GOP sticks to its gun; Central committee votes to go ahead with handgun raffle; 40 turn out for meeting; Fund-raising plan drew criticism from state Republicans


Carroll County Republicans overwhelmingly supported their party's central committee last night in going ahead with the raffle of a 9 mm pistol for $5 a ticket as a fund-raiser.

The nine-member committee heard public comment for about 30 minutes before meeting behind closed doors. The meeting in Westminster was attended by about 40 people, most of whom favored the gun raffle.

During the closed portion of the meeting, Betty L. Smith, committee vice chairwoman, presented a motion to reconsider last month's vote to hold the handgun raffle. Her motion was defeated 6-1, with one abstention.

Robert Wolfing, the committee's chairman, did not vote -- which is customary for the head of the panel. He declined to discuss the vote afterward.

Patricia Holbert, who opposed the raffle, said Wolfing went on record in favor of the handgun raffle. As a registered Republican, Holbert was allowed to attend the closed meeting.

Because of a family illness, Smith missed last month's meeting when the committee voted 4-1, with two abstentions, to hold the gun raffle.

That decision, which drew criticism across the county and state, was made after Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. called for stricter gun control laws, including a ban on the private ownership of handguns.

Curran's proposal angered some high-ranking Republicans, including Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Frederick, who believe tighter control on handguns violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The news of the gun raffle caused state GOP leaders to question why another prize couldn't have been selected.

Last night, several people at the meeting said the issue was not raffling a handgun but standing up to support the Second Amendment.

"As long as you are obeying the laws, no one should be able to take away the right to own a gun," Jim Harris told the committee.

Smith said she was disappointed that more of the county's 35,000 Republicans did not attend the meeting.

She said raffling a handgun, which could be carried as a concealed weapon, is an "insensitive and irresponsible means of raising funds by a group, which is supposed to be upholding the doctrine of family values held by the Republican Party."

Holbert said she was so ashamed she was considering quitting the GOP.

She criticized those who call others "liberal zealots" for opposing the gun raffle.

Her comment was aimed at previous remarks by Republican Del. Carmen Amedori, who said last night that the 32 states with right-to-carry laws have seen crime drop.

"Once you start tearing apart the Constitution, it will be worthless," Amedori said.

The committee has delayed holding the raffle until after the first of the year, and may sell more than the 500 tickets it originally had planned.

The raffle winner would have to pass a state police background check and meet all requirements to accept the 9 mm Beretta.

The winning prize also includes a copy of "More Guns, Less Crime," a book by University of Chicago Professor John Lott, who argues that crime could be reduced if more people carried guns.

The raffle winner will have the option of declining the gun and accepting about $500, its cash equivalent.

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