For her first ever gun experience, Adams, who lives in Glenville, paid $25 to the Asheville Tea Party, which hosted their second-annual machine gun social last Saturday at the Bear Arms indoor firing range in Brevard. The money she paid, along with the 100 or so others who attended, will go to support radio, newspaper and campaign advertisements for a list of conservative candidates throughout Western North Carolina that the organization supports — from county commissioners to state legislators.
Attendees had the option of paying $25 to shoot an entire magazine of one of the smaller automatic rifles, which included the likes of what Adams fired as well as an Israeli Uzi. To discharge one of the larger rifles, like the AK-47 and the M16, cost $35 and $50, respectively.
Jane Belillo, chairman of the Asheville Tea Party, reported that the Machine Gun Social fundraiser netted more than $4,000, after covering the cost of roughly $1,000 in ammunition. She said the event was larger than last year’s after a bump from national and even international media attention leading up to the fundraiser.
Jackson County Commission Candidate Marty Jones, among those endorsed by the Tea Party, was waiting patiently in the firing line with his college-aged son. Both of them were planning on firing the AK-47 — one of the most popular guns at the fundraiser, it routinely overheated from being fired and had to be cooled down with wet rags.
Marty Jones explained how he had gone through a vetting process, called the iCaucus, to gain the support of the conservative groups such as the Asheville Tea Party. The entire process includes 100 or so question quiz, a videotaped interview and a vote by the organization’s members to decide whether to put their support behind the candidate.
Perhaps it’s not surprising the Asheville Tea Party — and their affiliate groups such as the Jackson County Tea Party Patriots and the Haywood 9.12 Project — have lined up behind the conservative side of the Republican ticket. Their line-up includes: U.S. Congress candidate Mark Meadows of Cashiers, N.C. House canditate Mike Clampitt of Bryson City, and N.C. Sen. Jim Davis of Franklin, running for re-election in the state senate.
Jones said the iCaucus vetting, and the machine gun firing fundraiser make clear his values as a candidate running for Jackson County commissioner.
“It’s the Second Amendment,” Marty Jones said. “As a constitutional conservative, I support it fully — and anyone who doesn’t, doesn’t understand the history and writing of the constitution.”
Asheville Tea Party members at the fundraiser were eager to explain it to anyone willing to listen. Tea Party Vice Chairman Fremont Brown, sitting near the welcome booth at the fundraiser with a CZ 75 P-01, the standard issue Czech police gun, on his hip, explained his straightforward interpretation of the Second Amendment.
The second half of the amendment reads: “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Brown’s stance on gun control: there shouldn’t be any.
Although their core beliefs are similar, fellow board member John Maltry, sitting next to Brown with a break-action pistol on his hip, disagreed and said some laws need to be in place to inhibit mentally unsound people like the shooter at the Aurora, Colo., movie theater from obtaining weapons.
A statement to which Fremont replied, “You can make all the laws you want, but you’re not going to stop crazy people.”
Fremont added he is opposed to laws requiring certain permits or registrations for gun owners; restrictions on where people can carry guns, such as in school or other public property; the Firearms part of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Exploxives; and any laws forbidding types of firearms.
Maltry said all the guns being fired at the fundraiser were legal, though they are fully automatic weapons and require a special permit, registration and $200 fee to own under the National Firearms Act. There are more than 11,000 machine guns registered in North Carolina, according to statistics kept by the ATF.
The real purpose of the fundraiser, beside raising funds for conservative candidates, was to give people a chance to try something new, Maltry said.
“The event is really just an opportunity to shoot what you normally don’t get to shoot,” said Maltry, who had a ticket to shoot all of the different types of guns that day.