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Free Guns Anyone?

North Carolina's Greg Brannon isn't the first to raffle off firearms

Brannon is just the latest Republican to raise attention for his campaign by raffling off firearms. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Brannon is just the latest Republican to raise attention for his campaign by raffling off firearms. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Nothing says Republican primaries like a gun raffle.  

North Carolina Republican Greg Brannon is just the latest Republican candidate to offer up a free firearm in hopes of growing his list of supporters.  

“I know you love guns as much as I do,” he wrote in email last week. “And I know you’ve thought about the feeling of firing off round after round at the range with your brand new CORE-15 M4 rifle.”  

Brannon is running for the GOP nod in North Carolina’s 2nd District against two incumbent members of Congress. He entered that race just days after losing the state’s GOP Senate primary in March. He also ran for the GOP Senate nomination in 2014 .  

[Related: Candidate’s Gun Giveaways Gets Mixed Reactions from California Republicans]

No contribution is necessary to enter or win Brannon’s raffle, according to the campaign. But the candidate’s “Enter for Your Chance to Win” page prompts supporters to donate anywhere from $16 to $1,000. It’s seemingly impossible to skip that prompt.   

Brannon Brannon’s pitches have grown increasingly desperate over the past week. Monday’s email came with the subject line, “Pull the trigger.”  

The primary is on June 7 and the deadline to enter the giveaway is May 29.  

[Related: Hunger Games in North Carolina]

For conservative candidates, the gun raffle is a way to lure voters into the campaign, secure their personal information, and hopefully, get a donation at the same time. It’s also a good way to rally a motivated base that’s passionate about the 2nd Amendment.  

For Brannon, it’s an opportunity to distinguish his candidacy from those of his primary opponents.  

But it doesn’t make him that much different from Republicans in other races.  

The tactic already surfaced in the most-watched GOP primary of the year. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz raffled off a shotgun engraved with his presidential campaign logo in January.  

Ted Cruz At the congressional level, California 9th District Republican Alex Appleby raffled off one 9 millimeter handgun and gave one each to five high-dollar donors at a “Liberty Rally & Dinner Fundraiser” in February.   

Former Colorado state Sen. Tim Neville gave away a semiautomatic rifle and later raffled off a handgun to raise awareness for his U.S. Senate bid this year. He has since failed to get on the GOP ballot .  

A California congressional hopeful planned to give .40-caliber pistols to donors at a “2nd Amendment BBQ” last December. But coming days after the shooting in San Bernardino , the event turned off Golden State Republican Rep. Mimi Walters, who had previously endorsed the candidate.  

The National Rifle Association has auctioned off firearms for decades. And GOP candidates have been in doing it as far back as at least 1994.   

President Barack Obama’s efforts to tighten restrictions on gun sales may have inspired an uptick in these kinds of giveaways. Candidates see it as a way to burnish their conservative credentials, while their supporters may view it as a chance to stock up before restrictions take effect. (Gun sales have surged  after shootings, often over fears of gun control legislation that may follow.)  

[Related: Obama Makes Gun Control a 2016 Issue]

The phenomenon was in full force the last election cycle. Slate counted at least 17 candidates who raffled guns in 2014.  

Ted Nugent raffled off an AR-15 for Tom Tancredo’s Colorado gubernatorial campaign.   

“Mark my words: we’ll keep our guns if Tom wins this race,” Nugent wrote in an email to supporters.  

Former Georgia Rep. Paul Broun raffled off an AR-15 in his quest to win a crowded Republican primary for an open Senate seat.  

Rep. Paul Broun ran for the Republican nomination for Senate in Georgia in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Paul Broun ran for the Republican nomination for Senate in Georgia in 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“You see, it’s no secret that the Democrats and liberal media would love to take away our guns and mandate every aspect of our lives, but I refuse to let them get away with that. In fact, today, I have some exciting news for you,” Broun said in an email announcing the contest.  

A long-shot primary challenger to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham did the same.  

“I know the political talking heads may sneer as they continue blaming guns and law-abiding gun owners for the acts of thugs and madmen. But I am the pro-gun, pro-Constitution candidate in this race for the U.S. Senate — and I can’t think of a better way to get that word out than by giving away a brand new AR-15,” wrote South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright.  

Another anti-incumbent primary challenger, Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr , raffled off a Beretta 92A1 in his campaign against Sen. Lamar Alexander. Carr said the giveaway was to celebrate Beretta opening a new manufacturing plant in the state.

Candidates shooting things


Gun raffles aren’t the only way Republicans have demonstrated their commitment to the 2nd Amendment.   

New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate Jeanie Forrester recently filmed a new web ad in which she talks about how her husband bought her a pink handgun.  

Republican women firing weapons is hardly new. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst is “a lieutenant colonel who carries more than just lipstick in her purse,” the narrator in one infamous ad for her 2014 Senate campaign said.   

And it’s not just targets that Republicans are shooting. Many of them have taken to shooting the pages of President Obama’s health care law.  

North Carolina Republican Kay Daly made a splash  earlier this year with a video where she goes “RINO” hunting . The “Republican-In-Name-Only” she had in mind was 2nd District GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers . Daly has since been drawn out of the 2nd District and is now running in the GOP primary in the open 13th District.    

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