Following on the work of Texas’s Steve Stockman, described by Mother Jones as “the nuttiest” member of Congress, Montana’s Ryan Zinke has decided to collect e-mails and donations by offering a raffle for an AR-15 rifle signed by the Congressman, humbly identified, as he so rarely does, as a former Navy SEAL.
For those of you unfamiliar with the AR-15, it’s an incredibly popular gun in the United States, both because of its ease of customization and because conservatives like to periodically stoke fears that President Obama will ban the weapon. It’s the wet dream of gundamentalists: easy to customize into a more efficient killing machine and threatened in the fervid paranoid fantasies of those who imagine their personal arsenals are under threat of confiscation.
And it’s one of the weapons favored by those who engage in mass killings. It was the weapon used to murder 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2013 and to murder 14 people in San Bernardino back in December. In fact, the AR-15 has played a significant role in mass killings in the United States, including, as Fusion notes, the killings at Umpqua Community College and the James Holmes killings in the Aurora, Colorado theater killings. These killings also benefit gun manufacturers and the politicians they buy, as sales after mass killings often dramatically spike.
It makes sense that Congressman Zinke, with the worst lifetime NRA rating of any major elected official from Montana in the past decade, would try to simultaneously make potential contributors believe he has a strong record on gun rights and collect some names of some credulous dupes for future fundraising appeals, even if the spectacle of a member of Congress offering a gun raffle to do so is a bit embarrassing. Perhaps waiting a few more months after a mass killing might also have been appropriate, but respecting another handful of dead Americans is surely less important than a member of Congress trying to build his gun bona fides.
The mechanics of the raffle, though, are confusing. Though the rules say the contest ended on February 11 at 12:59 p.m., I was able to enter the raffle at close to 11:00 p.m. on February 14. And there’s no evidence that the Zinke campaign promoted the raffle until a post on his campaign Facebook page on the morning of February 10. Nothing before that, nothing on his campaign Twitter account, and no evidence on Google that he had promoted it. In the hours after Zinke posted the raffle on his Facebook page, followers posted that they were unable to enter the contest.
It’s almost like the entire raffle is little more than a sham, not unlike the record of a Congressman who has been bought and sold whole by the gun lobby and their enablers.