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The Montgomery County Friends of National Rifle Association (NRA) is hosting a banquet Thursday in Franconia that appears to celebrate 30 years since the founding of the NRA’s fundraising arm.
The sold-out event will be held at Franconia Heritage Restaurant — less than a mile away from Franconia Elementary School.
With the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas still fresh on the minds of many, one Telford parent, Natalie Cimonetti, is organizing a protest across the street from Franconia Heritage on the corner of Allentown Road. The action will start at 4:30 p.m. right before the banquet begins.
“We don’t think they should be having it and I don’t support the NRA. I think that they have blood on their hands and they need to be held accountable,” Cimonetti said.
Doors open at the affair at 5 p.m. There will be raffles and a silent auction until 7 p.m. when dinner starts. The banquet will conclude with a live auction at 8 p.m. What exactly will be auctioned off is not exactly clear.
WHYY News reached out to the Montgomery County Friends of NRA and the NRA’s regional field representative for comment, but the request was denied on the grounds that “the committee, volunteers, and representatives are not permitted to comment on any local or national political issues.”
However, the flyer for the banquet does reveal that there’s more to the event than meets the eye. A single ticket for the event costs $50 and includes a meal. The pricier tickets come with firearms.
The Level 1 Table Sponsorship comes at a cost of $1,800. It comes with 10 tickets as well as the choice of a firearm from a list of nine handguns and one semi-automatic rifle. The Level 2 Table Sponsorship has a price tag of $2,800 and in addition to the 10 tickets, the purchaser has the option of receiving a custom rifle or two handguns.
“The fact that people are paying literally 1000s of dollars to this organization at a fundraiser, when it’s so soon after these kids were slaughtered and they’re in a place where they should have been safe — we’re failing them. It’s gross. It’s very sickening to see the callousness of continuing to have this,” Cimonetti said.
She said she’s tired.
Having joined the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, Cimonetti said that the “frustration of inaction” wore her out. She drifted apart from the organization.
Recent events in Buffalo and Uvalde have sparked a fire in her. And it’s not just the shootings that capture the headlines that motivated her to get involved, gun violence across the greater Philadelphia region has caught her attention and she wants her elected officials to act now.
“Guns are now the number one cause of death for people in this country between the ages of zero and 19. So, this is a public health emergency that we need to be working on,” Cimonetti said. “And we need to put the pressure on our representatives to do something about it. And if they refuse, then we need to replace them.”
Richard Detwiler is a retired teacher living in the Souderton area. He told WHYY News that there has been chatter on Facebook over the last few days as word of the NRA event began to spread.
He’s curious as to what will unfold within the walls of Franconia Heritage.
“I would love to know why the nonprofit charitable organization NRA needs to raise money in our community. I’d love to know what they do with the money. I would like to know what their charitable purpose is. I’d like to know why people in this community would be willing to give that kind of money to the national gun lobby, rather than to some much more in need and deserving local nonprofit charities,” Detwiler said.
Detwiler said that he will keep looking.