The Pima County Republican Party’s controversial gun raffle fundraiser was such a success that they ended up raffling off another weapon.
The notoriety fueled such demand, said interim Chairman Mike Shaw, not only did the raffle for the Glock pistol sell out, but they subsequently raffled a deer rifle as well.
The raffle garnered worldwide attention because it was organizes eight months after the Tucson shooting spree.
The model of Glock is not the same as the one Jared Lee Loughner used in the Jan. 8, rampage. 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.
National progressive pundit Keith Olbermann dubbed the raffle “a crass, heartless, Neanderthal decision” and questioned whether local Republican leaders had ceased to be human.
Locally, some Republicans have likewise publicly distanced themselves from the raffle.
City Councilman Steve Kozachik characterized it as “incredibly stupid,” especially when the party is gearing up for the city’s general election.
“When you have a slate of candidates who are already trying to generate some name recognition, in a City where they are out-registered by 2:1, and you tie a Glock to their tail, you've pretty much shown that you don't understand the dynamics of the area,” he concluded.
But Shaw said he was told Democrats and independents bought tickets, estimating 10 percent of the buyers were Democrats.
He also said three Democrats changed their voter registration to Republican on Thursday, with another Friday morning.
Democratic state lawmaker Matt Heinz, who owns a Beretta firearm, remains critical of the raffle. “I don’t think it’s in good taste to be auctioning off a weapon in a directly political context given what happened,” Heinz said.
On the other hand, he had predicted the notoriety could end up being a financial benefit to the party.
“I think it’s going to be a success from a financial standpoint, but at what cost? They’ve profited off a terrible tragedy our congresswoman is still recovering from.”
Mike Ebert, a member of the GOP executive committee, said he was happy to see the publicity.
“I knew exactly what it would do,” he said.
Quite aside from selling out, Ebert said, the publicity energized the base.
“Anytime you want to challenge the First and Second Amendment rights, it’s going to get conservatives off their butts.”
There was no immediate way to tell whether voter registration had swung significantly either way over the past few days without a more detailed analysis, Chris Roads, the Pima County registrar of voters, said.
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.
Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4243.