Washington State Gambling Commission Tables NRA Foundation Plan to Raffle More Guns

Posted on: August 13, 2019, 02:45h. 

Last updated on: August 13, 2019, 02:34h.

At the urging of the state’s governor, the Washington State Gambling Commission voted last week to table a request by the National Rifle Association (NRA) Foundation to increase its price cap for raffle prizes in the upcoming year.

National Rifle Association Foundation representatives Michael Herrera, left, and Bradley Kruger, center, speak before the Washington State Gambling Commission requesting an increase for their raffle prize cap for next year. The commissioner tabled the matter and requested information on how the funds are spent. (Image: Austin Jenkins/ Northwest News Network)

State law allows the NRA Foundation and other non-profit organizations to receive raffle licenses. Groups cannot exceed giving prizes worth more than $300,000 in a 12-month span without the prior approval of the commission.

The previous two years, the commission had approved requests by the NRA Foundation to offer prizes totaling up to $500,000, and its representatives sought the same increase for the next 12-month period, which starts in October.

Washington state statutes also allow groups to raffle off guns and rifles. The groups cannot give the weapon directly. Rather, they must give the winner a certificate to a licensed dealer for the gun. All winners must pass a federal background check, and if that check fails, the winner will be offered a different prize, although not necessarily of similar value.

Follow State Rules

Last Thursday’s decision took place just days after mass shooting incidents occurred in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Those shootings took place in a 13-hour span over the weekend, leaving 31 people dead and roughly 50 injured.

Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a presidential candidate, lashed out at the NRA, calling the group “the enemy” on MSNBC’s Hardball last Wednesday for opposing previous efforts to pass gun control laws in Congress.

The commissioners did not specifically discuss the shootings in their remarks. Neither did Sheri Sawyer, a policy adviser to Inslee. On behalf of the governor, though, she did request the delay, and encouraged the commission to make sure the Foundation was in full compliance with the laws regarding such raffles.

It would be a travesty if we were to find out that, for any reason, that they were not being followed, and I think it’s really incumbent upon the commission to ensure that before there is any decision to put more guns and more firearms out there in the public, that you have an assurance that they are meeting the letter of the law and state regulation,” Sawyer said.

The commission did hear from three individuals during public comments who brought up the shootings.

“I don’t think with our climate and gun culture right now, and the things that have happened over the last weekend, that (it) is an appropriate time to move forward on this,” said Jordan Waits, a Washington state resident and a former Marine.

Follow the NRA Money

Concerns were also raised about how the funds the Foundation raised were being used. Representatives from the Foundation told commissioners that it’s a 501(c)(3) organization just like the Red Cross.

The money was spent to promote education and gun safety. Funds are also used to promote shooting sports and hunting and conservation matters.

“We’re highly regulated by the IRS,” Bradley Kruger, the NRA’s western regional director, told the commission. “It has to go to our mission statement.”

However, Commissioner Ed Troyer, a law enforcement officer, said he supports the Foundation’s statewide efforts, but had concerns about the money that goes back to the national office, and “the black hole of things we don’t know about.”

Thursday’s vote did not strip away the NRA Foundation’s ability to hold raffles and use firearms as prizes. Until the commission takes up the matter again, the Foundation will be capped at awarding up to $300,000 in prizes for the 12-month span that starts in October.

“Given the importance of this issue, I’m much more comfortable waiting until we get information back from our staff before I’m asked to take a vote,” Commissioner Chris Stearns said.