Parents, community members plan to protest Waunakee charity gun auction

Published: Apr. 10, 2018 at 8:24 PM CDT
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Some parents in the Waunakee School District plan to protest a Madison Area Friends of the NRA charity raffle that is giving away a gun marketed as the “big brother of the AR-15.”

Protesters want a 308 Winchester semi-automatic rifle to be removed from the event scheduled to take place at Rex's Innkeeper on Wednesday. It is one of several guns and other non-weapon prizes in a raffle.

"That gun just doesn't belong in our community, in any community,” said Jodi Benz, a parent of two children in the Waunakee School District.

Benz said she plans to protest outside the event on Wednesday night.

"None of this protest is about anti-gun. It is about the ARs, the AKs, the big brother of it,”said Benz.

The organizer of the event and the chairman of the Madison Area Friends of the NRA, Brian Downey, said the gun is not an AR-15. The 308 Winchester shoots larger bullets and Downey said calling it the “big brother of the AR-15” is just a marketing tool.

"I don't understand, other than the cosmetics, what makes them different than the other thousands of deer rifles out there,” Downey said.

An AR-15 was used in the Parkland, Florida high school shooting in February. 17 people were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded.

"It’s not different than what has been sold and continues to be sold as a deer hunting cartridge,” Downey said.

“Friends of the NRA” groups raise money for charity. The Madison Area chapter raises money for an organization that donates outfitted outdoor wheelchairs to people with disabilities, high school trap shooting guns teams, and gun safety programs in schools. Downey said his group does not give any of the money they raise to the division of the NRA that donates to political campaigns or lobbies lawmakers.

Downey said every year, ahead of the charity event, their organization buys a package of prizes from the NRA to raffle off for charity. He said they have to raffle off what they are given.

Benz said she doesn’t have a problem with other hand guns and long guns being part of the charity event. She said their issue is just with the 308 Winchester.

"If they want to raffle off or auction these guns, fine. Take the one gun off the table,” Benz said.

She said roughly 100 people are expected to protest across the street from Wednesday night’s event.

Downey said it’s too late to take the gun out of the raffle.

"Under Wisconsin law, once we start one of these raffles, once anyone starts one of these raffles, that's it. You can't change anything on it,” Downey said.

Benz said she still believes the gun is a danger to their community.

"It’s not wiping out the Second Amendment, [it’s] not taking people's guns away. It’s about safety and the safety of our children is number one,” Benz said.

The owner of Rex’s Innkeeper, Rex Enders said he has hosted the Madison Area Friend’s of the NRA charity event for the past 26 years. He said he is not a part of the organization and has no control over what prices they offer in their raffle.

Downey said a federally-licensed firearms dealer will be at the event to conduct legal background checks on the winners of the prizes.