First a Permitless Hog Farm, Now An AR-15 Giveaway – Is Rep. Holt’s Fundraiser “Door Prize” Legal?

Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) is hosting a “Hogfest and Turkey Shoot” campaign fundraiser at his home this Saturday, and has announced he will be giving away an AR-15 Assault Rifle – the weapon used in tragedy after tragedy in America – as a “door prize”… but is it legal?

That Holt would give away a weapon that even NASCAR won’t feature in ads anymore despite the message it sends to those concerned about the gun death crisis in America should come as no surprise – he is after all the sponsor of a recent bill to weaken our permitting system in Tennessee to make it possible for people to get a permit to carry virtually anywhere in our state without ever actually firing one on a range, simply by taking a quick online class.

But is his giveaway actually legal? It would appear the answer is no.

The Secretary of State’s website is very clear: Raffles like the one described in Holt’s event – where people pay to get in, and are entered to win a prize – are considered gambling in Tennessee, and not permitted by any organization that isn’t a charity and hasn’t been pre-approved.

From the Secretary of State’s site:

Raffles and games of chance are considered gambling, which is prohibited in Tennessee. However, certain charitable organizations are allowed to apply to have one raffle, reverse raffle, cakewalk or cakewheel each year if that event is conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Tennessee Charitable Gaming Implementation Law.

Only a qualified 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organization that has submitted an application to the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming and that has been approved by the Tennessee General Assembly can hold a raffle.

When asked about this on Twitter, Holt responded that the AR-15 was a “doorprize”:

But the SOS site makes no exception for such semantic arguments. What Holt describes in his event post is pretty clearly not allowed by law.

Again, from the SOS site:

No. An event is considered a raffle if someone must pay for a chance to win a prize and would be a violation of law. It does not matter that the payment is called a “donation.”

When asked if he had applied and been approved, Holt gave no answer.

There is even a question on the site itself about exceptions for political campaigns, to which the answer is very clearly also a resounding NO:

Are political candidates and campaigns allowed to conduct raffles or other games of chance?
No. The law only allows qualified 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations to hold gaming events. Political candidates and campaigns for public office are not considered 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) tax exempt organizations… If someone is required to pay for a chance to win a prize, it is considered a raffle. Only qualified and approved 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations may hold a raffle. It does not matter that the payment is called a “donation.”

As for the consequences, the site has this to say:

If the Division of Charitable Solicitations is notified of an unapproved event, the Division will notify the local district attorney general. Conducting an unapproved game of chance may be a violation of the criminal gaming statute, and local law enforcement has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for the event… Please contact the district attorney for the county in which you believe the game of chance is taking place or contact the Division of Charitable Solicitations at (615) 741-2555 and the Division will notify the appropriate authorities.

In this case, the District Attorney to holler at would be Tommy Thomas: (731) 364-5513

And here’s how to holler at the Division of Charitable Donations: (615) 741-2555 & charitable.solicitations@tn.gov

It’s worth pointing out that Holt is no stranger to breaking the law and doing things without a permit – he was previously found to be operating a pig farm without one.
He also recently mocked a Republican County commissioner who criticized disgraced former speaker Glen Casada, teasing him about beastiality (all class that Andy!) – and called a constituent who disagreed with him “mentally ill”.
We have heard from someone who was able to get Rep. Holt on the phone, who says she asked him if there is a way to register for the door prizes without buying a ticket for admission. Apparently Holt said he would get back to her, and hung up on her.
The charitable gaming office within the secretary of state’s office said they would look into it and get back to us, but when we followed up we were told all investigations are private until the investigations are closed, and that even whether or not there is an open investigation will not be disclosed to the public until after the investigation is closed.
Now you might be thinking – it’s just a raffle, who cares? And you’d have a point.
But the bigger point here is that laws exist for a reason, and laws that apply to the rest of us should apply equally to lawmakers themselves – otherwise we live in a two-tiered society, which is exactly the opposite of the “all men are created equal” principle.
Surely a “constitutional conservative” like Rep. Holt wouldn’t want to violate that bedrock principle just to give away an AR-15 and trigger some libs, would he?
As for the AR-15 itself, we’ll freely admit we find the idea of giving one away when they have been the source of so much heartbreak and misery feels irresponsible and heartless. We support the 2nd Amendment, but even Justice Scalia said it didn’t allow for “UNLIMITED” right to own and keep any weapon, anywhere, any time.
And even the maker of the AR-15  believed they shouldn’t be in civilian hands. The safety of our children should take precedence.

Instead of giving away AR-15’s at campaign fundraisers, it would be nice to see Holt working to make Tennessee a safer place, especially considering how unsafe a state we are when it comes to gun deaths, especially of women and children.
If you agree, or even just think laws should apply to lawmakers, Holler at Rep. Holt HERE – or on twitter HERE.

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