US gun shop offering AR-15 semi-automatic as raffle prize in Orlando fundraiser

For $5 a ticket, the gun store will donate the proceedings to the victims of the worst mass shooting in US history

Orlando, Omar Mateen, Orlando Gay Chorus, Second Amendment Sports, McHenry, Illinois, raffle

[Flickr/ThomasWoodson.com]

A gun store in the Chicago suburbs has come under critical fire after it announced it would hold a raffle to raise money for the victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting – with the grand prize an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, similar to the weapon used by homophobic terrorist Omar Mateen in the June 12th massacre.

Bert Irslinger Jr, proprietor of Second Amendment Sports in McHenry, Illinois, will draw the winning ticket for the prize on July 31st. All tickets will be sold for $5 (€4.50) each. The shop’s owners say they chose the AR-15 because it is the most popular model sold to customers.

The AR-15, not believed to have been used by Omar Mateen, was the weapon fired in a number of other high-profile and multiple fatality mass shootings in the US, including Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the San Bernardino massacre in 2015, and the Colorado movie theatre shooting in 2012.

Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, Irslinger said that the mass shooting in Florida, the worst one ever committed on American soil, had driven him to action. He said he “wanted to do something for the loss of lives and injuries that happened to people in Orlando.”

After a number of critics called the raffle tasteless, the gun store’s marketing director Vic Santi claimed that Second Amendment Sports, which takes its name from the controversial article in the US federal constitution that affords citizens the right to form militias and bear arms, was not a political decision.

“I understand that there are different opinions out there,” Santi said, “We don’t look at this as a gun issue. We look at this as a terrorism issue.”

In addition to proceeds from the raffle, as well as a £2,000 (€1,800) donation from the shop’s owners, will be passed on to the OneOrlando Fund. The endowment was created by Buddy Dyer, Orlando’s mayor, in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the gay nightclub’s Latin night, and has since raised millions of dollars for the victims – many of whom needed to be repatriated to Latin American countries – survivors, and their families.

Colleen Daley, the executive director of the Chicago-based Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, called the raffle “offensive.” Chicago has become notorious for its gun-fuelled crime waves, which saw 71 people shot dead in June and a total of 331 gun-related homicides for 2016 so far.

“I’m glad people are trying to raise money,” Daley said. “I just don’t think it’s the most appropriate way to do that. These guns are weapons of war, meant to kill large numbers of people in a short time, which is what happened in Orlando. I find it very distasteful and offensive.”

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