Eyebrows shot up all over the country Thursday following news that that the Republican Party in Pima County, AZ — home to Tucson and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D) district — is raffling off a Glock similar to the one used to shoot Giffords in the head in January.
In Tucson, the condemnation of the plan was universal and bi-partisan.
“There’s a woman who has a bullet in the brain and who everybody is wishing a full recovery,” Brian Miller, the immediate past chair of the Pima County GOP told TPM. “I don’t think that raffling off a firearm right now is probably the right way to go.”
Miller says the people who took over the party — and booted him from his position after he criticized local law enforcement for shooting a Marine in a controversial raid on his home in May — are from the “my way or the highway” wing of the GOP who don’t pay much thought to the political fallout from their actions.
While he said that raffling off a firearm to raise money is something he did himself when he ran (and lost) in the 2010 Republican primary in Gifford’s district, it’s not something he’d do now.
But it’s the kind of thing the folks in charge of things at the Pima County GOP may become known for, and to the party’s detriment, he said.
“The people who are running the Pima County GOP right now aren’t exactly known for their ability to feel the political pulse,” he said. “Politically, it’s kind of a silly thing to do.”
The Pima County GOP did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the raffle.
Democrats said the move went far beyond “silly.”
“It shows a stunning lack of understanding,” Pima County Democratic Party chair Jeff Rogers told TPM. “It’s kind of a slap in the face for a community that’s still trying to recover.”
Rogers said his party generally auctions off dinners with politicians, “pottery or nice dinners” to raise money. He suggested that following the Giffords shooting, the Pima County GOP may have been better off going with “golf clubs…or maybe an iPad.” If the GOP had to raffle a gun, Rogers said, “why not make it a shotgun or a hunting rifle?”
Rogers praised Miller’s leadership of the GOP following the Giffords shooting and joined the former chair in condemning the new leadership of the county party responsible for the raffle.
“It’s just so extremely insensitive,” he said, “and it shows the kind of extremists we have in our midst.”
Other area Democrats shared in the attack on the county GOP.
“A lot of people who own guns will say the Glock 23 is a lot different than the Glock 19,” state Rep. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) told TPM, referring to the type of weapon used to shoot Giffords and the model being raffled respectively. “But just because it’s our right to give away a gun in a raffle doesn’t mean we should always do it.”
Like many in Tucson, Farley’s connection to the shooting is personal. The “hero intern” who helped save Giffords’ life once worked on a Farley campaign.
Farley said the auction could be a signal Tucson is returning to the bad old days of overheated conservative political rhetoric preceding the Giffords shooting.
“Even if this doesn’t appear to be offensive to whomever chose to do this and they’re shocked, simply shocked at the reaction, that in itself is extreme,” he said. “I’m just so sick of the extremism.
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