AR-15 raffle to raise money for Orlando shooting families canceled

An AR-15 gun raffle was called off but Chicago police and Illinois lawmakers are pushing for longer prison sentences for repeat gun offenders who they say are driving much of the city's increase in violence.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
A man holds a newly-assembled AR-15 rifle in New Britain, Conn., in 2013. A gun shop in McHenry, Ill., cancelled a raffle of an AR-15 rifle to benefit victims of the June 12, 2016, nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla.

A suburban Chicago gun shop has canceled a raffle of a semi-automatic rifle to benefit victims of the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.

The Chicago Tribune reports  that Second Amendment Sports in McHenry, Ill., called off the raffle following questions about whether it would be legal. Under Illinois law, only nonprofit groups may hold raffles.

Bert Irslinger Jr. and his father own the shooting range and gun store. They were selling $5 tickets to win an AR-15 rifle similar to the weapon a gunman used to open fire in a gay nightclub June 12, leaving 49 people dead and 53 injured.

"We wanted to do something for the loss of lives and injuries that happened to people in Orlando," Bert Irslinger Jr., a co-owner of the store, told the Chicago Tribune

Mr. Irslinger and co-owner Bert Irslinger Sr., his father, have said they would contribute an additional $2,000 to the fund. 

Kathleen Larimer, whose son was killed with the 2012 attack on an Aurora, Co. movie theater, which also used a semi-automatic gun, told The Tribune that the raffle was offensive. 

"Guns are not toys," she said. "They should be taken seriously. I'm not saying they should be illegal, but raffling off a gun is not taking its killing power seriously." 

Irslinger says employees have received death threats since the Tribune first reported the raffle.

He says they may partner with a nonprofit organization to conduct the raffle in the future.

Meanwhile, Chicago police are joining Illinois lawmakers in a push for longer prison sentences for repeat gun offenders who they say are driving much of the city's increase in violence.

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and state Sen. Kwame Raoul said Friday that new legislation the Chicago Democrat is introducing would ensure the criminals responsible for many of Chicago's shootings spend more time behind bars.

The measure would require judges to impose prison terms on the higher end of sentencing guidelines for offenders previously convicted of a gun crime. The existing guidelines wouldn't change.

The Police Department says there were 315 homicides in Chicago in the first half of the year — an increase of more than 100 over the same period last year. On average, nearly 15 people were shot daily in June, and more than two died.

Johnson said if the legislation were law, more than 50 people involved in shootings this year would have been in prison.

"Repeat gun offenders are driving the violence in Chicago," Johnson said.

He added that Chicago police are working diligently to keep these offenders off the streets "but we need help from the justice system to hold them accountable for their actions."

Gun control legislation has been difficult to pass in Illinois, where downstate Democrats often join with Republicans to support gun rights. In 2013 it was black lawmakers, most from the Chicago area, who derailed a measure that required stiffer penalties for felons and gang members caught with weapons.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said it was a critical to combating gang violence, but the black caucus — joined by civil rights icon the Rev. Jesse Jackson — said it was too focused on locking up young men. They argued lawmakers should be trying to improve education and jobs, not increase incarceration.

Raoul said the new legislation is "the beginning of an important conversation" about a comprehensive approach to keeping communities safe.

"The challenge of addressing gun violence is not one just for law enforcement; it's one for all of us," he said.

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