Early in April, I saw a notice in the local media that a Redding sporting goods store was having its annual “Ladies Night” with trainings and savings in many departments as well as raffles to benefit a community group.
That is not particularly what got my attention. It was one of the prizes listed (a handgun) and the community group that would receive the raffle proceeds (Youth Violence Prevention Council Shasta County).
Once I investigated the group and its programs on their website (yvpc.org), I was even more incensed that they would agree to a fundraising raffle with a deadly weapon as a prize while conducting important programs for the young people of our county already living thru violent situations.
What message were they sending to them?
A phone message to the executive director yielded a call back from board member, Sheriff Bosenko. I expressed my concerns of the hypocritical nature of a handgun raffle prize, when this was an anti-violence organization. I pointed out that handguns have one purpose: to kill people. He countered that they are used for sport (target shooting) and self-protection.
I realized that our disagreement would not be solved, but that wasn’t the main concern—having a raffle prize, that is violent by design, earn money for an anti-violence promoting council was, to me … well … a mockery.
Shortly into the phone call, the Sheriff pointed out to me that other community groups had had similar “very successful” raffles – One Safe Place and Girls, Inc. for example. I was gobsmacked by this information and politely ended the conversation. My thought processes had ceased to be coherent but I soon realized that I had to get to the bottom of this news.
Calls and messages to the directors of the two groups brought me even more concern: Yes, the shelter for those fleeing domestic abuse had indeed had a handgun package (gun, training, conceal weapon permit) as a raffle prize last February at their fundraising crab feed. Yes, Girls, Inc. had benefited from a similar raffle at the local sporting goods store a few years back.
Deciding to do an informal poll of local community groups, I found that AAUW and Shasta County Child Abuse Prevention Council have not had raffles with gun prizes. I was told that Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, and Anderson Rotary have had gun raffles in the past.
Several groups have not answered my inquiry (NVCSS, GNRM, YMCA, SC Chemical People and Turtle Bay) but now that the conversation is started, maybe I can add their information to my data bank. The current director of Girls, Inc. said that they have turned down a facial rejuvenation raffle package in the past because of “the message that it sent to their girls.”
I propose every community organization develop written policies that clearly define what raffle items are acceptable or appropriate for their group to offer. There needs to be a hearty debate about what is a difficult subject: fundraising at any cost. A hunting group certainly could decide that a weapon of some sort is appropriate. An anti-drug abuse council may decide the offer of a donated keg of beer as a fundraiser is not acceptable. A health-improvement council may decide that a spa day is OK for a raffle but a case of cigarettes or Vape shop gift certificate is not. Having written guidelines seems a necessary step for every group.
Meanwhile, I plan to petition several groups directly to reconsider their previous raffle decisions and go “gun-free.” The message they send to the community, those who donate to them directly and those they serve is important. They need to realize that making money by releasing more weapons into our gun-rich region is not a proper way to fund raise. Providing a handgun that could then be stolen, used in a felony or accidentally “mis-used” in the winner’s household causing injury or death should not be an option. Helping to facilitate such change would put my mind at ease.
Anita Brady is a lifetime Shasta County resident, and a retired high school biology teacher. She is married, and has two adult daughters who live far away. She is a third-generation union member and describes herself as an unapologetic liberal who remembers the “old days” when Shasta County had a Democratic stronghold.
While world-travel is among her favorite pastimes, Brady is currently working on finding outlets for her progressive views including protecting women’s reproductive freedoms, promoting equal pay for women, maintaining separation of church and state, and nondiscrimination of American taxpayers based on sex, marital status, race, citizenship documentation or sexual preference.