From VCDL Alert:
The "Bloomberg Gun GiveAway" Drawing has received major local, national and worldwide news coverage for at least four months, but Fairfax County is just NOW saying that they think it *might* be illegal, **2 days before the Drawing.** At least that is what is claimed in the Washington Post story below.
The key words here are *think* it *might* be illegal, which it clearly isn't. I think this is politically motivated because the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, who have never been friends to gun owners, have been screaming in the press that they are looking for some way to stop this Drawing. I am convinced that if the Drawing were for anything other than a firearm, this would have been a non-issue.
THE HISTORY OF THE DRAWING
VCDL always moves carefully and this Drawing was no exception. The decision to do the Drawing was first vetted by the VCDL Board of Directors, which, by the way, has one lawyer.
Once the Board approved the concept, VCDL contacted the BATFE to make absolutely sure that we were not going to violate any federal firearm laws. The head of the BATFE in Richmond said we were good to go.
The rules were drawn up and presented to VCDL's corporate attorney.
Changes were made to make sure that everything complied with the law and then the Drawing was placed in motion.
Also in January, VCDL was contacted by the Virginia Department of Charitable Gaming to verify that we were in compliance with the gaming laws of Virginia. I sent the individual the rules of the Drawing and explained exactly what we were doing. I did a follow up call and he verified he had received the information and that there appeared to be no problem. He said he would pass it up the line and that "no news is good news." That was our last interaction with that agency to date.
So in summary the legality of this Drawing was reviewed by two attorneys, the BATFE, and the Virginia Department of Charitable Gaming. No legal problems were identified, but now magically at the 11th hour Fairfax County has had a 'revelation' that VCDL is violating Virginia Gaming Laws. The politics of gun hatred?
As of this writing, VCDL has NOT been notified by the County of any legal problems with this Drawing and we are currently set to move forward with the Drawing and celebration as planned.
See you Thursday night!
Attorneys Question Gun Raffle Legality
E-Mail Reveals County Efforts; Sponsor Says the Event Is Still On
By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 16, 2007; B02
RICHMOND, May 15 -- Fairfax County Attorney David P. Bobzien and prosecutors have concluded that it might be illegal for a gun-rights group to raffle off weapons and ammunition inside a county building Thursday night in Annandale, according to an e-mail obtained Tuesday.
Bobzien's opinion throws into doubt whether the Virginia Citizens Defense League will be able to go through with its plans for a "Bloomberg Gun Giveaway," which is designed to protest the effort by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R) to crack down on illegal gun sales in Virginia. Bloomberg maintains that illegal gun sales in Virginia contribute to violent crime in New York.
Fairfax County officials and prosecutors, responding to a public outcry over the raffle at the Mason District Government Center, are trying to determine whether the drawing violates state gaming laws.
In an e-mail sent Tuesday to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and senior staff members, Bobzien said he discussed the raffle with Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. that morning.
"I advised Bob that we had concluded that it would be illegal but that, of course, it was up to the Commonwealth's Attorney's to make that call," Bobzien wrote. The e-mail was obtained from a government source who had received it but asked not to be identified because the e-mail was marked confidential.
Horan did not return phone messages Tuesday, but Bobzien said in the e-mail that Horan called him back to say he also concluded that it was illegal. Bobzien wrote that Horan was sending police to meet with the gun group to "to put them on notice."
The raffle, designed to raise money for two Virginia gun dealers being sued by the City of New York, has drawn international attention to Virginia's gun laws. New York has filed lawsuits against six Virginia gun shops that the city contends sold guns illegally to undercover agents.
Passions are strong. Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason), who has been trying to stop the drawing, said a man with a gun holstered on his hip startled her staff when he showed up at her office Monday demanding to talk about her opposition to the raffle. Such gun-toting is legal in Virginia.
"That is how crazy it is getting: People openly carrying weapons will come to my office demanding to see me," Gross said. "It is an intimidating tactic, and I don't have to see them."
Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said he has not heard from Fairfax officials. As of Tuesday night, Van Cleave said the event will go on as scheduled at 7:30 p.m.
"Someone needs to show us it's illegal. There needs to be some kind of proof," Van Cleave said. "Surely, Fairfax has got more important things pressing to worry about."
Fairfax County spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald declined to comment on Bobzien's e-mail, citing attorney-client privilege. But she said, "The definition of a raffle that would constitute illegal gambling is quite clear."
According to Virginia law, illegal gambling is defined as "any bet or wager . . . of money or other thing of value made in exchange for a chance to win a prize." But the state can issue special permits for charitable gaming, such as bingo and raffles.
Although the group doesn't have a permit, Van Cleave said the drawing conforms to state law because no tickets are being sold.
The group has been directing people to purchase guns at Bob Moates Sports Shop in Richmond and Old Dominion Gun and Tackle in Danville, two of the gun shops that New York is suing.
Customers who spent more than $100 had their names entered in the drawing. More than 2,500 people were awarded tickets for chances to win a semiautomatic pistol, hunting rifle or ammunition. Winners will be able to view the guns at the meeting but will take possession of their weapon later at a gun shop.
Van Cleave said the group consulted the Virginia Department of Charitable Gaming before establishing the raffle.
But Harry Durham, the agency's director, denied that his office sanctioned the raffle. In fact, Durham said, he believes the drawing raises legal questions.
"Based on what I read, it looked like they were very restrictive on who could have tickets," said Durham, who has been in touch with Horan's office.
Fairfax Supervisor Sharon S. Bulova (D-Braddock) said she hopes the legal questions will persuade the group to abandon plans for the giveaway.
"The idea of raffling off weapons in a public space or elsewhere makes me feel a little queasy, and if indeed this turns out to be not legally permissible, then I am happy to hear that," Bulova said.
[I'll bet if this was a gun buy-back in a County facility, I'll bet Ms. Bulova would be overjoyed. - PVC]
League member Mike Stollenwerk of Fairfax accused county officials of engaging in "dirty pool."
"It is kind of last-minute of the county to do this," he said. "I don't know if it is political or suddenly they had a legal revelation, but it doesn't sound right."
VA-ALERT is a project of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc. (VCDL).