SUMMERVILLE, Ga. — The Chattooga County Republican Party raffled a gun without the proper paperwork, which is against the law in Georgia.
On Aug. 30, the political party raffled off an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle at the county fair. Selling the gun to raise money is legal. But, Sheriff Mark Schrader said, the members of the party did not apply for a raffle license. In Georgia, that is illegal.
According to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated 16-12-22.1, anyone hoping to hold a raffle must apply for a license with the local sheriff's office, providing law enforcement with details about the event. The applicant also must prove the raffle is for a nonprofit organization.
Schrader said no members of the party talked to him about the raffle. Republican Party Chairman Spencer Hogg, however, said he has not received any complaints about the raffle and that the party "handled" the raffle license with the sheriff's office.
"To the best of my knowledge," he said, "we did things directly by the book."
Asked if he had a copy of the raffle license himself, Hogg declined to comment.
Operating a raffle without a license is classed as commercial gambling, a felony punishable by one to five years in prison or a fine up to $20,000.
The crime also applies to anyone who "knowingly aids" the raffle.
Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin declined to say whether he has received any complaints about the raffle.
A flier advertising the event said it was being held by the Chattooga County Republican Party and two sponsors: state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, and state Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee.
Schrader said neither applied to him for a raffle license this year.
Mullis did not return multiple calls or an email seeking comment over the last two weeks.
Lumsden said he did not know he was listed as a sponsor until a Times Free Press reporter showed him the flier. He said he did not know the details of the raffle.
"I'm not the Chattooga County Republican Party," he said. "I'm just an elected official who serves Chattooga and Floyd [counties]."
Lumsden said he often donates to the local Republican Party, and they told him earlier this year that they needed money for a couple of projects, including a raffle. But he does not know why his name appeared on the flier as a sponsor.
"They're just listing that to help (the raffle's) profile, I guess," he said. "It's not a heavily Republican county."
Asked about that, Hogg said, "Our elected officials have nothing to do with the licensing. That is only the party itself."
During the presidential primary election in 2008 — the last time multiple candidates ran from both parties — 1,931 Chattooga residents voted in the Republican races, compared to 2,121 who voted in the Democratic races.
Zach Hughes, chairman of the Chattooga County Democratic Party, said members of his group acquired a license from the sheriff's office before raffling a chain saw at the same fair.
Hughes said the Democrats noticed the Republicans did not display a license at their raffle, but members of his party did not alert authorities.
He said the group did not want to get mixed into a Second Amendment debate since the Republicans were raffling a semi-automatic rifle.
"It's kind of funny," he said. "The Republican Party, they push, they stand behind their gun rights. But when it comes to something like this, they don't particularly follow the law. The raffle? It would be good if everyone follows the same rules."
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6476.