Louisiana Police Slammed for Tone Deaf AR-15 Sweepstakes for Domestic Violence Nonprofit

A Louisiana police officer came disturbingly close this week to giving away an AR-15 rifle in a misguided attempt to support victims of domestic violence. The promotion was halted after activists in St Tammany Parish spotted a flyer promoting tickets on social media.

The digital flier featured a Core rifle and a smiling portrait of Lt. Patrick Casnave, an officer with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office who has been described as a “superhero” of a domestic violence nonprofit.

“Lt. Patrick Casnave, aka Superhero for Safe haven“He’s giving away a gun… to benefit Safe Harbor,” reads the flyer obtained by HuffPost. “CORE AR-15 worth $800. $10 each or 3 for $25.”

The raffle soon faced opposition from activists like Cynthia Weatherly.

The LGBTQ advocate who previously fought a local library board contested titles available, said she was shocked when she saw the flyer on Facebook.

“I had just pulled into my driveway when I saw the ad and my heart sank immediately,” she told HuffPost via email on Friday. “I don’t consider myself a very emotional person and I’m quite an introvert, but I was immediately struck by the callousness of this contest.”

A picture of the flyer announcing a raffle for the AR-15 style rifle.
A picture of the flyer announcing a raffle for the AR-15 style rifle.

So Weatherly called the number on the flyer and spoke to Sgt. Carli Messina, another officer at the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office. Weatherly “explained how inappropriate” the raffle seemed, but said she was told it was “primarily aimed at law enforcement and their friends and family.”

The activist dismissed this as justification for giving away a deadly weapon.

“Like the gun would get into the hands of a LEO [law enforcement officer] made everything right,” she told HuffPost.

Although the exact numbers are unclear, Weatherly cited an estimate that domestic violence among law enforcement agencies “15 times higher than the general population.”

In her discussion of the raffle, Weatherly said Messina tried to divert attention from the gun by arguing that “alcohol also contributes to domestic violence.” Weatherly told HuffPost that she felt “rejected” by Messina’s statements.

“I had tears in my eyes as I sat in my driveway,” Weatherly said, noting that her mother was a victim of domestic violence.

“I can’t imagine being in the middle of this situation and trying to get out of a situation like this and knowing that the people who are ‘helping’ are actively raising funds by donating more [guns] …out into the world,” she continued.

According to the Education Fund to End Gun Violence, there are about 4.5 million Women in the US have been threatened with a gun and nearly a million women have been shot or shot at by a partner. Women are five times more likely to be killed if the perpetrator has a gun.

The St. Tammany Township Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But it is not the first time that the police in the United States is giving away guns

In Missouri, the Columbia Police Officers Association allegedly said it would continue giving away firearms last year despite public outrage after recent mass shootings across the country.

The Bergenfield Police Department in New Jersey tried the same thing in 2019. The attempt was allegedly however, was thwarted when the Bergen County Attorney’s Office intervened, arguing that a state law prohibits giving away guns as prizes.

Gun raffles like this one in North Carolina in 2022 are hugely popular with Republicans.
Gun raffles like this one in North Carolina in 2022 are hugely popular with Republicans.

Win McNamee via Getty Images

Mel Manuel, an LGBTQ rights activist who is running for Congress as a Democrat in Louisiana’s 1st District, told HuffPost they also found out about the flyer on Facebook — and at first were really “not sure if it was real.” was”.

“This is not a weapon for hunting deer, this is for hunting humans,” wrote Manuel, using the pronouns they/them.

“Gifting it away to support a non-profit organization that cares for victims of domestic violence is incredibly deaf, especially considering the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%,” they continued.

Manuel’s congressional opponent, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), has had confusing views on guns in the past.

Last year, Scalise said passing gun safety laws to curb mass shootings would be wrong, arguing that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks there was “no discussion of banning airplanes.”

He also explained that in the 1960s, when “we actually prayed in school,” school shootings didn’t happen. But gun control advocates are calling for stricter regulations, not prayers, to prevent violence.

Manuel noted that Casnave’s participation in the raffle, which was eventually canceled by Safe Harbor, was confusing.

“As an officer whose job it is to prevent crime, I can’t see why he would want to put another semi-automatic weapon on our streets,” they wrote.

Do you need help? In the US, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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