BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A candidate for a Maryland House seat is facing criticism for a campaign fundraiser that included raffling off AR-15s, an event that some say is insensitive following the Florida school shooting earlier this week.
Aaron Penman — a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Harford County sheriff’s deputy and Republican running for a delegate seat in the 7th District — hosted the sold-out event Saturday at the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company.
Tickets for the event cost $50 and the bingo portion featured several guns as prizes, including a “jackpot game” in which the winner got an AR-15. The winner of a raffle also received an AR-15. Penman’s Facebook page for his campaign states all gun winners must complete state and federal background checks.
The event, which was planned months ago, came days after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed with an AR-15.
Pelman said at the event that his prayers are with the families of the massacre, but guns aren’t the problem.
“I don’t believe that this a gun issue, I believe it is a mental health issue… I believe this is a school security issue,” he said.
Allison Berkowitz, a Democratic contender for the seat, and a group of about 15 people gathered outside the event to hold a vigil for the school shooting victims as well as victims of other mass shootings.
“I don’t think the gun that they’re auctioning off tonight, which was used to kill these people in Parkland…. I don’t think those should be in the hands of civilians,” Berkowitz said.
Dozens of people, along with several who messaged WJZ via social media, expressed outrage on Penman’s Facebook page.
“This is reprehensible. You are no leader. Get your act together. Our nation is mourning and you’re giving out lethal weapons like lollipops to get elected. You are disgusting,” one person wrote.
“Giving out AR-15s at a time like this is totally out of touch with the sentiment of most Americans, who, regardless of support for the 2nd amendment, want regulations over assault weapons. This is particularly offensive given the recent school shooting with this weapon,” another commented.
“Hosting a gun bingo is in appallingly poor taste on any given day of the week. Hosting a gun bingo while the nation mourns the slaughter of children at school is disgraceful. Shame on you and shame on your supporters,” one wrote.