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N.H. police spurn man’s bid to buy, destroy guns

A New Hampshire police group that plans to raffle 31 guns in May received this offer from an alarmed critic of the giveaway: He would raise $30,000, buy all the guns, and bring them to his local police station to be destroyed.

He even offered to kick in an additional $500 for postage to send reimbursements to the 1,000 people who bought $30 tickets in the sold-out benefit.

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Another critic floated an idea to have the guns melted, turned into jewelry, and sold to help victims of gun violence.

But the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police plans to proceed with the raffle, citing fears of a lawsuit from disgruntled ticket-buyers, said Robert Sprague, a consultant from Nottingham, N.H., who made the $30,000 offer.

“I thought it was very ironic that peace officers were putting guns on the street,” said Sprague, who noted that the first gun to be raffled resembles the semiautomatic rifle used in the massacre in Newtown, Conn. “It was almost like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit. I was outraged. I wanted it to stop.”

Sprague said that the association’s president, Police Chief Paul Donovan of Salem, agreed to discuss a fallback offer to raise $30,000 next year — without a gun raffle — to benefit a police cadet training academy for 14- to 20-year-olds.

“I’ll be working with them on what I like to call ‘peaceful fund-raising,’ ” Sprague said. “It’s not a perfect solution, that’s for sure, and I wish I could have done more.”

Donovan could not be reached for comment.

The raffle, which will give away a gun every day in May, has prompted intense reactions. Critics have assailed the chiefs as callously indifferent in the painful aftermath of the Newtown shootings, while supporters have countered that the raffle complies with state and federal laws and will help a worthy cause.

In a statement posted last month on the association’s website, Donovan wrote that the “New Hampshire Chiefs of Police feel the issues with these tragic shootings are ones that are contrary to lawful and responsible gun ownership.”

The guns include semiautomatic assault rifles, bolt-action hunting rifles, and semiautomatic and single-shot handguns, according to the raffle list. On May 1, the first day of the raffle, police will award a Ruger SR-556 semiautomatic carbine, which can hold 30-round magazines.

“These guys are officers of the peace; they are not in the business of selling a piece,” said Arnie Arnesen, a radio talk-show host in Concord, N.H., who pitched the idea of melting the guns into jewelry. “That’s not their job. They have a different role in society. Selling guns doesn’t make sense.”

Arnesen, a former Democratic state representative, scoffed at the damage of a potential lawsuit.

“Is the harm of not winning the raffle greater than the message that the police chiefs are sending?” Arnesen asked. “Connecticut made us realize that we now have a responsibility to those kids to notice everything. No more eyes wide shut. No more.”

Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at macquarrie@globe.com.
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