Gun raffle sparks protest

Senior in LAS Alex Kroll, far right, argues with members of the Feminist Majority during a raffle for firearms on the Quad Thursday. The raffle was held to raise money for The Orange and Blue Observer and to raise awareness about gun ownership issues. Online Poster

Senior in LAS Alex Kroll, far right, argues with members of the Feminist Majority during a raffle for firearms on the Quad Thursday. The raffle was held to raise money for The Orange and Blue Observer and to raise awareness about gun ownership issues. Online Poster

By Nate Sandstrom

More than 20 protesters held signs and chanted as The Orange and Blue Observer, a conservative political journal on campus, raffled off three Star Super 9mm pistols on the Quad side of the Illini Union on Thursday afternoon. Members from both sides argued with each other about the effectiveness of concealed weapons to prevent rape.

Members of the Observer held the event to support Illinois House bill 2607, which would allow qualified citizens to legally carry concealed weapons, said Adam Feil, graduate student and writer for the Observer. Illinois currently does not allow people to carry concealed weapons.

Two weeks ago, the Observer raffled off an AK-47 rifle. Profits from both raffles went toward funding future issues of the journal.

Blair Schaefer, senior in LAS, yelled excitedly after his name was announced as a winner of one of the pistols. Schaefer said he was surprised because he had purchased just one $5 ticket. He said he did not currently own any guns, but had experience firing guns. Schaefer said he will be an officer in the U.S. Air Force after graduation and will enjoy having his own pistol.

“I think this is a pretty ballsy thing to do, so I guess I kind of support it,” Schaefer said.

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The guns were not present at the site of the raffle. Schaefer provided identification and filled out paperwork required to own a gun in Illinois. He said he is scheduled to receive the gun after the paperwork is processed.

For more than two hours, members from both groups debated on opposite sides of the table where Observer staff passed out fliers and selling the raffle tickets. For much of the event, people argued about whether concealed weapons would prevent rape.

While advertising the AK-47 raffle, Observer staff made comments about how if more women carried firearms, there would be fewer cases of rape.

“God made man and woman,” stated Observer editor Leo Buchignani in a March 31 press release about the AK-47 raffle. “Smith and Wesson made them equal. For the first time in history, handguns neutralize the male strength advantage over women. I don’t understand why all feminists don’t arm themselves.”

David Weiss, freshman in engineering, said that if the Observer’s staff was concerned about women’s safety, they should have only allowed women to win the gun.

“They’re trying to stop violence by promoting violence,” added Jennifer Clemons, junior in LAS.

Although several arguments broke out between protesters and Observer staff, both sides said the arguments were not productive.

Feil said he thought that the protesters who surrounded the table probably hurt raffle tickets sales because those who wished to purchase tickets were forced to walk around the crowd. He said he was disappointed that Lance Wright, assistant director of the Union, observed the event, yet did not intervene to provide the Observer’s staff with space to conduct their raffle. He also said some people threatened him, saying they would use a gun against him.

“People picked up on just one argument someone made that if rapists knew women could legally carry concealed weapons, they would think twice about it,” Feil said.

He said the raffle was to garner support for the wider issue of the benefits of a law that would allow citizens who are not convicted felons to carry concealed weapons. Feil said he thought many of the protesters were upset that the Observer used the issue of rape to argue in favor of concealed weapons.

Wright said he did not intervene because “my interpretation of this is that this area (in front of the Union) is a free-speech zone.

“Protesters had the right to express their views as the Orange and Blue Observer had the right to express their views – but not one over the other,” he said.

Celine Browning, sophomore in FAA, said she had collected approximately 350 signatures for a petition that supports maintaining Illinois’ current laws banning concealed weapons that they planned to send to State Representative Naomi Jakobsson (D-Champaign).

“It’s been great to see so many people from different backgrounds come together to support this,” Browning said.

Alex Kroll, who collected raffle ticket money for the Observer, told WCIA-TV that they sold at least 50 tickets. Kroll declined an interview with the Daily Illini because he alleged that he had been misquoted in an article that covered the AK-47 raffle.

Several protesters also criticized the journal as sexist.

They referenced an e-mail exchange between Buchignani and Melissa Murphy, president of the University’s Feminist Majority chapter.

According to Murphy, Buchignani sent her an e-mail promoting concealed weapons as a way to prevent rape. The Daily Illini received a copy of the e-mail exchange.

“Don’t send me anymore of this bulls**t. Thank you. peace,” Murphy replied to Buchignani.

Buchignani replied: “Now Miss Murphy, you really shouldn’t talk like that. I’m very sorry that your daddy didn’t bend you over his knee when you needed it. Hopefully you will one day discover the joys of submission and womanhood. Until then, no self-respecting man will touch you. And those that aren’t, will use you for the goods you no longer value. The good news is that the values of your kind reduce your average birthrate so much, there’s little danger of passing on your spirit to the next generation.”

Buchignani told a Daily Illini columnist that he wrote the e-mail. When asked to confirm that he wrote the e-mail, Buchignani referred a reporter to his comments to the columnist. Buchignani declined to comment further about the e-mail and called the Daily Illini “biased.”

Murphy said the e-mail was contradictory because the Observer staff claim to want to help women, but then made derogatory comments toward women.