Washington state Democrats are attacking the state Republican party's auction of an AR-15 rifle--a weapon at the center of the gun control debate--at its annual spring fundraiser in Bellevue over the weekend.
The semiautomatic rifle was one of the items auctioned at the Washington State Republican Party's 31st Annual Spring Gala Dinner & Auction held at the Hilton Bellevue hotel, which drew criticism from state Democrats.
According to Olympic Arms' catalog, that AR-15 sells for about $713, and online gun sellers price it between $700 and $1,000.
While the state GOP does not typically release information about how much the event raises or individual items, state GOP spokesman Keith Schipper told Patch on Tuesday the AR-15 attracted bidders.
"It went for more than we expected," he said.
AR-15-style rifles have come under scrutiny after variants of the gun were used in two mass shootings last year, according to The Spokesman-Review of Spokane:
An AR-15 was one of the guns used by mass shooter Adam Lanza in Newtown, Conn., and by James Holmes in Aurora, Colo. It is sometimes the focus of attention for proposals to ban what some call military-style assault weapons, although opponents of those proposed bans say it’s not really that different from other semi-automatic rifles in common use.
The rifle, which was made by Olympic Arms in Olympia, was donated by the Washington Arms Collectors, which holds gun shows throughout the state.
The Washington State Democrats, who sent someone to take video at the event, blasted the fundraising auction.
“In their total disregard of the Newtown massacre, (state Republican Party Chairman) Kirby Wilbur and the State Republican Party demonstrated incredible insensitivity to families in Connecticut, Colorado, Virginia, and Arizona who have lost loved ones to lunatics sporting similar assault rifles,” said state Democratic party chairman Dwight Pelz.
“State Republicans bemoan their lack of standing with voters in Snohomish, King, Pierce, and Thurston Counties--and then they pull a stunt like this,” said Pelz in a prepared statement. "Suburban voters in Western Washington don't think machine guns are cool, and they don't think that the NRA cares about their families.”
GOP spokesman Schipper, quoting party chairman Wilbur, said the rifle auction was a "pro-fundraising" statement and not a pro-gun statement.
The auction of the firearm was not out of line with GOP members' beliefs, Schipper said.
"Gun rights groups support us. We're members of pro-gun rights groups," Schipper said.
Schipper added that the videographer who provided the clip to the state Democrats also was stopped as soon as the person was noticed.
"We appreciate their generous donation" to get into the event, he said.
State GOP auctions in previous years have included other guns, including a .45 and a shotgun, provided by various donors, he said.
Other items auctioned in this year's event, which featured Sammamish councilman and television host John Curley as auctioneer, included lunch and a U.S. Capitol Dome tour with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, lunch with former state Attorney General Rob McKenna, and a number of women's gun safety classes donated by the Washington Arms Collectors, Schipper said.
The auction comes as Congress considers whether to expand background checks for gun sales.
Do you think the AR-15 auction was a good idea? Tell us in the comments.