The war of symbols is the Democrats' way of raising the issue of gun control, said Wendy Fiedler, chairwoman of the Howard County Democratic State Central Committee. "It's not about the money. It's for gun safety.
"This raises awareness for gun safety legislation. You can't do too much on gun safety," she said.
Neil Quinter, the central committee member who conceived the gun lock idea, said the Republican fund-raiser was a "pro-gun statement. We wanted to draw the contrast with the [Carroll] Republicans. We were just really disgusted with raffling off a gun.
"It's gotten a little more serious with the accident we had," he added.
Quinter was referring to the recent accidental fatal shooting of a 13-year-old Howard County youth. He said a trigger lock might have prevented the death of Tanun "Byrd" Wichainaraphong, who was shot April 19 by a 15-year-old friend who was showing off a .22-caliber rifle in an Ellicott City apartment. He died two days later.
"That drives it home," Quinter said.
The $10 Master Lock 90D, usable on most rifles, shotguns and pistols, is scheduled to be awarded at tonight's Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner at Savage Mill. The Democrats are pleased, they say, with the more than 1,000 tickets sold at $1 each and figure their raffle ticket proceeds will supplement the money they expect to raise from the dinner -- about $10,000 altogether.
Maryland U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes is the keynote speaker, and former Rep. Michael Barnes, director of Handgun Control and the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, also will speak.
Carroll Republicans say they raised $19,000 selling chances to win their semiautomatic, 9 mm Beretta pistol. But Howard Democrats can raise money however they want, said W. David Blair, chairman of the Carroll Republicans.
"The bottom line is the gun we raffled off had a gun lock. I think it's a moot point," he said.
Blair said the issue is not about politics but responsible gun ownership and safe gun use. "The liberal side is opposed to gun ownership," he said, adding that it's not a partisan issue.
"The only concern I have about locks is they can give a false sense of security" to people who may be less vigilant about whether their firearm is loaded, said Carroll Republican Del. Carmen Amedori. "It's a matter of following the Constitution -- the principles of our founding fathers."
Amedori is not opposed to gun locks, she said, but "I am opposed to mandatory gun locks."
The tit-for-tat raffles could become a habit, Fiedler suggested. "It has been proposed that every time they raffle a gun, we should raffle a gun lock," she said.
If it averts even one shooting, it might be worthwhile, she said.
"Might have is good enough," Fiedler said.