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Gunning for votes

By PHILIP EIL  |  October 10, 2013

Furthermore, sometime in early 2014, there will be a RI GOP a fashion show, said the party’s executive director Matthew Fabisch. And it is in this context of “events going on over the course of the year that are designed to appeal and reach out to other segments of the population,” that the now-infamous raffle was conceived.

“We didn’t think it was a big deal,” Fabisch explained. “We designed a raffle that we believed would appeal to individuals who are part of the sportsmen community. . . they make up a good portion of our base.”

Standing nearby as Fabisch spoke was RI GOP Finance Committee chairman Stephen Tetzner, the man who claimed credit for the raffle idea once the criticism started to fly.

“The sport of shooting has nothing to do with people that are either fanatics or have some kind of disability, mentally, that causes them to do something irrational,” he said. Shooting clay pigeons, is “like the new golf,” and athletes shoot “very similar weapons to ARs in the Olympics,” he said. Plus, there are kids who put themselves through college by earning shooting scholarships, he added.

“It must have been a slow news week,” said Rep. Costa who, when asked about her views on firearms, said, “I think every woman should have a little pistol in their purse.”

“I can understand it being a story for one day,” said Napolitano. “But to make it a story for several days? That part I don’t get.”

Then he mentioned those liquor baskets apparently beloved by Democratic raffle organizers. He didn’t have the statistics with him, he admitted, “but I think you will see that a lot more people died of. . . being hit by drunk drivers than people being shot at with guns in the state of Rhode Island,” he said. “That doesn’t seem to draw the ire that this does.

A moment later, he softened his stance.

“In hindsight,” he said, “we probably would have chosen a different firearm.”

On the range

The drive to West Greenwich on Sunday looked like something out of a luxury car commercial: sloping hills, rain-darkened roads, crumbling stone walls, and tall trees on either side of the road that formed a canopy from which flame-colored leaves softly fluttered down. The mood changed, though, after turning off the main road and onto the SCRGC’s winding dirt driveway. A bright orange sign appeared next to the road: “CAUTION HIGH POWER RIFLE TRAP & SKEET RANGES.” The woods echoed with the sounds of far-off rifle cracks and shotgun blasts.

The hub of activity for the day was the pitched-roof, metal-sided clubhouse, in which burgers and dogs sizzled on the grill, mounted deer heads hung from the wall, and “Stars and Stripes Forever” piped from speakers at a DJ table. At one point in the clubhouse, I walked past a man in camouflage pants, a yellow “DON’T TREAD ON ME” T-shirt, and a white handlebar mustache who was engaged in a passionate conversation. “This is an assault weapon,” he said, grabbing hold of a metal folding chair. The woman he was talking to responded, “That’s exactly what I was saying online.” (At other points in the day, I heard about the lethal potential of knives, ice picks, claw hammers, and automobiles.)

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