When it comes to fundraising by organizations in rural New York, gun raffles are right up there with dice runs and ham and turkey parties.
But under legislation proposed by a Long Island state senator, raffles or other games of chance that offer firearms as prizes would be illegal in the state.
Condemnation of the bill, which is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks, was vehement from some quarters of the Southern Tier.
“It’s just another case of legislation without any thought,” said Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Gowanda, on Monday. “Everybody under the sun in my district raffles off guns, from volunteer fire departments, Boy Scout troops, sportsmen’s clubs, you name it.”
Giglio said he wonders whether Sen. Jim Gaughren, the Long Island Democrat who proposes the bill, understands that under existing law winners of firearm raffles must pass the requisite background checks — just as if they were making purchases at a gun store.
“You shouldn’t be able to simply walk into a catering venue and walk out owning a firearm,” Gaughren was quoted as saying in a New York Daily News article over the weekend. “This law will protect public safety and advance New York’s commitment to common sense gun reform.”
Giglio asks how stopping charitable organizations and non-profit groups from raffling a skeet or turkey shotgun or perhaps a deer rifle is striking a blow against gun violence.
“The only thing I can say is, demonstrate to me how this will increase public safety,” the assemblyman said. “All this will do is hurt good folks who do raise money they really need” with gun raffles.
Area organizations that offer gun raffles generally include sporting long guns as prizes, from lever-action .22s to various shotguns and bolt-action rifles in varmint or deer calibers. Semiautomatic rifles with certain features, including pistol handgrips and detachable magazines, are deemed assault-style weapons by New York state and cannot be legally transferred.
A similar gun raffle ban was introduced in the State Assembly last year but was never passed. Democrats now control both the Assembly and Senate, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also open to more gun control legislation.
Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello, the Republican candidate seeking the Senate seat vacated by Catharine Young earlier this year, dismissed the proposed bill as “just another example of the ignorant New York City political agendas.”
He added, “The ignorance comes from the sponsor thinking that people walk out the door with a gun. Anyone who has attended these charity events, like I have, knows that the proper background checks are followed and the firearms are legally transferred through a licensed dealer.
“This is just another senseless attack that targets organizations that serve the people every day. All for an empty political talking point.”
Austin Morgan, the Democrat from Freedom who is running for the Senate seat, said he would fight the bill while suggesting that, as a Democrat in the Senate majority, he would have a chance to stop it.
“Let’s be clear: Criminals don’t get their guns from raffles, and this misguided bill will devastate our volunteer fire departments.”
(Jim Eckstrom is executive editor of the Olean Times Herald and Bradford Publishing Co. His email is email@example.com.)