounded, including the apparent target of the shooting, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rogers called the raffle "a stunning lack of judgment and sensitivity" given the weapon is the same make used in the Jan. 8 shooting spree.
He called on the GOP to make the prize an iPad or a set of golf clubs "or anything that doesn't conjure up images of that terrible day."
After the raffle made the rounds on national media outlets Wednesday, interim GOP Chairman Mike Shaw acknowledged he was taken aback by the criticism. He said headquarters had received "very nasty" calls. And while he said he also had some supportive ones - and in fact, even had offers from people from out of state to participate in the raffle - he guessed the calls were running more in opposition.
"I didn't expect this reaction," he said, adding that Giffords herself is a supporter of Second Amendment rights. In the 2008 campaign, she spoke of owning a Glock, which she said she kept locked in her Tucson home. She also opposed the ban on handguns in Washington, D.C., and urged the U.S. Forest Service to set aside more land for public shooting ranges.
"That was part of my decision," Shaw said, "and also, that the Second Amendment is an important part of the Constitution."
He said the Glock was the weapon being raffled because the party raffled it off last year and the winner never picked it up.
House Democrats said the GOP should call off the raffle, calling it "sick," but some Republicans were also uncomfortable.
James Kelley, the GOP's Legislative District 29 chairman, said he advised his colleagues not to raffle the gun. He acknowledged the party has held gun raffles before without problems, "but post-Jan. 8 it's bad messaging and it's insensitive."
Kelley continued: "It doesn't mean the Republican Party doesn't have an incredible record of support the Second Amendment, but at this point it's ill-advised and I won't stand with them on this."
Shaw said he's been stung by the criticism that he's being insensitive.
His Oro Valley apartment is one mile away from where the shootings took place. He received word of the shootings during a political meeting. The participants huddled together and prayed, he said.
So why persist in the face of opposition?
"Now it's an opportunity to remind people it's not the gun that kills people. It's the person with the intent," Shaw said. "The Glock has as little to do with what happened that day as a No. 2 pencil has when someone cheats on a test. Jared Loughner is responsible for what happened."
Loughner, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, remains in a prison hospital in Springfield, Mo. where officials are assessing whether he can be made competent for trial.
Republicans will elect a new party chairman next Thursday. Pat Kilburn dropped out of the race, leaving Carolyn Cox the sole name on the ballot, although nominations will be taken from the floor. Cox was on vacation and could not be reached for comment on the raffle.
On StarNet: Learn what other media outlets are saying about the raffle at azstarnet.com/news/blogs/starnet-blog
Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4243.