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Hundreds turn out for 'Bloomberg Gun Giveaway'

David Reichenbacher (left) and Kyle Cane wait to see if they won one of two guns being raffled off. Ap

ANNANDALE, Va. — Openly armed firearms enthusiasts packed a
normally sedate government building Thursday night, hoping to win a
pistol or rifle and at the same time send a defiant message to
gun-control advocates, especially New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun-rights group,
organized the ``Bloomberg Gun Giveaway'' in large part to thumb its
nose at Bloomberg, who accuses some shops of allowing illegal
purchases of firearms that later were used in crimes in his city.

The city has filed federal lawsuits against more than two dozen
shops, including six in Virginia.

Two guns were awarded Thursday, a Para-Ordnance pistol and a
Varmint Stalker rifle, each worth about $900. The winners did not
immediately receive the weapons — they will still be required to
undergo federal and state background checks.

The first winner, Jay Minsky, responded with an obscene hand
gesture when asked what message he hoped to send to Bloomberg.

``If he doesn't like people in New York having guns, he should
deal with New York,'' said Minsky, who grew up in Brooklyn. ``Just
keep out of Virginia.''

The event drew an overflow crowd at a Fairfax County government
building, with the fire marshal aggressively enforcing an occupancy
limit of 150 for the meeting hall. Others stood outside and peered
through open windows. About 200 people showed.

County officials opposed the drawing but concluded they could
not prohibit a group from using the community meeting room because
of its political views. The gun-rights group has met in the
building for years.

The event drew protests from gun-control advocates and the
parents of those killed in last month's shootings at Virginia Tech.

Peter and Cathy Read, whose daughter Mary was one of those
killed, held a photo of their daughter outside the building.

``We're not here to have a debate. We're here to witness for our
daughter,'' Peter Read said. ``The victims need to be witnessed to.
People of the commonwealth can make intelligent decisions about
what's right.''

Philip Van Cleave, the league's president, said he sympathizes
with the families but maintained that some of the deaths might have
been prevented if somebody had been armed.

Many in attendance said they were motivated not by the chance of
a free gun, but to make a point to Bloomberg and express support
for the Second Amendment.

``It'd be nice if I win, but that's not what this is about. It's
about my constitutional right to defend myself,'' said Ron
Stuebing, a league member.

The event had been planned for months as a fundraiser for two
gun shops being sued by New York City. But officials said that
giveaway violated state gambling laws, so the league quickly
organized a new giveaway, open to anybody who showed up at its
Thursday night meeting.

Most but not all in attendance carried holstered handguns. In
Virginia, individuals need a permit only to carry a concealed
weapon. Openly visible, holstered guns are permitted without a
permit.

Anybody who showed up at Thursday's event was eligible for the
drawing — except Bloomberg and his immediate family.

Asked Thursday about the giveaway, Bloomberg said, ``I think
it's sick, is the nicest ways to phrase it.''

Van Cleave responded that the members of his organization are
law-abiding citizens, including many retired military, police
officers and firefighters.

``If you're saying these are sick people, then I'm proud to be
sick,'' Van Cleave said.

Associated Press writer Sara Kugler in New York contributed to
this report.