Asheville Tea Party organizes ‘Great Gun’ fundraiser in wake of school shooting

Amid a raging national debate over gun control spurred by the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the Asheville Tea Party has organized a “Great Gun Giveaway” fundraiser. The local group’s event attracted national attention from the Huffington Post.

Posted to the Asheville Tea Party’s website Dec. 17, the raffle event asks participants to donate a minimum of $20 to the group’s political action committee in order to have a chance to win a semi-automatic rifle. Or participants can donate a minimum of $10 to have a chance to win a .22 magnum pistol and 30-round clip. A poster advertising the contest stipulates that winners must be residents of North Carolina who are able to pass all required background checks.

Along with the contest details, the Asheville Tea Party website features a variety of videos and links to articles slamming gun control measures.

In a Dec. 18 column for the Huffington Post, writer Leah Griesmann criticizes the group for not expressing “a word of sympathy for the victims” of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 students and 6 adults dead.

At this writing, the chair of the Asheville Tea Party, Jane Bilello, hadn’t returned a message from Xpress seeking comment.

The local group’s public gun advocacy is out of step with the actions of the National Rifle Association since the shooting, which has gone “on lockdown” and not released any public statements, according to Politico.

In September, a “Machine Gun Social” organized by the group also attracted widespread media attention and coverage from the Huffington Post.

UPDATE at 5:45 p.m. Dec. 18: Bilello tells Xpress that the Asheville Tea Party event was planned before the Newton shooting but wasn’t announced online until Dec. 17. She says the fundraiser will continue despite mounting criticism and reports that raffle tickets are selling well, with the organization already raising about $300 in the last two days. “Liberals and progressives have been hijacking the conversation over gun control since the tragedy,” she asserts. “They’re trying to enact stupid gun laws that don’t make people safer… We’re not going to back off on this.” The money raised from the fundraiser will go towards supporting Tea Party candidates and encouraging elected officials not to pass more stringent gun controls, she says. She also says the organization will post a statement soon responding to the Huffington Post columnist and other critics of the event.

UPDATE at 11:14 a.m. Dec. 19: Bilello sent out a statement to press responding to critics and posted it on the Asheville Tea Party’s website. Here it is in its entirety:

Why are we going ahead with the Great Gun Giveaway?

The horror at Sandy Hook Elementary is beyond comprehension. Our hearts are broken and our nightmares renewed at such senseless loss of precious life. We are sickened that this could happen. How can this tragedy and the other massacres that have taken place be prevented? How can we protect ourselves and the most innocent among us from the deranged and the murderous evil minds that prey upon the defenseless? Is gun control the answer?

In 1994, The Gun-Free Schools Act was passed and implemented in 1995. Since the Gun-Free School Zone Act there has been a 370% increase in the rate of school shooting deaths. Yet, the United States homicide rate has decreased by 14% since GFSZA was enacted. Why is the murder rate decreasing where conceal carry laws are in place, but those murdered on educational property has quadrupled where guns are banned? Areas where victims are disarmed attract violent predators. The data from the Gun-Free Schools Act bears this out.

Why is it that these mass murders occur in Gun Free Zones? Recent memory includes Columbine, Virginia Tech, the Aurora Theater, and now Sandy Hook. They are rural, unprotected, and Gun Free Zones. Ever wonder why the schools in the worst neighborhoods in our inner cities do not fall victim to mass murderers? They would be met with metal detectors and armed guards. They wouldn’t get very far. The evil minded and the deranged pick easy targets – the disarmed – to do the most damage. They do not obey Gun Free Zone signs. They do not obey gun control laws. They acquire guns illegally. There are current laws that prohibit the mentally unfit from owning a gun, yet those with the intent of causing mayhem, find a way. More gun control is not the answer. And, in case you have forgotten, you have a right to protect yourself, your property, and those in your care.

So, why are we, as a society, not having an honest conversation and a debate about the effectiveness of gun control? Why do we blame all gun owners for the act of one deranged person? Guns are how we avoid talking about the dark side of human nature that will never be eradicated. The best we as individuals can do is to protect ourselves and those we hold dear.

We have given the Federal Government permission to disarm school officials by force of law and threat of imprisonment. They are now incapable of defending the children under their care. This is the reality. Does this not need to be changed?

To clear up the misconceptions regarding ATPAC’s gun raffle: We encourage responsible gun ownership: The gun raffle was put in place weeks ago. Capitol Pawn owns the guns. ATPAC does not. We are asking for donations to buy a ticket for a chance to win. The proceeds will go to pay for the guns that Capitol Pawn owns. The remainder of the proceeds will be put aside for candidates for office who support our principles. The winner must also fill out the proper paperwork at Capitol Pawn and go through the legal process. If any of the criteria are not met, another winner will be chosen.
Though this raffle went public Monday, 12/17, tickets have been selling word of mouth for more than a week, even before the tickets were printed. ATPAC decided to go through with this raffle at this time because everyone is paying attention. We refuse to allow the Left and the Liberal mindset to once again hijack the conversation as they have and allow the political hacks to pass laws that continue to limit our inalienable right to protect ourselves and the most defenseless among us.

The deranged gunman may have shot his way into that Gun Free School Zone, but would not have gotten far if he had been met with equal deadly force. Think about the lives that could have been saved from the time the 911 call was placed and actual police arrival if he had he been met with armed resistance. That scenario can be applied to every massacre we have suffered through. Yes. This is the time for an honest debate. This is the time to shine blistering sunlight on this issue and to throw cold water in the face of those who let ‘no crisis goes to waste.’

For more information on the issue, please see site, Gun Free Zones Do Not Work

Jane Bilello
Asheville Tea Party
Asheville Tea PAC

“If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” Sam Adams, 1776 …
That time has come! JB


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

16 thoughts on “Asheville Tea Party organizes ‘Great Gun’ fundraiser in wake of school shooting

  1. Meiling Dai

    It’s fine to have a raffle and a fundraiser
    for the Asheville Tea Party – but why do the
    items they raffle have to be “guns”??
    How about a cruise, a lawnmower,
    or a car?

  2. Lamont Cranston

    Are these people that insensitive, and stupid? What has this country come to……


    • Dionysis

      “Are these people that insensitive, and stupid?”

      Clearly the answer is ‘yes’ to both.

    • Jennifer Hudson

      “Insensitive” and “stupid” are the people who will use this tragedy to ram through their anti-gun policies.

  3. bsummers

    I eagerly anticipate seeing the list of local politicians/candidates willing to be associated with this.

  4. Michael Hopping

    If they’ve raised $300, that’s a grand total of 15 tickets. Maybe those dead kids faces are getting in the way of contributions.

    • Jennifer Hudson

      Wow, you’d really show them, wouldn’t you? Do you think the ticket seller really cares that you destroy the weapon you win? I doubt it.

  5. boatrocker

    Oh yeah Roger! I like the way you think! If you want to incite the NRA types to foam at the mouth, find a film crew, show up in public place with an unloaded and stripped weapon and proceed to tear it apart while naming every shooting victim since the Brady Bill was buried.

    Hopefully the NRA response will be the usual rhetoric.

    Simply remind them that the 1st Amendment won the American Revolution, and not the 2nd. Thomas Paine’s ode to freedom of the press and the Boston Massacre’s ode to freedom of peaceable assembly as well as those pesky written calls to break away from an insidiously free market driven empire (ahem East India Tea Company) did far more damage than any lead shot ever will.

    Lawyers with persuasive writing skills trumped any illiterate yeoman farmer with a musket. History (real history, not Sarah P’s version) won the war. You go Roger! Chew on that, NRA.

  6. Dionysis

    Well, there is more. According to the national on-line news site ‘Raw Story’, the local Tea Party nuts specifically are exploiting the Connecticut tragedy. As Tea Party Chair and Spokesnut Jane Billelo stated:

  7. boatrocker

    Sarcasm time. Remember the shooting death in NYC a few months ago where a disgruntled employee shot his boss? Multiple NYC cops showed up for a good ol fashioned shoot out with the shooter- the result? NYC cops shot 9 innocent bystanders. The suspect shot only 1 person.

    To all those that would say “Well if only we let those kindegartnen students pack a gun”, get a life.

    Your NRA arguments are moots points.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.