VIERA, Fla. - Organizers of a gun rights forum featuring Mark O'Mara, George Zimmerman's defense attorney, have decided that having a gun raffle in conjunction with the event wasn't such a good idea.
The Gun Rights Preservation Forum event is still scheduled for Nov. 4 in Viera. But the raffle for a gun and a Bible will occur at a different time, probably in early December, according to Bob White, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Central East Florida, which is holding the forum.
The 9mm semiautomatic handgun that was to be raffled off, a Kel-Tec PF-9, is the same model that Zimmerman, a Sanford neighborhood watch volunteer, used in February 2012 when he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. In July, a jury acquitted Zimmerman of charges of second-degree murder, supporting the defense claim that Zimmerman shot Martin in self-defense. Martin had been walking through Zimmerman's gated townhome community when the confrontation occurred.
White said O'Mara contacted him to express concern about tying in the gun forum with the raffle.
"The right thing to do is to postpone the raffle," White said.
White said he was not aware that the gun model Zimmerman used was the same gun model that was in the raffle, until asked about it by Local 6 News partner Florida Today earlier this month.
Gunmaker Kel-Tec CNC Industries Inc. is based in Cocoa, and "we thought it was appropriate to support a local manufacturer," White said.
"In making this decision to postpone the raffle, we are trying to be sensitive to concerns expressed by our featured speaker, Mark O'Mara, and others, regarding appearances relating to the raffling of the Kel-Tec 9 mm," White said in an email to Florida Today and O'Mara. "We have no doubt that George Zimmerman used this weapon legally in the defense of his own life. Certainly, its use prevented further serious bodily harm to himself, and he may very well have saved his own life by its use. We also recognize, though, that another life was lost in the process, and we do have empathy for the parents of Trayvon Martin. Losing their son was tragic, regardless of the circumstances."
White said he discussed the issue with other Republican Liberty Caucus board members, and their consensus was to not have the raffle in conjunction with the gun forum.
"We have come to the conclusion that, in this particular situation, standing on principle by going ahead with the raffle would be shortsighted and would accomplish no useful purpose," White said in his email. "In fact, it could potentially distract from the intention of the forum, which is to have a meaningful discussion centered on the Second Amendment right of all Americans to keep and bear arms, and the forces arrayed against this right. At the same time, it could potentially cause needless additional heartache for the parents of Trayvon Martin. Nothing good could come from such a thoughtless act."
People who already purchased a raffle ticket for the gun and Bible will be eligible for the raffle when it occurs, White said, and need not be present to win.
Money raised from the raffle will help support lobbying and public-education efforts related to personal-liberty issues, as well as for the Liberty Catalyst Fund, which advocates for certain political candidates. Raffle tickets are $15 apiece or five for $50.
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