The Asheville Tea Party is raffling a DPMS Panther Oracle AR15 .223 caliber rifle.
(Photo: ashvilleteaparty.org via USA Today)
Jon Ostendorff and Sabian Warren, USA TODAY
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - A Tea Party chapter in the mountains of North Carolina is raffling off a rifle similar to the one used in the Connecticut school shootings that left 20 children and eight adults dead.
The Asheville Tea Party posted the raffle announcement to its website on Monday, just days after the shootings. It advertises $20 tickets for a DPMS Panther Oracle AR15 .223 caliber rifle with two 30-round magazines. The brand is not the same as the one used in the school shootings, but it is the same style and caliber.
Firearms instructor and training counselor Bob Plyler of Asheville said there is nothing wrong with raffling a gun. Hunt clubs and other groups do it all the time. He also said there "is nothing inherently evil about a .223. There are millions of them out there."
The timing is the key here, he said of the Tea Party raffle. "Now might not be the best time to do something like that," he said.
Police say Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot his mother in her bed Friday before driving her car to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where he committed one of the most gruesome crimes in U.S. history.
Chris Cooper, a political scientist at Western Carolina University, agreed that it's probably too early to hold such a raffle. He noted that the National Rifle Association took down its Facebook page after the tragedy and has not yet publicly commented on he shooting.
"I think if you have the pre-eminent gun rights group in the country stepping back, at least temporarily, it's a bit surprising the local Tea Party chapter would do the opposite," Cooper said.
Asheville Tea Party leaders did not immediately return a message seeking more details about the raffle and its timing.
Ostendorff and Warren also report for the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times.