Gun raffles benefiting political campaigns are illegal, Virginia AG says

Virginia State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, arrives in the temporary Senate chambers at the Science Museum of Virginia prior to the start of the Senate session at the facility Tuesday Aug. 18, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Chase who has a doctors note excusing her from wearing a mask has been asked to hold a shield up to her face when entering and exiting the chamber.
Virginia State Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, arrives in the temporary Senate chambers at the Science Museum of Virginia prior to the start of the Senate session at the facility Tuesday Aug. 18, 2020. Chase is the only member of the Senate who refused to wear a mask during the legislative session. (AP Photo/Steve Helber/Pool)

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has issued an official reminder that political campaigns cannot raise money through raffles and, if the prize happens to be a gun, raffle organizers have to conduct a background check before giving it to the winner.

Gun raffles have become a regular feature among hard-right conservatives running for office in Virginia.

Corey Stewart, the former Prince William County board chairman, gave away an AR-15 as part of his 2017 run for governor.

Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, advertised a similar AR-15 giveaway this summer, promising to make the presentation onstage at an event with gun-loving rocker Ted Nugent.

Republican Bob Good, a former Liberty University athletics official running for Congress in Central Virginia’s sprawling 5th District, recently participated in a “God, Guns and a Good Time Rally” that advertised an AR-15 giveaway.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

None of the events appeared to draw serious legal scrutiny, but Herring says raffles to benefit political campaigns are likely a violation of the state’s anti-gambling laws. Charitable, religious and education organizations are allowed to hold raffles to raise money, Herring wrote, but political campaigns do not fall into any of those groups.

Even if organizers of political gun raffles found a legal loophole, Herring said they have to properly vet the winner due to the state’s new law requiring background checks for all gun sales and trades. Making a donation for a chance to win a prize, Herring said, qualifies as an exchange of value, triggering the background check requirement.

Under Herring’s interpretation, the state’s definition of raffles would also ban campaigns from raising money through duck races or any other “race involving inanimate objects floating on a body of water.”