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January 29. 2013 10:45PM

Gun raffle benefit draws an alternate idea

NOTTINGHAM - With the help of a former gubernatorial candidate and radio host, resident Robert Sprague is hoping to convince the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police to consider an alternative to their gun raffle planned for May.

The association already sold-out of the 1,000 raffle tickets for the "Month of NH Made Firearms raffle" scheduled to begin May 1. Thirty-one guns, including a gun like the one reportedly used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, will be raffled off to legal buyers.

The $30,000 raised will be used to fund the New Hampshire Police Cadet Training Academy.

Sprague and radio host Arnie Arnesen are offering to raise the $30,000 necessary to buy back the raffle tickets, and fund the academy in a "peaceful" way.

Arnesen said they will have the guns melted down and another Nottingham resident has offered to turn the recycled metal into jewelry, which will then be sold, with proceeds benefiting victims of gun violence.

Arnesen said they will not raise any money until they have heard from Salem Police Chief Paul T. Donavan, president of the NH Association of Chiefs of Police, about whether he is willing to accept their offer.

As of Tuesday, Sprague had not received a response from Donovan, despite multiple email requests, phone calls and open letters to the editor.

Donovan's secretary told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday that he would not be commenting on the issue.

On Jan. 14, he released a statement on the association's website stating that they had worked closely with the New Hampshire Attorney General's office to ensure the fundraiser follows all applicable rules and regulations.

"While this raffle falls on the heels of the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police extends their deepest sympathies to the families and first responders," Donovan wrote. "New Hampshire Chiefs of Police feel the issues with these tragic shootings are ones that are contrary to lawful and responsible gun ownership. We believe in and support the Second Amendment, and encourage education in the area of firearms safety."

Arnesen said the raffle may be legal, but it is "tone deaf" to the Connecticut tragedy that rocked the nation in December.

"If you are an officer of the peace, why are you in the business of selling a piece," Arnesen said. "Your whole job is to promote stability and create role models for the community and selling guns is not really part of the job description."

A former New Hampshire resident now living in California heard about the raffle and the buyback idea on Arnesen's radio program and started a petition to be forwarded to Donovan asking him to consider the proposal. So far, the petition has garnered more than 200 signatures from New Hampshire and elsewhere.

Petitioner Sheila Evans said she thinks the issue resonates nationally and is hoping to get 1,000 signatures to match the 1,000 raffle tickets sold before submitting the petition to Donovan.

Anne Dalton, executive director of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, said on Tuesday that she was not aware of the proposal or the petition. She said response they have received to the gun raffle has been mixed.

gmacalaster@newstote.com

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