Updated Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 12:01 AM
NEWPORT, N.H. — When the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police was looking to raise money for a cadet-training program, it sold raffle tickets for $30 apiece. The drawing was scheduled for May, but by Jan. 12, all 1,000 tickets had been sold.
The prize: 31 guns, with a new winner drawn each day of the month.
The fundraiser, sponsored by the association in partnership with two New Hampshire gunmakers, Sig Sauer and Sturm, Ruger, prompted protests from lawmakers and gun-control advocates questioning why the police are giving away guns, even for a good cause.
Some in law enforcement have also raised questions. When Chief Nicholas Giaccone Jr. of Hanover pulled up information about the raffle on the Internet, he said, he was flabbergasted.
“I looked at the first weapon and Googled that one,” said Giaccone, who recalled using an expletive when he pulled up information about the Ruger SR-556C, a semiautomatic weapon. “It’s an assault rifle.”
Referring to the shootings last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, state Rep. Sharon Nordgren, D-Hanover, said, “They’re just the same kind that were used in Newtown.”
The Ruger that caught Giaccone’s attention is an AR-15-style rifle, the most popular style of gun in the United States, according to dealers, and was the type used by Adam Lanza to kill 20 children and six adults at the elementary school. Another gun in the raffle, the Sig Sauer P226 handgun, was also carried by Lanza, according to the Connecticut State Police.
Organizers of the raffle are standing firm. Chief Paul Donovan of Salem, president of the association, defended the fundraiser, saying all winners would be required to meet all applicable rules for gun ownership.
The proceeds from the raffle go toward a cadet program involving participants ages 14 to 20 who are given instructions in various kinds of police skills and procedures.
The guns will be distributed through another raffle partner, Rody’s Gun Shop, in Newport, a town that comes to life when employees of Ruger, which is one of its main employers, leave work for the day.
While the shop’s owner would not comment, his customers were nonchalant. “Honestly, I don’t see what the big deal is; they’re just talking about it because of Sandy Hook,” said Lorraine Peterson of Litchfield.
Opponents of the raffle say it is not the guns they oppose, but that the police are conducting it. “I think in some respects, it shows the wrong message,” said state Rep. Stephen Shurtleff, D-Merrimack.