Petition Started Against N.H. Gun Raffle

Gun-control advocates have started a petition asking the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police to abandon its plan to raffle 31 firearms, including military-style assault rifles, and are offering to compensate the police for lost proceeds of the planned fundraiser.

The online petition, hosted by progressive website MoveOn.org, had garnered more than 3,000 signatures as of yesterday, most from New Hampshire residents. It asks the chiefs association to accept an offer from a coalition of New Hampshire progressives who have offered to “buy out” the raffle and melt the firearms down into items that would be sold to benefit the victims of gun violence.

“I hope the chiefs will listen, in the spirit of a community speaking out, much the way we do at Town Meeting,” said petition organizer Sheila Evans, a former public policy director for the New Hampshire Women’s Lobby. “Change is hard, but it starts with folks talking. The opportunity here is for the people to participate in making a change in society. The slaughter at Sandy Hook school changed everything.”

The chiefs association sold 1,000 tickets for $30 a piece to anyone 18 years or older hoping to win “some of today’s most popular N.H.-made sporting firearms,” including single-shot rifles, pistols and military variety-style semi-automatic rifles.

One winner will be drawn every day in May at Rody’s Gun Shop in Newport, which will give away single-shot rifles, pistols and military-style assault weapons from gun manufacturers Sturm, Ruger & Co., of Newport, and Sig Sauer Inc., of Exeter, N.H. The proceeds will go to the New Hampshire Police Cadet Training Academy, a live-in, week-long program that draws roughly 100 youths every year and teaches participants an array of skills.

The raffle has garnered attention from a slew of media outlets, including The New York Times, in recent weeks, and riled gun control advocates, who say that, especially in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., it is inappropriate for law enforcement to give away firearms.

The chiefs association said the raffle was planned and launched before the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police President Paul Donovan, the Salem police chief, did not respond to a message seeking comment yesterday, and has not responded to several requests to discuss the raffle since the Valley News first reported it last month.

Evans said that she reached out to Donovan and others in the association to explain her petition, but has not heard back from them.

Evans said her petition was designed to generate support for plan created by New Hampshire radio host and former gubernatorial candidate Arnie Arnesen and Nottingham, N.H., resident Robert Sprague, who came up with the idea of raising the $30,000 to compensate the association if they chose to refund the raffle tickets.

Sprague and Arnesen did not respond to messages seeking comment yesterday.

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.